Multi-hyphenate Our Lady J, best known for her writing and production work on Transparent and Pose (she appeared on both shows, too), will write the pilot for Rub & Tug, an upcoming series based on the life of massage parlor owner and gangster Dante “Tex” Gill. The news was announced Tuesday by Deadline.
If Rub & Tug sounds familiar to you, it’s because it was originally developed as a movie that was to star Scarlett Johansson as Gill. However, casting Johansson as a trans man caused immediate backlash, which led to a series of responses from Johansson’s camp. First, her rep suggested to those critical of the choice to cast a cis woman as a trans man, “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.” Then, Johansson withdrew from the project, and in a statement said, “Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive.”
That happened in 2018. In 2019, in an interview with As If, Johansson noted that “there’s a lot of emphasis and conversation about what acting is and who we want to see represent ourselves on screen,” and eventually delivered a quintessential Johanssonism: “You know, as an actor I should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job.”
Well, she’d better start searching for a drama-rich forest from which to glean inspiration, because she’s not allowed to play Gill. According to Deadline, there’s “a commitment to cast a trans actor to play the show’s lead role” on the part of New Regency, which is developing the show. They better not fuck this up, or they will be hearing about it.
To Deadline, Our Lady J said:
Tex’s life story is like no other, and the rich landscape of this unexplored moment in time has truly captured my imagination. 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 show is about the promise of reinvention, and the peril of losing oneself in the process. Tex Gill was out and proud in an era – the late 1970s – when living authentically came with the price of social ostracization, leaving him vulnerable to a life of crime and lawlessness. Having grown up in Pennsylvania myself, I’m also excited to delve deep into Pittsburgh’s underbelly as it unspools the story of Tex’s remarkable life – it’s also the story of a city’s struggle for rebirth and a proud community’s efforts to make its voice heard.