A Mendota moment inspired the Golden Globe-winning Transparent.
Picture the sunny shores of Lake Mendota. You’re walking with friends, and you see groups of students wading in the water on a study break. A scene like this, in the late 1980s, is how the Golden Globe Award–winning comedy series Transparent came to be.
Jill Soloway ’87 is the creator, writer, executive producer, director, and overall mastermind of the Amazon original series Transparent. She received her first Golden Globe nomination and win for Transparent in January 2015, and has now been nominated for a Primetime Emmy (her fourth Emmy nomination). Her groundbreaking show centers on the members of the Pfefferman family, as they discover that their father, Mort (Jeffrey Tambor), is transgendered. The show also stars another UW alumna, actress Amy Landecker ’91.
In a recent profile by the New York Times, Soloway described an “a-ha” moment that took place on campus, and altered her path. While walking along the lakeshore and watching “hippies, feminists, demonstrators, political kids, people who fought” playing around in the water, she said, “I remember being really struck by the kind of fun they were having – [an] un-self-conscious” type of fun.
After that, Soloway began expanding her horizons by taking courses in both gender and women’s studies. “I went [to the UW] thinking about the red and white sweater,” Soloway told the university. “And then once there, [I] was really kind of blown away by real academics — real rebels, real outlaws, real artists.”
In 2002, Soloway got her first big break writing for HBO’s hit series Six Feet Under, for which she ultimately became co-executive producer. Since then, she has worked on shows such as United States of Tara, Grey’s Anatomy, and How to Make It in America. In 2013 she wrote and directed her first feature film, Afternoon Delight, which won the 2013 Sundance Award for Dramatic Directing. In November 2013, Soloway returned to campus and presented the film at the UW Cinematheque.
But at the 2015 Golden Globes, all focus was on Transparent. Jeffrey Tambor won the Lead Actor–TV Comedy award, beating out Don Cheadle, Louis C.K., William H. Macy, and Ricky Gervais. Soloway accepted the award for Transparent, which was up against Girls, Jane the Virgin, Orange is the New Black, and Silicon Valley.
Soloway dedicated her speech to a young transgender woman named Leelah Alcorn, who recently committed suicide as a result of intolerance. Soloway also thanked her own trans-parent, “moppa” (“mama” and “poppa” combined), who came out as transgender as an adult. “Maybe we’re going to be able to teach the world something about authenticity, and truth, and love,” Soloway concluded. “To love.”