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Laverne Cox on Her Role in Doubt, Historic Firsts, & Honoring Those Who Came Before

Doubt

Photography by Emily Shur. From left: Tony Phelan, Joan Rater, Laverne Cox, Imogen Binnie. Kiyah Wright & Harper for Exclusive Artists Management using Oribe Hair Care.  Styling by Leona Mizrahi. Hair: Joseph Orozco. Cox: Dress by Maison Rabin Kayrouz available at Barneys. Shoes by Suart Weitzman. Ring, earrings, and bracelet available at The Ruby.

With her Emmy nomination for Orange Is the New Black (a first for an out trans woman), her Time cover (ditto), and her role in the upcoming CBS legal drama Doubt (the first broadcast series featuring a transgender series regular played by a transgender actor), there’s been a lot of press about Laverne Cox’s firsts. “It’s very tricky, those conversations about the first, because they tend to erase people who’ve come before,” Cox says. “There are people who maybe weren’t able to be out, who were making strides that we may not even know about. It shows us how far we need to come that we’re just getting around to understanding that trans folks have talent, or are able to step into these roles on screen or on stage.” Recent TV projects have drastically changed the landscape for all parts of the storytelling process. Says Cox, “We’re more visible in front of the camera, but also behind the camera, with shows like Transparent involving trans folks at every level of the production. Our actual voices are more involved in telling our stories.”

Related | Meet the Trans Influencers of Hollywood

Doubt, created and executive produced by wife-and-husband team Joan Rater and Tony Phelan, comes from a very personal place: “We really wanted to put a character on TV who was trans — but the story wasn’t about that,” Rater says. “Cameron [played by Cox] is smart and funny and a brilliant lawyer, and she also is trans. We’re lucky enough to have a transgender child [Tom Phelan, who appeared in The Fosters], and we’re really excited to tell stories for him.” First-time TV writer Imogen Binnie is thrilled to bring her experiences with trans people into the writers’ room. “The most rewarding thing for me is putting a smart, successful, and complex black trans woman on television,” she says. “And that the stories we’re telling for her don’t feel like stories we’ve seen on television before.” 

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