While most films cast cis actors in trans roles, one new indie movie is bucking the trend: Relish, which began filming late last month, has cast trans actor Tyler DiChiara as its lead, Kai, a trans teen who embarks on a life-changing road trip with a group of fellow misfits.
Writer-director Justin Ward says it was important to him to cast a trans actor as Kai, given how many mainstream trans roles are filled by cisgender actors—a phenomenon trans advocates warn is problematic and dangerous.
Ward’s team did a nationwide search for the role and found DiChiara, who the director called “a tremendous actor and human being.”
Relish marks DiChiara’s feature film debut but he and friend Lauren Hickey run a YouTube channel where they vlog and perform comedy sketches.
DiChiara thanked Ward for scouting him: “So amazed that this man saw what nobody else saw in me!” he wrote on Instagram.
“Thank you for everything you have taught me, and I cannot wait to show everyone your amazing vision!”
Other cast members include Hana Hayes (Insidious: The Last Key) and James Morrison (24.) There’s no word yet on a release date for Relish.