In Together Together, Harrison portrays a surrogate, a “breath of fresh air” but an exception to the Hollywood rule.
It’s time for Hollywood to think outside the box when it comes to casting, says Patti Harrison.
In the new comedic film Together Together, Harrison portrays Anna, a character attempting to become the surrogate mother for a single man, Matt (Ed Helms). It’s the kind of role that she, as a transgender actress, would love to be cast in more often. And she hopes her hilarious, heartfelt performance sends a message to Hollywood.
“It seems so simple to me,” Harrison told The Advocate. “Just let people act and go up for roles, and stop pigeonholing people.”
Harrison has appeared in a variety of productions, from A Simple Favor to Shrill to voice acting in Big Mouth and Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon. However, Harrison is dismayed by the scripts that usually cross her desk, which tend to be some variation of a “down-on-her-luck trans sex worker” who overcomes the trauma of family rejection to become a “brave ‘yas queen’ girl boss.”
“When people only see you as [your marginalized identity], you’re not getting the same opportunities” as other actors, Harrison noted.
Initially, Harrison was hesitant to take the role of Anna because of the “optics” that might be “too on the nose” of a trans woman portraying someone trying to become pregnant. But at the end of the day, when she asked herself what she wanted in a part, it was to portray “an individual outside of my transness” — much like how cisgender actors have the freedom to play a variety of characters who come from different walks of life without scrutiny.
“I want to be in a movie that has a good script like this. This is a sweet story, I love it, so I’m just gonna do it,” she reasoned upon accepting the role. “I think that in and of itself is political agency and political power … within an industry that is so hell-bent on typecasting and stereotyping people.”
Additionally, Harrison noted that trans roles don’t always move the needle forward — particularly if trans voices are left out of their creation. “Not all representation is good representation,” she observed. “I would argue a lot of the marginalized representation in TV and media is off, because a lot of the gatekeepers are white straight cis people who mean well and they think meaning well is enough, and it’s not. It is not enough to me. You have to authentically incorporate people who have this experience if you want to tell their stories and make money off of it.”
Additionally, Hollywood’s commodification of transness can limit the opportunities for transgender actors if their gender identity consistently becomes a focal point. “I’m in an industry that’s trying to figure out a way they can make money on it,” said Harrison.
Harrison hopes the industry can reach a point where trans actors can audition for roles that are not specified as transgender without fanfare. “If that character is played by a trans actor, you don’t have to shoehorn an explanation for it in the script. You can just let that actor play the character as written,” she said.
“I’m bitter and salty” about the entertainment industry, said Harrison, who stipulated that Together Together was an exception to the rule, “a breath of fresh air for me” as an actress. “Hopefully, it kind of feels like things are moving in a better direction. But we’ll see!”
In addition to Harrison, Together Together, directed and written by Nikole Beckwith, features a number of other LGBTQ+ actors in trope-defying roles, among them Tig Notaro (Star Trek: Discovery) as a surrogacy counselor and Julio Torres (Los Espookys) as a coffee-shop coworker. The film’s casting director is Richard Hicks, who previously won a Primetime Emmy Award for casting HBO’s Game Change.
Watch the interview with Harrison and Helms, who also discuss the film’s message about found family, below. Catch the film in theaters or streaming on digital platforms.
Together Together‘s Patti Harrison Is Tired of Hollywood’s Trans Tropes