When it was revealed that Scarlett Johansson will be portraying a trans man in Rub and Tug, a movie that aimed to pair the actress with her Ghost in the Shell director Rupert Sanders, she attracted a lot of criticism. Johansson subsequently left the project altogether after a significant outcry to that casting announcement, and we haven’t heard any updates regarding its status…until now.
Rub and Tug, a film about notorious Pittsburgh massage parlour owner Dante “Tex” Gill and his encounters with the mob in the 1970s, is being turned into a TV show, and the producers have hired a trans writer to pen the pilot episode. And the starring part, which Johansson was formerly expected to fill? A trans actor will now take on that role.
According to Deadline, the newly reformed Rub and Tug TV series’ pilot will be written by Our Lady J, an Emmy-nominated writer and producer on Amazon’s Transparent and FX’s Pose who was the first openly trans person to be hired in a writers’ room. The idea is still being worked on by New Regency, who were originally working on it as a movie. It’s uncertain whether Sanders, who received criticism for the whitewashing of his Ghost in the Shell movie cast, will be involved in any capacity with this TV version.
According to the article, “a commitment to cast a trans actor to play the show’s protagonist” has now been made, which is obviously the right decision in this case. The controversy got a lot of people worked up about issues like who can be “allowed” to play whom, but the truth is that trans people haven’t had nearly the same opportunities as cisgendered actors have over the years, so it just makes sense to give trans performers the kind of shot that cis actors have had from the start when an opportunity arises for a high-profile role in a cool project.
The narrative sounds intriguing: Gill “took on the mob and rose to prominence as a criminal in the 1970s Through a network of illegal massage parlours and anabolic steroid distribution network that contributed to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ NFL dynasty, “threw a birthday cake at a police officer who raided one of his massage parlours and escaped rivals’ attempts on his life. The story’s original summary prompted similarities to American Hustle. We’ll keep you informed as we learn more about this initiative, and I’m delighted it’s in the hands of someone who can treat the content with the deference and authenticity it rightfully deserves.
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