By Nick Adams, Director of Transgender Media & Representation
October 16, 2018
Today Netflix announced even more queer talent involved with the upcoming series Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, including Murray Bartlett (Looking), Jen Richards (Mrs. Fletcher, Her Story), Daniela Vega (A Fantastic Woman), and RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Caldwell Tidicue aka Bob the Drag Queen. They join previously announced out actress Ellen Page and a host of LGBTQ newcomers. Showrunner, Executive Producer, and writer Lauren Morelli and Producing Director, Executive Producer Alan Poul, who are both part of the LGBTQ community, have assembled an entirely queer writing team and brought in several queer directors for the 10-episode series.
Armistead Maupin’s much-beloved novel, Tales of the City, first came to television on PBS in January, 1994. Set in Mrs. Madrigal’s bohemian San Francisco home at 28 Barbary Lane, the series centered LGBTQ stories and characters in a way that was completely unheard of for the time. (Showtime’s Queer as Folk didn’t premiere until December, 2000.) Tales of the City won a Peabody Award, garnered multiple Emmy nominations, and received a GLAAD Media Award. But anti-LGBTQ activists mobilized against it, sending a 12-minute clip reel to conservative members of Congress and creating a flyer that said “Your Tax Dollars Used to Air Pornographic, Profane, Homosexual TV Series.” PBS caved to anti-LGBTQ pressure, backing out of its commitment to fund and air the sequels. Thankfully Showtime stepped in and aired More Tales of the City and Further Tales of the City in 1998 and 2001.
The new Netflix series is inspired by the Maupin novels, but will bring us entirely new stories set in present-day San Francisco. Netflix already announced that queer fave Ellen Page will be playing Shawna, the estranged daughter of Mary Ann Singleton, played once again by the brilliant Laura Linney. They will be joined by other cast members from the original series including Olympia Dukakis returning as transgender landlady, Anna Madrigal, and Barbara Garrick who plays heiress DeDe Halycon Day.
Today, Netflix announced that Murray Bartlett, a fave from HBO’s Looking, will be playing Michael “Mouse” Tolliver, and that Chicago Fire’s Charlie Barnett will be playing his (much younger) boyfriend, Ben.
Among the new residents living at Barbary Lane, Josiah Victoria Garcia will be playing Jake Rodriguez, a character first introduced in Maupin’s 2007 novel Michael Tolliver Lives. Jake is a transgender man and a caregiver for Anna Madrigal. May Hong will play Jake’s long-term girlfriend, Margot Park.
Recurring queer characters will include Jen Richards (Mrs. Fletcher, Her Story) playing a young Anna Madrigal; Daniela Vega (A Fantastic Woman) as Ysela, a trans woman who plays a pivotal role in Anna’s life; Caldwell Tidicue aka Bob the Drag Queen as Ida Best the manager of a burlesque club where Shawna and Margot work; Matthew Risch (Looking, Modern Family) as Mouse’s ex-boyfriend Harrison; Dickie Hearts (Grace & Frankie) playing Mateo, DeDe’s housekeeper; Benjamin Thys (The Meyerowitz Stories) and Samantha Soule (Godless) as a queer polyamorous married couple; and Juan Castano (The OA) as Flaco Ramirez, one of Ben’s co-workers.
The all-queer writing team that Morelli and Poul assembled is comprised of Andy Parker, Patricia Resnick, Marcus Gardley, Jen Silverman, Hansol Jung, and Thomas Page McBee; while the directors who are part of the LGBTQ community including Silas Howard, Sydney Freeland, Stacie Passon and Kyle Alvarez.
Since the series features two prominent trans characters, Morelli and Poul included trans creators behind-the-scenes to help tell their stories. Trans people involved in the production include Josiah Victoria Garcia, a non-binary trans actor who uses they/them pronouns and the name Garcia in daily life; Jen Richards, a trans woman who starred in and was a writer and producer on the Emmy-nominated web series Her Story, about dating as a trans woman; Daniela Vega, a trans woman and the star of the Academy Award-winning film A Fantastic Woman; writer Thomas Page McBee; and directors Silas Howard and Sydney Freeland.
Netflix also announced that Paul Gross (Due South, Slings & Arrows) will be returning to reprise his role as Brian, Mary Ann Singleton’s ex-husband. He will be joined by newcomers Michelle Buteau (First Wives Club) as Wren, Brian’s no-nonsense best friend; Ashley Park (Broadway’s Mean Girls) and Christopher Larkin (The 100) as twins Ani and Raven who are newer residents of Barbary Lane, and Michael Park (Dear Evan Hansen) as Mary Ann’s husband Robert.
When it premieres next year, this diverse LGBTQ cast and creative team will bring new queer and trans stories to 28 Barbary Lane, and introduce younger generations of LGBTQ people to Michael Tolliver, Anna Madrigal, and Mary Ann Singleton. Is it 2019 yet?