Now being redeveloped as a TV series, the show will be written by Pose’s Our Lady J
Scarlett Johansson is no stranger to casting controversies. Previously accused of whitewashing after starring in a live-action remake of Japanese anime film Ghost in the Shell in 2017, the actor was criticised again in 2018 after being cast to play a trans man in forthcoming mobster biopic, Rub & Tug.
After receiving near-universal criticism – for both the casting and her initial response to critics – Johansson dropped out of the film. Now, the creators of Rub & Tug have announced that the film is being redeveloped as a TV series, and will star a trans lead in the role of Dante ‘Tex’ Gill, a notorious personality in Pittsburgh’s underworld in the 70s and 80s, who was known for owning massage parlours from which he operated a prostitution ring.
As reported by Deadline, the show’s pilot will be written by Our Lady J, with Gill’s widow, Cindy Bruno Gill, serving as a consultant, and journalist Brendan Koerner as an executive producer.
“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.”
Our Lady J’s previous writing work includes Pose, the hit drama series about New York’s ballroom culture scene and its vibrant LGBTQ+ and gender-nonconforming community, as well as Transparent, a comedy show about a trans woman and her family. In a previous interview with the Observer while working on Jill Soloway’s Transparent, Our Lady J described the position she was in as a trans woman working in the industry: “It’s our responsibility to challenge the status quo. The choice notion is based in puritanism, really – if God made us this way it’s OK, but if God did not make you this way you need to be punished. Pushing up against that has been important for me in defining my own sexuality and gender identity.”
Gill said of the Rub & Tug announcement: “Tex was transgender at a time when being transgender meant facing great discrimination, yet he was fearless about being himself in a way that inspired those who knew him to be proud of who they were too. Our Lady J is the perfect person to give voice to Tex’s story, and I know he would be proud of the evolution of this project.”
Nick Adams, GLAAD’s director of transgender representation, praised the news in a statement to Entertainment Weekly: “Industry leaders are hearing, and even joining, the call to hire talented and experienced transgender storytellers like Our Lady J to tell trans stories. Authentic trans stories are compelling and largely untold, and when told well, they attract acclaim from audiences, critics, and award shows.”
After Johansson’s casting was met with widespread criticism in July 2018, the actor responded by telling critics to “be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jaret Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment” – all cis actors who have taken on major roles as trans people in the past. Shortly after issuing this initial statement, Johansson changed her tune, and announced that she would be exiting the film.
“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 realise it was insensitive,” the actor said. “I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues.”
It’s yet to be confirmed who will be cast in the series, and when filming will start.