EXCLUSIVE: Laverne Cox on Becoming TV’s First Transgender Series Regular in New CBS Drama: ‘It’s Been Such a Long Journey’

by Stacy Lambe 9:50 AM PDT, May 16, 2016
Photo: Getty Images

While CBS has said goodbye to the CSI franchise -- CSI: Cyber, the last remaining spinoff, was canceled after two seasons -- as well as Person of Interest and The Good Wife, both of which are ending after extended runs, the network is looking to fill the void with several new dramas, including Doubt starring Laverne Cox.

The legal drama, created by Tony Phelan and Joan Rater, was picked up over the weekend, becoming the first network show featuring a transgender series regular played by a transgender actor. Candis Cayne broke ground in 2007, playing the first recurring transgender character on ABC's Dirty Sexy Money and since then, Jamie Clayton has starred on the ensemble drama, Sense8, on Netflix.

MORE: Candis Cayne Makes Her Return to Acting, but Just Not to 'Transparent'

Cox, who broke ground with her Emmy-nominated recurring role on Orange Is the New Black, will play a successful defense attorney opposite Katherine Heigl and American Crime Story’s Steven Pasquale.

“I’m so excited,” Cox told ET at the GLAAD Media Awards in New York City on Saturday, just hours after CBS announced it picked up the series. On Doubt, Cox will play defense attorney Cameron Worth, who, according to the actress, is “extremely passionate about her work and has a little bit of a troubled private life.” Worth and her colleagues will defend high-profile clients, with some procedural stories ripped from the headlines.

MORE: How Laverne Cox Channeled Heartbreaking Human Experiences Into an Emmy-Nominated Performance

“It's been such a long journey. We shot the first version of the pilot over a year ago,” Cox said, referring to the fact that CBS initially ordered a pilot for the 2015-2016 season. While it didn’t get picked up, CBS ordered a new pilot with Heigl and Pasquale stepping into the other lead roles.

Meanwhile, 2016 is shaping up to be another standout year for the actress. In addition to Doubt, Cox will star as Dr. Frank N. Furter, the “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania,” in FOX’s remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The TV movie will debut in October. Before that, Cox will reprise her role as Sophia Burset when OITNB returns for season four on Netflix.

“This season was really special to me,” Cox said, not revealing any specifics about her character, which was last seen in isolation after being brutally attacked by her inmates for being transgender.

“Lately, I've been thinking of acting as channeling, allowing myself to be a vessel for human experience, emotion, flaws, and circumstance,” the actress said last August, citing Free CeCe -- a documentary about an incarcerated transgender woman, CeCe McDonald -- that the actress was also shooting at the time. (The documentary will premiere on June 2 at the Los Angeles International Film Festival.) “I wanted to be a vessel for the experiences so many women have in prison and with violence.”

However, she did promise plenty of shocking moments. “Hold onto your weaves and lashes,” Cox teased.

So, what does Doubt’s pickup mean for OITNB? On Saturday, Cox didn’t have an answer. “I just found out about Doubttoday,” she said. “We have to figure it out.” But maybe OITNB will give fans a clue when season four premieres on June 17.