After Backlash, Halle Berry Turns Down Trans Film Role & Issues Apology

Tuesday July 7, 2020

Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry revealed that she was considering playing a transgender character in a movie. But after hearing from advocates on social media, Berry now says she is no longer thinking about playing that part, CNN reports.

Talking to Twitter, Berry posted:

"As a cisgender woman, I now understand that I should not have considered this role, and that the transgender community should undeniably have the opportunity to tell their own stories."

The initial revelation came by way of an interview at Instagram live, reports Variety.

Saying she wanted to take a "deep dive" into "that world" of the trans experience, Berry said:

"[It's] a character where the woman is a trans character, so she's a woman that transitioned into a man."

Variety noted the Berry misgendered the character several times while talking about him.

Among those who responded to the interview was the Twitter feed for the Netflix documentary "Disclosure," which examines more than a century's worth of cinematic depictions of trans and non-binary characters.

Among the views expressed in the doc was the contention that cisgender actors playing trans roles creates a cognitive dissonance for the wider culture that reinforces the idea that somehow trans people are only performing, not actually living, their "transness." That dissonance, the argument follows, disappears when trans people play trans roles, because trans actors are trans both on and off screen.

After a weekend of hearing the concerns expressed by advocates, Berry announced that she would not be pursuing that project, and tendered her apologies.

"I am grateful for the guidance and critical conversation over the past few days and will continue to listen, educate and learn from this mistake," tweeted Berry. "I vow to be an ally in using my voice to promote better representation on-screen, both in front of and behind the camera."

The casting of cisgender actors to play trans roles has increasingly been questioned in recent years. Eddie Redmayne was nominated for an Oscar for his starring role in the biopic "The Danish Girl," about a pioneering transgender artist Lili Elbe; Jared Leto won the award for his role in "Dallas Buyers Club," a story that was based on actual facts although Leto's transgender character was invented.

In 2018, Scarlett Johansson came under fire for reportedly accepting the role of a trans character. Johansson responded by telling her critics that they could be "directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment."

All three actors mentioned in Johansson's response are cisgender. Tambor was the star of Amazon's original series "Transparent." Huffman starred in the 2005 film "Transamerica."

Johansson later stepped away from the role. The following year she told Vanity Fair that she regretted having "mishandled" the situation.

Said Johansson:

"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."

Johansson also drew criticism when she starred in "Ghost in the Shell" in 2017. The film is a live-action adaptation of a Japanese manga.