Last week saw the release of the entire first season of the groundbreaking new-media series, Her Story, following two transgender women in Los Angeles who had given up on love, when suddenly, chance encounters give them hope.
Co-written and co-starring Jen Richards and Laura Zak, the Sydney Freehand-directed series features predominantly LGBTQ women, on and off-screen, including series star Angelica Ross (who appeared alongside Richards on Logo’s GLAAD Media Award-winning series Beautiful As I Want To Be last November).
“I had been writing nonfiction for years, but this was my first real foray into screenwriting. It was the collision of several factors,” Richards tell us, explaining what led up to her creating the series. “Practically, and primarily, it was because I was asked to. Christin Baker (Tello), who produced Laura Zak’s series Hashtag, in which I had a cameo, had seen me talking about the lack of trans representation and offered to give me a platform. At the same time Jill Soloway, who was then developing Transparent, had been following my work and urged me to try screenwriting and offered to give me some guidance. I had a crush on Laura and asked if she’d work with me on it, and later her friend Kate Fisher (Speed of Joy) came on as our new producer.”
As for beyond the practical: “The personal motivations were a feeling of impotence around the crisis of violence against trans women and frustration with divisions within LGBTQ culture. I was used to working through rhetoric, policy, institutional change, but it’s long, slow work. A narrative approach allowed us to take on these issues in a subversive way, by getting audiences to care about marginalized women and see their story.”
Richards connection with Ross extends far beyond their professional collaborations. “I went through some rough times while writing Her Story. Bluntly put, Angelica is the reason I’m still alive,” she explains. “Which is also why during the filming of some of the emotionally demanding scenes, the team asked Angelica to be on set. The rawness you see on film is real. I fled the set shaking, hysterical, bawling. Angelica was there to hold me. Without her there, I’m not sure I could have been that vulnerable.”
The series delves into the realities of dating for trans folks in an honest, nuanced way, seldom (if ever) seen in media.
“The reality is that disclosure is a very personal decision, one that has cost some trans women their lives,” Ross tells us. “However, we need to stop victim blaming trans women, sending them a message that somehow they’ve asked for the violence because they “tricked” someone. We live our lives in the pursuit of a more authentic truth of who we are not to deceive anyone and it is our choice, when, where and with whom we choose to share our truth with.
Watch the entire first season of Her Story here.