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SUPERGIRL’s Casting a Transgender Character for Season 4

SUPERGIRL’s Casting a Transgender Character for Season 4

After hints at the beginning of the year, The CW’s Supergirl has put out a casting call for a transgender actress to join the show’s fourth season. The public casting call, put out by Cast It Talent on behalf of the show, sheds some light on the role of the character Nia Nal and how she’ll be integrated into the cast:

“Transgender woman, early 20s, open ethnicity. A confident, wunderkind of a fashionista. Once a political speechwriter, Nia is the newest addition to the Catco investigative reporting team. With her she brings sparkling wit and biting humor but under that banter-y, chic façade, lays a soulful young woman who has much to offer the world. A young ‘Cat Grant’ type.”

Calista Flockhart starred as Catco Worldwide Media founder and CEO Cat Grant in the first season of Supergirl and has since had a recurring role.

Nia Nal thus appears designed in part to fill the shoes of Calista Flockhart‘s Cat Grant, who has been largely absent since the beginning of season two, when production shifted from Hollywood to Vancouver, British Columbia.

The casting call comes four months after Supergirl executive producer and writer Greg Berlanti spoke at the DC in D.C. event about the lack of trans representation in the broader Arrowverse. “We don’t have an active trans character across the shows, you know. And we had a trans actress playing a trans in a show I did that was not a superhero show, eleven years ago. And so I still feel behind the times every day on that issue,” Berlanti said in response to an audience question about creating more diverse queer representation.

Berlanti previously worked as executive producer on Dirty Sexy Money, which aired on ABC from 2007-2009, and featured trans actress Candis Cayne in a recurring role as Carmelita Rainer.

Jared Leto's Rayon and Matthew McConaughey's Ron Woodruff sitting on a park bench in Dallas Buyers Club

Jared Leto won the Best Supporting Actor award for his performance as Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club, but his casting and performance were widely criticized within the transgender community.

While transgender characters have been more common in television and film in the past several years, it remains rare for them to be played by trans actors. Trans women characters, especially, are still frequently played by cisgender men, including such prominent roles as Jeffrey Tambor in TransparentEddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl, and Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club.

Casting cis actors in trans roles has become increasingly controversial, however. In a 2016 guest column for The Hollywood Reporter, Nick Adams of GLAAD put the issue succinctly: “The decision to put yet another man in a dress to portray a transgender woman touches a nerve for transgender people, and rightfully so. It’s yet another painful reminder that, in the eyes of so many people, transgender women are really just men.”

Casting a trans woman for the role of Nia Nal is thus a major deal, as well as a sign that Berlanti and the CW intend for the character to be authentic and representative, rather than another stereotype.

Portion of cover of Supergirl vol 7 issue 19 showing Supergirl and Lee Serrano flying above National City

Cover of Supergirl vol 7 #19, art by Jorge Jiménez and Alejandro Sanchez

While Nia Nal might be the first trans character in The CW’s Arrowverse, she’s not the first trans character associated with Supergirl. In a recent issue of the Supergirl comic, co-writers Steve Orlando and Vita Ayala and artist Jamal Campbell introduced Lee Serrano, a National City high school student who is non-binary. In the issue, Supergirl rescues—and befriends—Lee during a battle in National City. With a little moral support from Supergirl, Lee is able to stand up for themself against a bully at their high school, as well as come out to their parents.

No word yet on whether Lee might also be joining the Supergirl on The CW anytime soon, though they would be a great candidate to add to the vanishingly little non-binary representation in television and film.

In the meantime, I’m quite excited to see Nia Nal and how she’s integrated into the Supergirl universe.

What are you looking forward to most in Season 4 of Supergirl? Hit us up in the comments!

Images: The CW, Focus Features, DC Comics

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