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‘Transparent’: Jill Soloway Clarifies Showrunner Change and Previews Season 4

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Jill Soloway (center) with the cast of ‘Transparent’: Jay Duplass, Judith Light, Jeffrey Tambor, Gaby Hoffmann and Amy Landecker

Transparent has a new showrunner, but Jill Soloway will still be as involved as ever. “I could never leave the show in a million years. I’m going to be in it — writing, directing, living, loving, laughing, learning — every day until the very last day that it’s on,” Soloway tells The Hollywood Reporter.

The creator of the Amazon series spoke with THR on Wednesday ahead of a Paley Center PaleyLive NY panel, which Soloway kicked off by also clarifying the news. Amazon recently announced that Jill Gordon would be joining as showrunner for season five, which was greenlit by the streamer last month ahead of season four’s Sept. 22 release. Soloway explained that Gordon is replacing the departing showrunner, Bridget Bedard, who held the job since season two. 

“I was always overseeing everything, but in terms of the title of showrunner, that was Bridget Bedard’s,” Soloway explains. “For season five, Jill Gordon’s going to be doing the job that Bridget Bedard was doing. Because I also direct and write and I’m an executive producer, I have a lot of things to do that make it so I actually need a showrunner to collaborate with, at my side. I’m still as involved as ever.”

Soloway, who identifies as gender non-binary and prefers to be described with gender-neutral pronouns (they/them/their), recently renewed their overall deal with Amazon Studios and produces both Transparent and Amazon’s I Love Dick. Though the latter comedy has yet to be officially renewed, Soloway says the writers room has already started on new scripts for a second season, and the Transparent writers will be returning shortly to plot season five.

“We were so excited to announce that Jill [Gordon] was joining us and then when it was said that I was leaving, I just felt like I needed to set the record straight as quickly as possible,” Soloway adds.

When Soloway took their seat at the panel, the creator was joined by stars Jeffrey Tambor (Maura Pfefferman), Judith Light (Shelly Pfefferman), Amy Landecker (Sarah Pfefferman), Jay Duplass (Josh Pfefferman), Gaby Hoffmann (Ali Pfefferman); and other members of the extended Pfefferman family, Trace Lysette (Shea), Rob Huebel (Len Novak) and Alexandra Billings (Davina) to discuss the fourth season and future for the series.

“We’re all channeling the real Pfefferman family and I actually feel like they’re just getting started,” said Soloway on the panel, half-joking that Transparent will go for 10 seasons “at least.” Soloway doesn’t have an endgame mapped out and instead is building on each season of collective self-discovery with the Pfeffermans, who “feel like like real people” to their creator.

This season sends Maura (Tambor) abroad to Israel for her latest journey of self-discovery, as she unearths a deep secret about her family while in the Holy Land for a conference with daughter Ali (Hoffman). Those events will spur the rest of the Pfefferman family to join the pair, where they ultimately set off on their own paths to find acceptance, love and truth.

“We took really seriously that we wanted people to still be talking about the show and say, ‘Holy crap. Did you see it? It got better. Oh my god, if they weren’t in enough conflict to begin with, they went to Israel — what were they thinking?'” said Soloway to laughs. Continuing, “We used the boundaries within the body, the boundaries around the binary, the boundaries within this family and laid on top of it a story about the borders and a country, and tried to weave them together into comedy and drama and make just a wild ride. It’s like The Bradys going to Hawaii!” 

The season, which began filming about one month after President Trump’s inauguration, documents the Pfefferman family and its 70-year-old transgender matriarch living in 2017. Though the 10 episodes are as relevant as ever, the plot is not as specific as, for example, the Pfefferman family responding to Trump’s military ban on transgender people. Trump’s initial announcement actually came after the season had wrapped, and two days before Soloway and team released their season trailer.

“Because the news happens so quickly, we don’t want to have anything too specific in the show, in case politics change too much,” Soloway explained. “But the feeling that the world is on fire and that we need to be in the right place at the right time doing the right thing, that sensation everyone is feeling of wanting to fix life [is there].”

Adding, “We just want to ramp things up and keep things alive and stay bubbling and stay on the edge of our craft and our own ideas of what is possible politically and artistically.”

The cast took turns telling personal stories of how their experience on the show has made their own walls come down, thanks to the fluid creative environment created by Soloway. “Lives are at stake and now, with the current political climate, I go to the set with a mission statement because we need to cut this nonsense off,” said Tambor.

Transparent was initially an “imaginary” world Soloway created after their parent came out as trans. “Almost like some dolls I could play with with the therapist — this is us,” Soloway said. “A very controllable version of my family that I could cast and schedule and write for, and tell everybody what to say. It’s a very personal artistic expressive feeling.”

Now, the goal of Soloway’s art is to “center otherness.”

Explaining, “Women, people of color and queer people, especially trans people and people who are many of these things, we want them to be at the center of this story. We want women, people of color, trans people to feel like the protagonists and to be the subjects, not the objects. … If the trans gays, the queer gays, the non-cis gays is moving itself into the center of this show, it’s happening sort of unconsciously. But it’s my biggest dream for what art can achieve.”

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