Last November, Jeffrey Tambor, the 73-year-old star of Amazon’s groundbreaking transgender drama series Transparent, was accused by his former assistant, Van Barnes, and a trans female co-star, Trace Lysette, of sexual harassment. Tambor quit and then un-quit before being reportedly written out of the show’s fifth and final season and subsequently fired. Tambor initially released a statement decrying Amazon’s “flawed and biased” investigation into the allegations. But a recent Hollywood Reporter interview asks whether we saw Jeffrey Tambor fired for his being a cisgender man playing a transgender role — not the harassment.
Transparent has long been criticized by some for casting a cis man as a trans woman (a practice known as “trans-face”), specifically Tambor playing trans woman and Jewish family matriarch Maura Pfefferman.
Tambor says that days after Lysette publicly claimed Tambor had expressed sexual interest in her on set, both verbally and by allegedly thrusting his hips against her so that his penis touched her leg, Faith Soloway — a writing producer and sister of the show’s executive producer and showrunner, Jill Soloway — sent Tambor an email expressing support for him amid the allegations, stating, “We are in a coup.”
Faith affirmed the existence of this email message.
Tambor also says Soloway sent him an email that read, “They have been after Maura from the beginning.” (Though The Hollywood Reporter doesn’t specify whether “they” refers to Tambor’s accusers or just his critics in general.)
Faith Soloway says, “Things were happening so quickly, with people being accused and held accountable by the #MeToo movement. In the moment I felt that Jill and Jeffrey were under attack. I knew that some people disapproved of Jeffrey, a cisgender actor, playing Maura, and I was upset that Jill, as the show’s creator, hadn’t had the opportunity to address the issue privately [before it went public].”
She says, however, that she also sent messages of support to Barnes and Lysette and that she “never disbelieved them.”
In his own defense, Tambor concedes, “I did raise my voice at times, I was moody at times, there were times when I was tactless. But as for the other [sexual] stuff, absolutely not.”
Though Tambor and Jill Soloway haven’t talked since he was fired from Transparent, she tells The Hollywood Reporter, “It’s not a simple case of did he do it or didn’t he do it. Nobody said he was a predator — they said he sexually harassed people. He made enemies, and I don’t think he realized he was making enemies. You have to be very, very careful if you’re a person in power and treat people very appropriately.”
The Hollywood Reporter mentions that Tambor is the first media figure in the #MeToo era to grant an interview about the sexual misconduct accusations against him.