A transgender Bond would shake, not stir things up.
That suggestion inspired the usual round of outrage, with cries of political correctness gone too far, but transgender male actors tell The Daily Beast that such a casting would be a breakthrough moment for LGBT media representation.
“It would tell me that trans men were being seen as men, legitimate and worthy of casting in this role,” Transparent star Ian Harvie told The Daily Beast.
Harvie has long daydreamed of playing 007, so getting the chance to don the tuxedo—or to watch one of his peers do it—would be personally meaningful.
“As someone who has been told over and over again through social messaging (and sometimes directly to my face) that I am someone who is not allowed to own my masculinity, that I am not a real man, that only cis white men are allowed to own masculinity, it would feel like a major triumph if I or one of my trans actor friends were to be cast in such a hypermasculine role as Bond,” said Harvie.
Transgender parts in Hollywood are already few and far between—but high-profile parts for transgender men are especially rare. Four years after Orange is the New Black star Laverne Cox appeared on the cover of Time magazine, there has yet to be an equivalent tipping point for transgender male talent. A transgender Bond would change that, said actor Scott Turner Schofield, who had a recurring role on The Bold and the Beautiful.
“A trans man Bond would establish trans men in entertainment, the way so many trans women, like Laverne Cox, already have [for trans women],” he told The Daily Beast.
In fact, there may be no better part than Bond, icon that he is, to complete that mission.
“He’s a cultural institution,” said Schofield. “The idea of including trans men in that—and the impact it would have on culture by creating visibility and accepting trans men as the be-all-and-end-all-of-men—cannot be underestimated.”
“I’d give anything for that part,” he added. “I’d even go to the gym for it!”
But transgender actors, as Schofield noted, are not “monolithic” in their opinions, and he readily admits that some of his colleagues might not be as interested in the part.
For example, transgender actor D’Lo, who has had parts on Sense8 and Transparent, told The Daily Beast that he has mixed feelings about the idea of playing Bond.
“Because it’s Bond,” he explained. “It’s very hypermasculine in a weird sort of way.”
D’Lo, who is Tamil Sri Lankan-American, also pointed out that all seven Bonds, from Connery to Craig, have been white, despite repeated calls for Idris Elba to be cast in the role.
Indeed, the conversation around the casting of Bond has always been about who gets to be a man—or at least who gets to be seen as proximate to the masculine ideal.
“As a person of color who’s trans, I feel like I’ve been waiting for masculine actors of color—whether they are trans or not—to get some shine,” said D’Lo.’
Indeed, given the lack of diversity among the Bonds so far, it seems unlikely that a transgender performer will immediately step into Craig’s Crockett & Jones shoes.
But ultimately, D’Lo says he would celebrate any actor who landed such a prestigious part, whether it was a transgender performer playing a cisgender (i.e. non-transgender) James Bond or a transgender performer playing a James Bond who was expressly written as transgender.
That idea—a Bond who is transgender—seems to be closer to what West had in mind when he made his off-the-cuff comment to the Sunday Times.
“She’s a beautiful blonde girl who could be Bond, yes,” said West of Hannah. “That’s actually a brilliant idea. They should have a transgender Bond because there are a lot of transgender people in the army.”
But Hannah Graf suggested on Twitter that her husband would be perfect for the part: “Smooth, devilishly handsome, and actually an actor!”
Jake Graf is notable for having been cast in a cisgender male part in Colette—a rarity in an industry that, when it casts transgender actors at all, often relegates them exclusively to those transgender roles that aren’t already taken up by cisgender actors.
But the actors who spoke to The Daily Beast said they would be more intrigued by the idea of a Bond who was subtly written as transgender himself. (“That’s more interesting to me,” said D’Lo, “and I would like to see that reflected in the writing and the story.”)
As Harvie pointed out, it’s not as though Bond is ever given more than the broadest brushstrokes of a backstory. A few allusions to his past would probably suffice.
“In the basic formula of a Bond film, unlike the Bourne franchise, we don’t dig much into Bond’s past,”said Harvie. “It’s usually just action scene after action scene.”
In fact, despite the predictable anti-LGBT outcry after the West interview, a transgender Bond movie wouldn’t have to be all that different from the film fans expect, Harvie maintains. So long as the movie ends “with Bond modestly injured and shirtless, with a love interest in one hand and a cocktail in the other,” he reckons the essentials are there.
And although the character could certainly stand to be “modernized,” as Harvie noted, there are certain Bond characteristics that are timeless—and a lot of transgender performers have had life experiences that would only highlight them.
“A trans Bond would portray all the same Bond characteristics we already love,” said Schofield.”A deep sense of personal authenticity, a strength that emanates from within, a calling to justice, coolness in the face of constant attacks. Trans people come preloaded with all of that, so it would be a natural fit to add to the mantle of Bond.”