In the past few years Jeffrey Tambor has gotten a lot of praise for playing transgender character Maura Pfefferman in Amazon Prime’s hit show, Transparent, which has included him winning a Golden Globe and two Emmys. However, in the past few days he has been hit by allegations of sexual harassment/misconduct by co-star, Trace Lysette, and his former assistant, Van Barnes.
He immediately issued denials, saying ‘I know I haven’t always been the easiest person to work with. I can be volatile and ill-tempered, and too often I express my opinions harshly and without tact. But I have never been a predator – ever.’
However, he has now decided to leave the series entirely. Tambor released a statement, via Deadline, reading, ‘Playing Maura Pfefferman on Transparent has been one of the greatest privileges and creative experiences of my life. What has become clear over the past weeks, however, is that this is no longer the job I signed up for four years ago.
‘I’ve already made clear my deep regret if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as being aggressive, but the idea that I would deliberately harass anyone is simply and utterly untrue. Given the politicized atmosphere that seems to have afflicted our set, I don’t see how I can return to Transparent.’
There have been suggestions that since the accusations were made the makers of Transparent had already started discussing removing Tambor and his character from the show ahead of Season 5, and so it’s a case of the actor jumping before he could be pushed.
There are also suggestions that the ‘politicised atmosphere’ Tambor mentioned isn’t just that he’s alleged to have sexually harassed people, but growing discomfort amongst some of the crew about having such a prominent trans character played by a cis actor. Indeed one of the show’s trans writers, Our Lady J, suggested there was tension around this issue when she backed Tambor’s accuser while saying, ‘we cannot let trans content be taken down by a single cis man.’
There have already been calls to either bring in a trans actor to play Maura, or to ensure any new major trans character added to Season 5 isn’t played by a cis actor. As cis people playing trans character has become a much higher profile issues since Transparent started, and Tambor has been somewhat dismissive of people’s concerns about it, the current situation allows a reset of the show that will satisfy many.