When Laverne Cox shot to fame for her work as Sophia Burset on Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black,” she also made history in 2014 by becoming the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award. Since then, her list of accomplishments has made her one of the most recognizable trans people in Hollywood. Now, Cox continues to use that platform to amplify other trans voices as an executive producer on “Disclosure,” director Sam Feder’s Netflix documentary about the history of trans representation in film and television, releasing on June 19.
Not only is the entire cast of the doc transgender, but Feder even implemented a program stipulating that any non-trans crew member who was hired had to agree to train a trans person trying to make it in the business. “The idea of that is about cultivating diverse, trans talent that can work in the industry behind the scenes,” Cox says on today’s episode of the Variety and iHeart podcast “The Big Ticket.”
It’s a model she hopes to bring to future projects. “I think we can begin as an industry to think about, ‘How do we bring in people from different backgrounds and experiences?’” she says. “Give them the training. Give them what they need not just to be actors, but directors and grips and lighting designers and all the things that happen in the film industry. It makes a difference.”
Variety caught up with Cox at home in Los Angeles just days after Black Lives Matter protests spread across the U.S. in response to the death of George Floyd.
How are you coping right now?
I live alone. I’m single; I don’t have a housemate. I’ve been quarantined alone. I realized four to five weeks ago this has to be a spiritual opportunity. This has to be a moment for me to go inside, to really deepen my meditative practice, deepen my self-care practices. I’m slowing myself down. It’s really important to say no, making sure I don’t overwhelm myself, knowing what my boundaries are. Even though there is a call to action right now and I’m trying to take action the way that I can, I am not going to be able to be of service to anyone if I’m emotionally depleted. You can’t pour from an empty cup. I have to do everything I can to fill up my cup. It’s teaching me boundaries in an even newer way because it’s so delicate right now. I have to prioritize being okay because I could start crying. It’s just so much with George Floyd’s murder and Iyanna Dior, the black trans woman who was beaten in Minneapolis, also on camera.
It seems like the deaths of trans people, particularly trans women of color, is getting more attention than it has in the past.
If we can’t connect Iyanna Dior being beaten by 30-plus men and women — thank God, she survived — in the same city where George Floyd was murdered, if we cannot see the connection between the Black life of Iyanna Dior and the Black life of George Floyd, I don’t know what to say to us. I don’t know if it’s getting more attention, but it still needs to get even more attention.
We’ve seen a lot of media companies and studios in Hollywood issue statements about wanting to do better, having to do better. Is it just lip service?
I’d say yes and no. I think there’s been progress. When I tune in to “Insecure” on Sunday and Issa Rae is running her own show, when I tune in to “Queen Sugar” or go to work — before this coronavirus hit I was working on Shonda Rhimes’ “Inventing Anna,” her first show for Netflix, and I just did [“Bad Hair”] with Justin Simien — when I think about those people and I think about “Disclosure” premiering on Netflix, I think that there has been some progress culturally. What I do feel heartened by is that our community, the entertainment industry, is really, really trying. I see tangible efforts to diversify media in front of and behind the camera. I see a desire to try and get better. I do see that. I see that from my position. But I’m very privileged. I think it’s always important to qualify that, because other people are going to say different things. I have girlfriends who are also trans who feel like they’re still trying to get their foot in the door.
Are you hopeful?
I am. Cornel West said on CNN last week with Anderson Cooper that if people were not out in the streets rioting and uprising after seeing what we saw in Minneapolis, that would be the problem. At least people have been like, ‘No more!’ How do we keep that energy? How do we continue it? How do we keep that energy into November and beyond? How do we hold the Democratic Party accountable? How do we hold them accountable, because they’re just as corporate and just as corrupt as Republicans; not as corrupt as Republicans … but the Democratic Party needs to get their s— together. We have to change.
So, when are you running for office?
Girl, can you imagine?
Yes, I can.
Can you imagine them playing my glam room videos and me dancing around in a bikini when I run for office?
This interview has been edited and condensed. Hear it in its entirety above. You can also listen to “The Big Ticket” at iHeart Radio or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.