In anticipation of their upcoming 10-episode Tales of the City series, based on gay author Armistead Maupin’s beloved books of the same name, Netflix recently issued an open Tales of the City casting call for the role of Jake Rodriguez, a Latinx trans man in their 20s or 30s (and no experience is necessary). That means that you or someone you know could star in a groundbreaking role in a major streaming TV series.
Rodriguez, is described as someone who has “recently transitioned (in the last two years). While comfortable in his own skin, he is still learning how to navigate his old relationships in his new identity.”
Since Netflix’s Tales of the City series will likely follow Maupin’s eighth Tales of the City book, Mary Ann in Autumn — a story about a woman named Mary Ann, fresh from a mid-life crisis, returning to San Francisco after 20 years away — it’s entirely possible that Jake Rodriguez is an updated version of the book’s character Jake Greenleaf.
If you wanna try out for Jake Rodriguez, just write firstname.lastname@example.org. The show starts shooting from July to November 2018 in New York City. (New York City? For a series that takes place in San Francisco?? Okay…)
Who is Jake Rodriguez/Greenleaf?
Greenleaf is a transgender man who helps Michael Tolliver — the author’s stand-in character— with his gardening business. It’s entirely possible that Greenleaf’s name in the book was merely a gardening pseudonym, but Netflix has imagined the character as Latinx despite Greenleaf not being assigned a clear race in the book.
In the book, Maupin uses Greenleaf as a way to explore how San Francisco isn’t always as welcoming as it seems. At one point, Greenleaf muses:
So far, claiming another gender — even the one that came naturally to him — had merely offered new ways to feel alienated, new opportunities for humiliation. A lot of bio guys were just in it for the novelty, losing interest altogether once their curiosity was satisfied. As for other trans guys, they were either cruising the Lone Star for liquored up bio bears or flirting with the femme dykes down at the Lexington Club. They weren’t looking for Jake.
At one point in the book, Greenleaf even gets into an “erotically-charged friendship with a young Mormon missionary who hopes to rid himself of his attraction to men,” according to The Washington Post. Greenleaf later befriends Mary Ann and begins to look after her.
Here’s why Jake Rodriguez would be a big deal for TV
The casting of a trans Latinx character on a major streaming TV series is a big deal for two reasons.
First, the original Tales of the City books and TV series were predominantly white, something that the author later called “a mistake” he made out of fear of misrepresenting characters unlike himself. Maupin later said that he and Netflix would “do something about it,” and it seems they are.
Second, and more importantly, trans men of color rarely appear on TV. GLAAD’s 2017 study of queer characters on TV found only four trans men on all network, cable and streaming TV shows. And Latinx people made up only 9 to 10% of all LGBTQ TV characters despite being 17.6% of the American population.
Jake Rodriguez may well be the first ever regularly recurring trans Latinx man that American viewers ever see on the small screen.