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Listen: Laverne Cox on ‘Sex and the City’s’ Troubling Transphobia and Why It’s Still Her Favorite Show

This photo shows actress Laverne Cox
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Emmy-nominated “Orange is the New Black” actress Laverne Cox isn’t just a fan of “Sex and the City,” she’s a scholar. Cox knows most of the HBO series’ episodes by heart, and can even list the various Emmys and Golden Globes that the show and its performers received over the years.

She admits, however, that the show stumbled in one disappointing way: Its depiction of transgender individuals, particularly black trans women. In the show’s season 3 finale, “Cock a Doodle Do,” Samantha is kept awake by a group of loud prostitutes who happen to be trans, but aren’t explored beyond that.

“It was disappointing to me, as a black trans woman, to see black trans women enter the world of ‘Sex and the City’ and be so thoroughly othered,” Cox told Variety‘s “My Favorite Episode” podcast. “But being critical of the show in that way didn’t stop me from loving the show in other ways.”

Times have changed, and for the most part — despite exceptions like that — Cox said “‘Sex and the City’ holds up pretty well. “Hopefully we as artists can continue to do the work to reflect the times, and look back at a great show like ‘Friends’ or ‘Sex and the City’ and not feel like we have to discard the whole thing,” she said.

On this edition of the podcast, we talk to Cox, Emmy nominated as a guest star for reprising her role as Sophia on “Orange Is the New Black,” as she wows us with her in-depth knowledge of all things “Sex and the City.” We also talk about the legacy of that Netflix series, and her favorite installment from its seven seasons. Listen and download at Apple Podcasts or down below:

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Cox’s favorite episode pick is “Running with Scissors,” the 11th episode of Season 3 from “Sex and the City,” which first aired August 20, 2000.

Written by Michael Patrick King and directed by Dennis Erdman, the episode features Carrie, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, as she continues her affair with Mr. Big. But as things progress, they end up meeting at dingy hotel rooms, and Carrie starts to question what she’s doing — ruining her relationship with Aidan and also coming between Big and his wife. This is the episode where it all comes tumbling down. Meanwhile, Samantha, played by Kim Cattrall, meets the male Samantha — who wants her to get tested for HIV. Samantha has never done so, leading to a humorous exchange with her doctor.

At the time “Sex and the City” was on the air, Cox said she identified with Samantha more than any other character. But now she has a different answer to the “which character are you?” question.

“I’m Laverne,” she said. “I was Samantha but I was a closeted Charlotte. I always wanted to believe in true love and find true love. I did what I could do and that was be Samantha. But now I’m just Laverne. Growing up and coming more into my own womanhood, my Samantha days are over!”

Cox said she also related to the late 1990s lifestyle of living glamorously in New York even if you didn’t have the means to do it. “What was great about Carrie is she never had a lot of money but she managed to live a fabulous life,” Cox said. “And I know so many people who lived in NYC and were broke as a joke and managed to go to the best clubs and found a way to not have a lot of money but live a fabulous life because of who you knew.”

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As for “Orange is the New Black,” which ended its run this summer after seven seasons, Cox lauded the show for changing “the trajectory of television, certainly for trans folks but for women of color, for the LGBTQ+ community. Netflix has ushered an entirely new age of television and ‘Orange is the New Black’ was certainly part of that. I’m grateful I got to be along for the ride.”

Cox’s favorite episode of “Orange is the New Black” is “Lesbian Request Denied,” the third episode of season one. Directed by Jodie Foster, it’s the backstory of Cox’s character, how she became Sophia and ended up at Litchfield Penitentiary.

Nominated as guest drama actress this year, Cox previously was nominated in 2014, also as guest actress —but in a comedy, which is what “Orange” was designated back then.

“In this world that’s so turbulent, so many people are being scapegoated by our government, trans people are being attacked by our government,” Cox said. “They want to ban us from the military, they want to discriminate us in housing, in healthcare; so to have trans folks on television now and to be nominated for an Emmy feels so special.

“We have the opportunity to represent people who are underrepresented,” she added. “It’s an honor but a weight. I believe in the power of art to be arbiters of empathy and compassion for our fellow human beings. Right now we have a lot of work to do.”

Variety‘s “My Favorite Episode with Michael Schneider” is where stars and producers gather to discuss their favorite TV episodes ever — from classic sitcoms to modern-day dramas — as well as pick a favorite episode from their own series. On “My Favorite Episode,” some of the biggest names in TV share their creative inspirations — and how those episodes influenced them.

Be sure to subscribe to “My Favorite Episode” on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every week.