It's no secret that there is a severe dearth of complicated, multitudinous transgender characters on television. One of the few trans characters that we can look to as a example of a dynamic, living, breathing person is Whiterose/Zheng, played by B.D. Wong (whom you may also remember as Dr. Huang on Law & Order: SVU) on USA's Mr. Robot. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Wong is incredibly thoughtful about his responsibilities and limitations in portraying one of the precious few trans characters in pop culture today — a performance that's earned him an Emmy nomination for Oustanding Guest Actor.
"First of all, every trans character on television creates a dialogue about trans people, which is super valuable," he said in the interview. "We need to get people in the program with what trans people even fucking are. Those of us who embrace trans people, like myself, forget that it doesn't come easily for people," says Wong. And he's right — transgender people still have to fight against discriminatory bathroom laws and the ignorant notion that their gender identity is a "lifestyle choice."
Whiterose is the leader of the shadowy hacker group Dark Army, in addition to being China's Minister of State Security (the equivalent of the Director of the CIA in the United States). In order to perform the necessary duties of a high-level government position, Whiterose needs to alter her appearance in order to pass as male.
"I am really lucky to have such a three-dimensional character," Wong says to THR of his character's depth. "There's a great challenge in being a powerful woman in a powerful white man's world. I think that it's part of [show creator Sam Esmail's] choice to make her a person who needs to be gender fluid to get what she wants."
While there's a practicality to Whiterose's gender fluidity, she's still every bit a calculating force: "She's willing to do a lot of things to achieve what she calls 'a greater good.' We don't know what that is yet, but the things she is willing to do are pretty dark. This isn't a typical villainess."