(Spoiler alert: Please do not read on if you haven’t watched Wednesday’s episode of “Queen Sugar”)
Ava DuVernay’s “Queen Sugar” did not come to play this season — Wednesday evening’s episode included a brief yet powerful scene where trans actor Brian Michael and Kofi Siriboe’s characters engaged in dialogue that widens the audience’s scope of transgender experiences.
In the episode, Ralph Angel Bordelon (Siriboe) is digging through a dumpster trying to find his son’s lost doll when approached by two officers. At this point, since Bordelon is still on probation, we’re all anxious to see what transpires of his run-in with the cops. As it turns out, one of the officers happens to be Toine, his transgender friend from high school.
The two began talking and reminiscing about their high school days and Toine was able to express his gratitude towards Ralph Angel for always having his back and being supportive during high school and even later in life when they ran into each other again.
The great thing about this scene, though?
Not only is the character Toine transgender, but so is the actor who played him — Brian Michael.
During a time in Hollywood when there are already limited trans characters written for television and film of which the roles don’t even always go to trans actors, it was significant that Michael played Toine.
“I think it’s very important to have trans actors play trans roles because of the authenticity we bring,” Michael told TheWrap. “It’s important to have this element of truth in there.”
The powerful part about the scene and the introduction of a transgender character is that there wasn’t much focus on that fact — the scene played out more like a friendly interaction between two old friends rather than being filled with heavy motifs.
That’s something that I feel like really attracted me to the role and the scene that it wasn’t this heavy handed cliché focus on the heavy elements of people’s transgender experiences,” said Michael. “There’s a lot more that happens in trans people’s lives that don’t get shared in the few stories that are covered in television in film — there’s very rich and important experiences that should be brought to light.”
And that’s exactly what “Queen Sugar” did — the episode focused more on the support and positive relationships that transgender people experienced versus the negative ones.
Brian also added that while he does think it’s important to highlight the violence that trans people of color experience, it’s also significant to show the totality of their experiences.