Star Of When We Rise Comes Out As Transgender

Photo: David Buchan/Variety/REX/Shutterstock.
Ivory Aquino, who will star in the highly anticipated ABC series When We Rise, came out publicly as transgender at the Television Critics Association conference Tuesday, according to People. In the show, she plays a transgender character named Cecilia Chung, but the casting director at the time did not know that the Filipino actress was trans. Aquino, 26, informed the higher-ups after the fact.

"I wrote them a note saying, ‘Thank you for having me. It would be an honor to be part of the project,’” she told People exclusively. “And I inserted in there, ‘I just want to make sure that you know that I’m trans.’"

When Dustin Lance Black — the writer of the mini series — watched Aquino's audition, he did not know she was in fact trans. According to the actress, Black was initially unhappy that casting had sent him a cisgendered person for the role. After she was cast, the Milk writer reached out to tell her himself.

Aquino recounted, "[Black] said he loved what I did, but was a little pissed at casting because he was very committed to having a transgender actress play the role and had asked them to send him tapes of transgender actresses."

This casting choice is an important one — too often, transgender characters are played by cisgendered actors. (Not sure this is true? We have a whole list of trans characters, most of whom weren't played by trans actors.)

When We Rise
chronicles the gay rights movement in the 1960s. It also stars Guy Pearce, Mary-Louise Parker, Carrie Preston, and Michael Kenneth Williams. This is Aquino's first major television role.
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