Tell us about how you got involved in Transparent.
Rhys Ernst: "I met Jill Soloway, the show’s creator, at Sundance in 2012, when we both had short films there… We kept in touch... She told me after some time about how her parents had come out as trans* later in life, and then when she started writing the pilot [for Transparent] she reached out to the two of us... So, we came in as consultants on the pilot. We read and gave notes on the script several times and did some trans* info sessions for the whole production team. And, we just kind of had a hand in various aspects of it, including casting a bunch of trans* people for the support-group scene, which Zackary got a little sneaky role in as a 'group facilitator.' That was a fun cameo. When the show got picked up, we started as consultants in the writer’s room…but quickly became producers because we were so involved in shaping the story, hiring trans* people to work behind the camera, helping cast trans* actors...[and] consulting with hair and makeup and wardrobe."
What was it like to work with Jeffrey?
ZD: "He brought so much humanity to this role and is a tremendous ally to the trans* community. He’s been really open to learning and to being a good ally."
What does Transparent bring to the television table that we haven’t seen before?
RE: "Maura is more things than just trans*...she’s Jewish...she has an ex-wife, and she has children. So, there’s a lot more to her personality and her story... The trans* aspect of the show, when looked at in the context of the rest of the family dynamic, can almost become a little bit — not quite secondary, but Jill [Soloway] isn't focusing on the trans* issue in a centralist way… [T]here being multiple trans* characters in the show — that’s a huge part of it, too.
Will the show also be accessible to people who aren’t already familiar with trans* issues?
ZD: "This show is created for people on all different levels; we’re all at different junctions with our trans*-legibility. I’ve been really surprised at the people in my own life who have been opened up to a trans* experience [by the show], even after knowing me for years. It’s sort of brought them to a new level of understanding."
Do you plan to stay involved with Transparent?
RE: "We’re definitely going to stay involved for as long as it’s happening. The reviews and the response have just been so beyond belief that it would be hard to imagine it not being renewed. It just feels so exciting. People are talking about the Emmys and awards season already, so the future looks really bright — and we could not be happier... Our involvement is growing in a lot of ways, too. I actually made the title sequence for the show; I also did some second-unit directing…and both of us were involved in so many different ways in building this kind of ethos... [We're] definitely going to be on board for the long haul."