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Laverne Cox on historic broadcast TV role: ‘I did not see people like me on television’

Actors Laverne Cox and Katherine Heigl speak onstage at the "Doubt" panel discussion during the CBS portion of the 2016 Television Critics Assn. tour.
(AFP-Getty)

After a morning in which CBS Entertainment President Glenn Geller was taken to task for the network’s deficiency of nonwhite leads in its fall shows, the casting on midseason legal drama “Doubt” at least presented a breakthrough for him to boast about.

Laverne Cox is the first-ever transgender actor to play a transgender character in a series regular role on broadcast TV.

“That is huge,” Geller told reporters Wednesday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour. “I’m very proud of that. And I think as we continue to put new shows on the air, those trends will continue.”

When Cox appeared onstage — alongside co-stars Katherine Heigl, Dulé Hill and Steven Pasquale — the “Orange Is the New Black” star said the achievement was not lost on her for many reasons.

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“I’m grateful to have a job as an actor,” Cox said, noting that it was just four years ago that she was standing in front of housing court in New York City with an eviction notice.

In “Doubt,” Cox is on the other side of the law from her “Orange Is the New Black” persona as Cameron Wirth, a trans lawyer.

“I’m an avid TV watcher, and growing up, I did not see people like me on television,” she said.

Cox referenced the concept put forth by queer and cultural theorist José Muñoz called “disidentification,” in which marginalized people recycle and transform images in mainstream culture for their own purpose, as a way in which she negotiated the images she saw on TV.

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“That folks can have a character like Cameron who is Ivy League-educated…it’s wonderful to play a character like that, and to be a black transgender woman in that position on CBS is really special… And she wears really great stuff too.”

“Doubt” will premiere midseason.

yvonne.villarreal@latimes.com

Twitter: @villarrealy

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