In an interview with Variety on Sunday, actress Nicole Maines discussed being cast as the first transgender superhero on a network television show. During Comic-Con on Saturday, it was announced that Maines has been cast to play a trans superhero by the name of Nia Nal, also known as Dreamer, on the latest season of Supergirl.
Discussing her groundbreaking new role, Maines confessed to executive editor Debra Birnbaum that she’s still processing.
“I haven’t really wrapped my head around it. It feels fitting to say with great power, comes great responsibility.”
“I’m nervous,” she said, “because I want to do it right.”
Maines was recently on the HBO documentary, The Trans List, in 2016 and wants viewers to learn more about the transgender community by seeing trans characters on television shows and in movies.
“We can be whoever we want, we can do whatever we want we can be superheroes, because in many ways we are,” she said. “We’ve had trans representation in television for a while but it hasn’t been the right representation.”
Maines noted that, for so long, trans women have been played primarily by cisgender men, which has often sent or communicated the wrong message to viewers. Because of those inaccurate representations, audiences have been given the false impression that trans women are simply cisgender men in dresses.
Commenting on this tendency for cisgender actors to be cast as trans characters, Maines said the following.
“I think that cis gender actors don’t take roles out of malice, it’s just a failure to realize the context of having cis gender people play trans gender characters.”
“We don’t see the same issue with sexuality, we see straight people play gay all the time,” she continued. “With trans folks we have a lot of people accusing us of just playing dress up for whatever reasons and that’s just not true. Having trans people play trans roles show that we are valid in our identities and we exist.”
Touching on the recent controversy surrounding Scarlett Johansson initially being cast to play the role of a transgender man, Maines noted that this would have only negatively impacted trans representation as a whole by furthering the “dress up” stereotypes.
Maines, however, is hopeful that Supergirl will finally be able to provide the right kind of representation for trans women on screen and in the media.
“I think we’re in a time right now where more than ever representation in the media matters. And what we see on television has a very dramatic effect on our society,” she said.