Queen Sugar is one of TV’s most powerful dramas, and it has quickly become more powerful as actor Brian Michael Smith, who plays transgender police officer and old high friend of the main character, Toine Wilkins, came out as trans. This is important because rarely in media do we see trans folks playing trans roles. Instead, we see usually see these roles being given to white, cis people. (For a look at the history, check out The Mary Sue’s “The History of Cis Actors Playing Trans Roles Isn’t Pretty.”)
In an interview with NBC, Smith, on playing a trans character and subsequently coming out as trans, said:
"I was really working from an incomplete version of myself. I was leaning into the parts that were comfortable for me: roles around moving from one town to another or dating and things like that. Things I was comfortable with, I was able to do. It wasn’t that there was any shame or anything like that, I just wasn’t ready to explore that in my work. But the more time I spent doing the acting training and doing a lot of self-investigation and through therapy, I became more comfortable with my entire self as a person.
In my personal life I felt a little bit more complete and accepting of my entire experience, and I wanted to do the same thing in my work. There were a lot experiences I had during my transition and post transition, and I feel that I learned a lot, and I wanted to share that through my work as an artist. I felt that because of the amount of time that I’ve been training and the experiences I’ve been able to collect, I’m at a place as a performer that I could truly bring these things to work. Also, because of the work that you’ve been doing and Laverne Cox and GLAAD have been doing, there are more roles that have trans people in them that are better written and rooted in authenticity. This is definitely the time."
— NBC Out (@NBCOUT) July 16, 2017
This is huge, particularly for representation for trans people of color, who are still viciously attacked and oppressed as a group all over the world. We applaud Smith for living their truth in a world that is very unkind to trans folks.
Congrats, Brian Michael Smith! We’re here for you!