Judi Dench Says Her Character in ‘Cats’ Is Trans

The character Old Deuteronomy is traditionally played by a man on stage

Judi Dench Cats 2019 Old Deuteronomy
Universal Pictures

Judi Dench said that her character in “Cats,” Old Deuteronomy, is actually transgender.

In an interview with Out magazine, Dench recalled how she was forced to drop out of a stage production of “Cats” from 1981 in London’s West End.

When the interviewer, who is transgender, pointed out that her character is traditionally played by a man on stage, Dench noted that the male actor Brian Blessed played the role in the 1981 production.

“[It was] nerve wracking, because all I can hear is Brian Blessed all the time in the production that I wasn’t able to be in,” Dench said. “Totally unexpected, it was. I kind of call it ‘trans Deuteronomy,’ is the part for me. But it was lovely to be led about and be an aged, old cat.”

Dench’s character is a wise, older cat who judges other cats in the annual Jellicle Ball. The cats have a chance to ascend to the Heaviside Layer and be reborn in a new life if they are chosen.

Dench was meant to portray the characters Grizabella the Glamour Cat and Jennyanydots the Old Gumbie Cat in the 1981 production in London, but she was forced to leave the play after she snapped an Achilles tendon.

“Cats” is in theaters now. Check out video of Dench’s interview via Out.