When Elliot Page shared with the world in late 2020 that he was transgender, there was a question about whether Netflix's The Umbrella Academywould reflect Page's real-life journey onscreen. Scripts for the third season had already been written by that point, but after taking some time to mull over how best to approach Page's new chapter, creator and showrunner Steve Blackman decided to incorporate it into the Umbrella Academy narrative. The decision to write in Viktor's transition, Blackman revealed, wasn't made at the request of Page but rather because it felt creatively and narratively right.
"I had already finished the season, the writers were gone, scripts were finished and I got a call from Elliot one day saying, 'I'm transitioning.' I was very happy for him," Blackman told ET. "To his credit, he didn't demand that I write it into the story. He said, 'Do what you want. I trust you. Write it in, don't write it in, whatever you want to do.' Elliot is very kind like that."
"Ultimately, I decided to write it in, but to be honest, I did not know a lot about what it is to be transgender and I didn't know how to tell that story," he acknowledged. Blackman reached out to Nick Adams, GLAAD Media Institute Vice President and advocate for transgender rights, and transgender author/journalist Thomas Page McBee for guidance. "[Thomas has] been through the experience and he became my guide," Blackman credited. "In collaboration with Elliot, they talked me through what it means to be trans, what it means, how it feels and how to tell a story."
For Blackman, part of the challenge was ensuring that the storyline -- which largely plays out in the second episode of season 3 -- felt seamless and natural in context of TheUmbrella Academy.
"I didn't want to hang a lantern on it and make it the sob story of the season. We all agreed that we want it to be something that just happened and let the family react to it. That was the hard balance to find that," he said as he detailed the process, sharing that he'd write scenes and Page and McBee would offer their thoughts and feedback. "We'd work together and then I'd change them. I finally found that nice balance."
"I'm really proud of what we did, but it was definitely collaborative. I needed both of them to really help guide me. I learned a lot about what it is to be transgender. I'm still learning actually," Blackman credited. "And I love that our family, like real families, can absolutely accept someone being transgender and bring them into their family with love and appreciation."
He specifically singled out one scene in the episode where Allison and Viktor are walking down the street and Viktor looks in the glass window. "Allison asks, 'What do you see?' And he says, 'I see me... I thought everyone felt weird looking at a mirror image of yourself. Now, I feel right.' That was Thomas telling me his experience," Blackman said. "That was so good to be collaborative with Thomas and Elliot, and GLAAD also supporting us."
When asked if Page had any particular points of emphasis he wanted Viktor's story to touch on, Blackman said he had none.
"To be fair, he has such a generosity of spirit, he didn't make any demands on me. He didn't say, 'You must do this point.' He said, 'I trust you.' He told me some thoughts and then eventually I came back and I said, 'These are the scenes,'" he explained. "I actually really only I had to do it early on. The scripts were written and I thought, I can't introduce this six episodes in, it would just take away from [everything]. So, I had to do it quickly. Episode one was a hard pick up of the season 2 [finale] so episode two made sense to me."
"I just sent the pages to Elliot and I said, 'What do you think?' And he said, 'They're beautiful.' They had a few thoughts and that was it," Blackman added. "He was so kind to me, he didn't make any demands on it. He just said, 'Craft the story you want to tell,' and that was really wonderful. You can't get better as the showrunner, as a writer, from someone like that."
The Umbrella Academy is streaming now on Netflix.
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