“Pose” Writer Tapped to Save “Rub & Tug” After Trans Casting Controversy

Don't worry, a trans man will be playing the lead.

Remember Rub & Tug, the film about a real-life massage parlor led by a trans man that almost starred Scarlett Johansson? The movie has been scrapped, but the source material is being reimagined for television with a prominent Pose alum writing the pilot.

Writer-producer Our Lady J has been tapped to save the Rub & Tug, Deadline reports. The Emmy-nominated multi-talent has a wide-ranging resume, including musical albums and writing and producing credits on series like FX’s Pose and Amazon’s Transparent.

New Regency, the production company, has also committed to casting a trans actor to play Dante “Tex” Gill, the show’s lead role.

As NewNowNext previously reported, the film became a textbook example of Hollywood’s anti-transgender bias when Johansson—a straight, cisgender actress—was initially cast as Gill in 2018. After doubling down on her casting, Johansson eventually quit the project, later confessing to Vanity Fair that she “mishandled that situation”:

In hindsight… I was not sensitive, my initial reaction to it. I wasn’t totally aware of how the trans community felt about those three actors playing—and how they felt in general about cis actors playing—transgender people. I wasn’t aware of that conversation—I was uneducated. So I learned a lot through that process. I misjudged that.

In a statement to Deadline, Our Lady J said she “couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to write a gangster drama based on such a fascinating and diverse web of queer characters.”

The real-life Gill was a prominent figure in 1970s Pittsburgh, where he ran a network of illicit massage parlors and an anabolic steroids ring that propelled the Pittsburgh Steelers to NFL victories. According to Deadline, Gill’s relationship with his girlfriend Cynthia is at the heart of the series. Cindy Bruno Gill, Tex’s widow, and author Brendan Koerner, who researched Tex’s colorful life story at length, are on board as consultants.

“Having grown up in Pennsylvania myself, I’m also excited to delve deep into Pittsburgh’s underbelly as it unspools the story of Tex’s remarkable life—it’s also the story of a city’s struggle for rebirth and a proud community’s efforts to make its voice heard,” Our Lady J added.

Brooklyn-based writer and editor. Probably drinking iced coffee or getting tattooed.