Janet Mock Discusses Hollywood’s Trans Casting Problem

"Trans communities are deeply unemployed."

Janet Mock’s Pose directorial debut marked the first time a transgender woman of color has ever directed a television show. But in a recent interview with Vulture, Mock says its long time to bring more trans voices to the table—all of them.

“It’s not just about one actor,” Mock said referring to Scarlett Johansson being cast to play a trans man in Rub and Tug. “I think it speaks to the entitlement of cis, straight, and/or white people — whether they’re cultural creators or actors — who are given the opportunity to tell all kinds of stories that may not even be linked to their own experiences. And how that then invisibilizes the pool of talent that has never been given a chance to even be in that room to audition for those roles.”

This was taken under the amber light of the #posefx ballroom on my first shoot as a Director. Don’t let the smile fool you: I was nervous af about doing something I had never done before, a job that seemed to be reserved for white men, a position in the industry that rarely invited women and/or people of color to sit in the director’s chair. I doubted whether I had the skills and experience to be a director. But I was pushed by @mrrpmurphy who told me I could (“you’re naturally bossy…like me”) and used his Half Initiative to make it happen. But still I had to talk myself through self-doubt (like so many “firsts” have done before me) by saying, “You wrote this script. You know these characters. You helped shape them, make them, move them. You got this, and your whole life as a black trans girl with all your experiences have prepared you for so many unknowns — from being the first in your family to go to college, to get a masters, to work as a journalist, to leave the safety of telling others stories to actually tell your own story, to write two memoirs that centered #girlslikeus, to be the first trans woman of color to be hired in a writer’s room…and yes, the first to write and direct an episode of television. You can do this, will do this and are deserving.” I couldn’t do it alone — no director can. I thank my mentors @mrrpmurphy & @gwynethhorderpayton for pushing, nurturing and supporting me, my DP @simondennis_dop for making it all seem so easy, my first AD Deanna Leslie Kelly, my production designer @jame03, HMU @wigorama @barryleemoe @sherrilaurence, @eriberryk and @tanasepopa for being architects, my editor Shelly Westerman, the marvelous @alexisvmw, my ❤️ @svcanals and the entire crew and the cast especially @theebillyporter, @katemara, @indyamoore, @mjrodriguez7, @evanpeters, and our guest star @johnnysibilly who gave all of themselves to episode 6. LOVE IS THE MESSAGE — and there was no way to write, prep and shoot this script without that LOVE. I hope you enjoy “Love Is the Message” tonight on @fxnetworks. @poseonfx airs at 9PM.

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Mock called out casting directors for not seeing what else, or who else, is out there, and not putting talent first.

“…what our show did so well is that we show that the talents exist. Trans communities are deeply unemployed. And that’s not just in Hollywood. That’s across all industries. It’s time we finally just hire the people who are supposed to play the roles of the people that are portrayed onscreen. It’s largely just a missed opportunity for greater, deeper, more resonant, more culturally specific art to be made.”

Lamar Dawson is a pop culture junkie and pop diva addict living in Manhattan. Follow him on everything @dirrtykingofpop.