Playing a transgender character has recently joined starring in a biopic and "going ugly" as surefire ways to grab the Academy’s attention. Jared Leto won an Oscar for "Dallas Buyers Club," as did Hilary Swank for "Boys Don’t Cry." Felicity Huffman was nominated for "Transamerica," and the odds are good that Eddie Redmayne will be too for this fall’s "The Danish Girl."
Needless to say, though, none of those transgender roles were played by trans performers. "Orange is the New Black" star Laverne Cox was the first transgender actress to be nominated for an Emmy last year, but, as usual, film lags behind TV in social progress.
Now the team behind "Tangerine" is ready for change. The Duplass brothers, who served as executive producers on the comedy about two trans sex workers stomping around Los Angeles in search of the "fish" who’s taken up with the fiancé of one half of the duo, has launched Oscar campaigns for stars Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor — the first-ever campaigns for trans actresses supported by a distributor.
Magnolia has announced plans to send "Tangerine" screeners to the Academy’s acting branch — Rodriguez will be pushed for Best Actress and Taylor for Best Supporting Actress — as well as those for cinematography and screenwriting.
“[My brother] Jay and I are new to the Academy, so we’re just figuring this whole thing out,” Mark Duplass told Variety. “One thing that has become apparent to us as we look at this stuff, it seems that the TV Academy has embraced what’s happening in the trans movement with ‘Transparent’ and ‘Orange is the New Black.’ We feel that the film Academy is a little behind on that front.”
“The trans aspect will undoubtedly garner the film attention, but frankly the best strategy is to get as many voters to see it as possible,” said Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles. “[Tangerine] stands alone among the contenders in its tone, aspirations and achievement.”