Shea Coulee & Scott Studenberg
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After Scarlett Johansson Controversy, 'Rub & Tug' to Get Trans Lead

Our Lady J will pen script for TV pilot based on life of Pittsburgh transgender massage parlor gangster Dante "Tex" Gill.

After casting related backlash, New Regency is pushing forward with its Rub & Tug film project, now as a television series. Though Scarlett Johansson is no longer in the lead role, producers have tapped Our Lady J, who notably served as a writer for FX's Pose, to pen the pilot’s script. According to a Deadline report, New Regency will also cast a trans actor in the lead role of Dante “Tex” Gill, the larger-than-life transgender Pittsburgh gangster involved in the city’s infamous massage parlor wars of the 1970s.

"Tex's life story is like no other, and the rich landscape of this unexplored moment in time has truly captured my imagination," Our Lady J said in a statement. "I 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 Emmy-nominated writer for Pose and Transparent is likely the perfect choice for the reimagined project. Originally planned as a movie starring Scarlett Johansson in the leading role, the project was put on hold after criticism from the transgender community for casting a non-trans actor in the role. Johansson withdrew from the project and added fuel to the fire with insensitive comments, although she later apologized.

Gill built an illicit empire of massage parlors in Pittsburgh’s red light district during the 1970s and 1980s before being imprisoned on tax evasion charges in 1985. He surrounded himself with others who were marginalized and living on the fringes of society, many of whom were LGBTQ+. Never one to back down from mobsters or police, Gill infamously threw a birthday cake at an undercover state trooper when police raided his Spartacus Massage Parlor.

For Our Lady J, the story is personal. She grew up in Pennsylvania and is “excited to delve deep into Pittsburgh's underbelly” of the era. For her, the story is about the “promise of reinvention, and the peril of losing oneself in the process.” If a trans masculine actor is cast to play Tex, the show could make history.

RELATED | Exclusive: Scarlett Johansson Withdraws From Rub & Tug

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