Halle Berry has dropped out of an upcoming film in which she was set to play a transgender character following backlash over the weekend.
On Friday, the 53-year-old actor said during an interview on Instagram Live that she had been preparing for the role but wasn’t officially cast yet. Berry misgendered the character multiple times throughout the interview.
“(He’s) a character where the (person) is a trans character, so (he’s) a woman that transitioned into a man. (He’s) a character in a project I love that I might be doing,” Berry said on Friday.
Berry added that she was interested in playing the role because “I want to experience and understand and study and explore” and “take a deep dive” into “that world.”
The Gothika actor received backlash online after misgendering the character multiple times throughout the interview.
“Who this (man) was is so interesting to me, and that will probably be my next project,” she said.
On Monday, Berry issued an apology on social media, writing: “Over the weekend I had the opportunity to discuss my consideration of an upcoming role as a transgender man, and I’d like to apologize for those remarks.”
“As a cisgender woman (meaning Berry’s gender identity corresponds with the one she was assigned at birth), I now understand that I should not have considered this role and that the transgender community should undeniably have the opportunity to tell their own stories,” Berry added.
“I am grateful for the guidance and critical conversation over the past few days and I will continue to listen, educate and learn from this mistake. I vow to be an ally in using my voice to promote better representation on screen, both in front of and behind the camera.”
— Halle Berry (@halleberry) July 7, 2020
Before Berry had issued her apology, the official Twitter account for the Netflix documentary Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen, which examines Hollywood’s portrayal of transgender people and their stories, asked her to watch the documentary before considering the role.
“Hi @HalleBerry, we heard you’re considering playing a trans man in your next project. We ask that you please watch @Disclosure_Doc on @Netflix first to understand how cis actors like yourself acting in trans roles has major cultural consequences offscreen. #DisclosureNetflix,” the tweet read.
Hi @halleberry, we heard you're considering playing a trans man in your next project. We ask that you please watch @Disclosure_Doc on @netflix first to understand how cis actors like yourself acting in trans roles has major cultural consequences offscreen. #DisclosureNetflix
— Disclosure Documentary (@Disclosure_Doc) July 6, 2020
After Berry apologized, the GLAAD organization said it was “pleased that @HalleBerry listened to the concerns of transgender people and learned from them.”
“Other powerful people should do the same. A good place to start is by watching @Disclosure_Doc to learn about trans representation in media,” GLAAD’s tweet added.
We are pleased that @halleberry listened to the concerns of transgender people and learned from them. Other powerful people should do the same. A good place to start is by watching @Disclosure_Doc to learn about trans representation in media. https://t.co/SAxSvXxbk3
— GLAAD (@glaad) July 7, 2020
The Twitter account for Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen thanked Berry for “listening and learning.”
“Thank you @HalleBerry for listening and learning. We hope #DisclosureNetflix is one of many educational tools you and others can rely (on) to inspire and strengthen allyship,” the tweet read.
— Disclosure Documentary (@Disclosure_Doc) July 7, 2020
Berry isn’t the first actor to drop out of a transgender role after receiving backlash from people online.
In July 2018, Scarlett Johansson dropped out of the movie Rub & Tug following backlash over her casting in the lead role as a transgender man.
“In light of recent ethical questions raised surrounding my casting as Dante Tex Gill, I have decided to respectfully withdraw my participation in the project,” Johansson said in a statement to Out.com.
The actor continued: “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. I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues.”
Johansson, 33, a cisgender woman, had been cast in the drama as Dante (Tex) Gill, a real person who owned a massage parlour in 1970s Pittsburgh, Pa. Gill was assigned female at birth but dressed like a man, had short hair and sideburns and preferred being called “Mr. Gill.”
While Gill was never officially identified as “transgender” (the term didn’t even exist then), all accounts of his life indicate that he presented outwardly and lived privately as a man.
Johansson spoke about the opportunity to play the character in her statement, saying: “While I would have loved the opportunity to bring Dante’s story and transition to life, I understand why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person, and I am thankful that this casting debate, albeit controversial, has sparked a larger conversation about diversity and representation in film.
“I believe that all artists should be considered equally and fairly. My production company, These Pictures, actively pursues projects that both entertain and push boundaries. We look forward to working with every community to bring these most poignant and important stories to audiences worldwide.”
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