GOLDEN GLOBES

EXCLUSIVE: Jeffrey Tambor Reflects on Progress Made Since ‘Transparent’ Emmy Win

by Stacy Lambe 2:03 PM PST, December 12, 2016
Photo: Getty Images

When it comes to the accolades for Amazon’s Transparent, especially for Jeffrey Tambor’s role as a transgender matriarch, the actor says it’s bigger than him.

“I’m excited as I’ve ever been because it’s more than me,” Tambor told ET over the phone shortly after it was announced on Monday that he was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Series – Comedy, his third for playing Maura Pfefferman. (The show was also nominated for Best TV Series – Musical or Comedy.)

The nomination follows his Emmy win in September for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. While accepting his award, Tambor called on Hollywood to embrace diversity and cast more transgender entertainers in roles, including his own, often played by cisgender people. “I’m not going to say this beautifully: to you people out there… please give transgender talent a chance,” he said. “Give them auditions. Give them their story.”

Tambor then added: “One last thing: I would be happy if I were the last cisgender male to play a transgender female.”

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While not directly addressing it, Tambor’s comments followed the controversy surrounding Matt Bomer’s casting as a transgender sex worker in the upcoming film Anything. Jen Richards, a transgender producer and actor who was Emmy-nominated in the short form category this year for Her Story, said on Twitter, “It denies actual trans women opportunities, jobs, resources, which hurts [an] entire community.” Richards has since been cast on Nashville in the show’s first transgender role.

Later, when Laverne Cox, who is the only transgender actor to be nominated for an acting Emmy and will become the first transgender series regular on TV when Doubt premieres on CBS, took the stage at during the Emmys, she echoed Tambor’s sentiment. “Give trans talent a shot,” she said. “I would not be here tonight if I was not given that chance.”

While it’s only been three months since his speech, Tambor told ET there has been some progress behind the scenes. “Since I said that, things have changed,” he noted. “Castings have changed.”

In particular, he pointed to co-star Trace Lysette, who plays Maura’s friend, Shea, and has received praise for her performance this season. “She’s being honored left and right,” he said, adding: “Things are changing.”

MORE: While the Emmys Award More Diversity, Winners Call for More Representation

In fact, it was time spent at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, where he taught an acting class to transgender and gender nonconforming people that inspired Tambor’s Emmy acceptance speech. “It was unbelievable,” Tambor shared. “The talent in that room and the stories in that room were incredible. It just knocked me upside the head. I’ve never seen acting like that.”

The LGBT Center is also where Transparent creator Jill Soloway discovered newcomer Alexandra Grey, who appears in season three’s first episode, “Elizah,” and has since been cast on Drunk History and opposite Cox on Doubt.

“That was one of the best gifts that’s ever come my way,” Tambor added, explaining it was an opportunity for him to learn more about the transgender community. “And that’s why I said it at the Emmys. I want more casting chances for this community because there’s such a wealth of talent.”

The 74th Golden Globes, hosted Jimmy Fallon, will be handed out live on Sunday, Jan. 8, starting at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.    

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