This is some Cats discourse we didn't expect. In an interview with Out magazine that's currently making the rounds on social media, Dame Judi Dench said — joked? — that her Cats character, Old Deuteronomy, is trans.
First, some background: Old Deuteronomy is traditionally played by a male actor. And Dench was originally supposed to star in the original 1981 West End stage production, playing both Grizabella the Glamour Cat and Jennyanydots the Old Gumbie Cat (in stage productions, actors will often play multiple cats if those cats don't appear in the same scene together). But then, Dench snapped her Achilles tendon during rehearsals and she had to drop out.
“It’s glorious to have been included in it, I must say,” Dench told Out in the interview. “[It was] nerve wracking, because all I can hear is Brian Blessed [who played Old Deuteronomy in the West End production] all the time in the production that I wasn’t able to be in.”
She added that it was “totally unexpected” for her to be cast in the role. “I kinda call it ‘trans Deuteronomy,’ is the part for me, you know,” she said. “It was lovely, lovely to be led about and be an aged old cat, very nice indeed.”
Nobody seems to know how to react to Dench’s comment. Out’s piece on the interview begins, “Judi Dench has a very interesting take on her Cats character, one that we can’t tell if she’s serious about or not,” and concludes, “It seems like Dench’s comments seem more joking, but if she’s serious — visibility matters!”
Twitter’s reaction can be summed up as, “What? No thanks.”
i have yet to see cats but can still say with confidence that it is the one movie which should have absolutely zero trans representation. keep us out of this cis nonsense. we need no part in ithttps://t.co/QsWAM8VJki— moth dad (@innesmck) December 23, 2019
Nope. You stop that nonsense right now. Your movie bombed and you're not going to get us involved in this business. https://t.co/EopNLI9Avd— Katelyn Burns (@transscribe) December 23, 2019
"Judi Dench says her Cats character is trans" isn't a headline I expected or wanted this morning— Jennifer Unkle (@jbu3) December 23, 2019
Out interviewer Rose Dommu joined in, tweeting, “Wish you could see the way my face cracked when Judi Dench told me her CATS character is trans.”
Wish you could see the way my face cracked when Judi Dench told me her CATS character is trans pic.twitter.com/XjRUB3DbeD— Rose Dommu (@rosedommu) December 20, 2019
Refinery29 reached out to Dench for comment but did not receive a response before press time.
Cats currently has a dismal 18% score on Rotten Tomatoes, with reviewers calling it “a demented fantasia of fur and frivolity” that’s “way too horny for its own good.” And from the emphasis on "digital fur technology" to Jason Derulo announcing that his bulge was CGI-ed out, you could say the same thing about the press tour.