CBS’s “Silence of the Lambs” spinoff series is hoping to set things right with LGBTQ audiences by including a new transgender character.
Jen Richards confirmed Monday on Instagram that she’d joined the cast of “Clarice,” due out Feb. 11. The performer and activist had initially joined the hotly anticipated series as a consultant but wound up landing a part.
“The creators of ‘Clarice,’ the ‘Silence of the Lambs’ spinoff that follows Agent Starling in the years after the events of the movie, knew that the character of Buffalo Bill created untold pain for trans people,” Richards, whose credits include “Nashville” and “Tales of the City,” wrote. “Too often victims in real life, we were only ever shown as monsters.”
Press notes for “Clarice” don’t include specifics of the character but say that the series will tackle social issues “with a modern day awareness.”
Richards shared similar sentiments in her Instagram post, promising that the show will be “a more authentic and empathetic story” than the original “Silence of the Lambs.”
“I’m proud to be part of this new take,” she added.
Later on Monday, Richards spoke further about her “Clarice” role at a virtual screening for the show. Joking that she envisioned “some younger, prettier trans actress” being cast in the part, she praised the show’s creative team for crafting a character that steered clear of stereotypes.
“All I can say is that the character intersects with Clarice’s storyline in a way that her transness isn’t central to her storyline,” Richards said, according to Variety. “But her identity as a trans woman prompts her to discuss with Clarice the complicated legacy of Buffalo Bill.”
The 1991 film “Silence of the Lambs,” starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, won five Oscars and was a box office smash. In the 30 years since its release, however, the film has drawn heavy criticism from LGBTQ rights advocates over its depiction of serial killer Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb, played by Ted Levine.
In 2016, filmmaker Lilly Wachowski singled out “Silence of the Lambs” as an example of a movie that “demonized and vilified” the trans community. Three years later, Quartz journalist Annaliese Griffin blasted the film for making “no attempt to understand transpeople,” instead “painting a picture of a grimly marginal life of dangerous sex and macabre interior design.”
Director Jonathan Demme, who died in 2017, told HuffPost that he felt critics of Buffalo Bill had widely misinterpreted the character.
“He loathed himself — he wanted to transform himself so that there was no sense of him in the ‘new’ him, [and] becoming a woman … that was his method of doing it,” he said in 2014. “He wished he was a woman not because he always wanted to be a woman. This was another way to escape.”
Only time will tell whether “Clarice,” which stars Rebecca Breeds in the title role, will fare better in its depiction of a transgender person than its predecessor.
Early reviews of the series, however, have been mixed. TV Line deemed it a “disappointingly run-of-the-mill procedural,” while Entertainment Weekly argued that the show “doesn’t have any brains worth chewing.”
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