On June 14, that season begins on Netflix – and there's a new addition to Jessica's world. Jessica needs a tough, no-nonsense person to help manage her P.I. business. She finds that attitude Gillian (Aneesh Sheth), her new assistant.
In previous seasons, Jessica Jones has explored PTSD, sexual assault, and trauma with nuance. Sheth's character marks an important foray into trans representation. Gillian is a trans woman played by a trans actress.
Importantly, Gillian's trans identity is never addressed or turned into a plot point. She simply exists. “There's no narrative around her identity, which I think is wonderful because trans people exist in the world, and it’s not always about their [trans] narrative," Sheth told iNews.
Instead, Gillian's character speaks for herself. She and Jessica have an amusing relationship. They get along some of the time, but crackle for most of it. "The relationship is very much like, ‘I appreciate the work she does for me, but I really don’t want to get personal with her,'" Sheth told Marvel.com.
It shouldn't be remarkable to see a trans actor playing a trans person on screen at this point – but within the context of the Marvel entertainment-sphere, it's certainly progress. Earlier this year, the MCU teased that Avengers: Endgame would feature the franchise's first openly LGBTQ+ character. But the appearance was nothing more than a cameo. An unnamed character played by Joe Russo, one of the film's directors, mentions going on a date with another man.
Compared to the MCU movies, Marvel's shows on Netflix have been considerably ahead of the game in terms of LGBTQ+ representation. Jeri Hogarth (Carrie Anne Moss) in Jessica Jones, for example, is a lesbian. Further, Sheth is not the first trans person to appear in a Marvel show — Shakina Nayfack was a pawn shop clerk in last season of Jessica Jones, and MJ Rodriguez (aka Blanca on Pose), was in Luke Cage.
After her big break with Jessica Jones, we'll definitely be seeing more of Sheth — so here's what you need to know. She was born Pune, India and immigrated to the United States with her family at a young age. She spent years working in theater. Her first screen appearance came in 2011 on NBC's Outsourced, making her the first South Asian transgender woman on TV. From there, she's appeared in shows like Difficult People, New Amsterdam, and High Maintenance.
Sheth is also an activist. She has a degree in social work and has worked as a youth counselor for the Trevor Project.
Following this stand-out performance on Jessica Jones, we're looking forward to whatever comes next for Sheth.