British Columbia

'The Switch' transgender comedy a first for TV

A Vancouver production company are celebrating after their transgender comedy TV show — The Switch — met its initial crowdfunding goal over the weekend.

Vancouver-made show 'The Switch' raises final $50K on Kickstarter

On the Vancouver-based TV show The Switch, all transgender roles are played by trans actors. (Trembling Void)

A Vancouver production company are celebrating after their transgender comedy TV show — The Switch — met its initial crowdfunding goal over the weekend.

The $50,000 raised through Kickstarter will allow the team to begin shooting the first series of the show which, they say, will be the first transgender comedy to air on broadcast TV.

While most of the funding so far has come from grants and tax credits, The Switch needed another $50,000 "to do this show right," according to executive producer Amy Fox, who is also one of the show's creators, writers and actors.

Amy Fox, executive producer of The Switch. (Shimon)

The half-hour pilot episode aired on OutTV in February, but there are plans to go back and tweak that, as well as add up to nine more episodes for the first season.

All transgender roles played by trans actors

"It's a fantastic transgender comedy," Fox told Rick Cluff on CBC Radio's The Early Edition. "It's shot and set in Vancouver. It's politically sharp, but also funny. It deals with different, intersecting problems that affect transgender people's lives, and it does so with levity and hope."

Julie Vu stars as Sü Phan, who loses her job after coming out as a trans woman — an all-too realistic scenario, according to Fox.

And the difficulty faced by out trans actors in finding work, means it is important that all the transgender roles on the show are played by trans actors, Fox says.

"It's extremely difficult, if you're out," says Fox. "If you take a look at other transgender actors, I mean, Laverne Cox, a lot of her CV was playing prostitutes before she played her [Emmy nominated] character on Orange is the New Black. Candis Cayne was rejected from commercials because she's transgender. If you're out, it's very difficult."

Last year, Dallas Buyers Club sparked controversy by casting Jared Leto in a transgender role.

The makeup crew prepares Julie Vu for the next shoot. (Trembling Void)

"Both of the creators, myself and Elizabeth Marston, are transgender," says Fox. "Last year, one of our producers, Jack Fox, is transgender. Most of our larger story-editing team is transgender, and a fair number of people on the crew are transgender…. And our social media coordinator is transgender. There's a lot of us making the show."

Interest rising in show

While tackling serious issues such as housing, poverty and unemployment, The Switch is, at its heart, a hopeful show about people emerging from their isolated lives, says Fox.

OutTV has optioned the Canadian broadcast rights, and other broadcasters are already interested.

"We're talking to two American [TV] networks about this, as well as a network in the Caribbean, and in the Netherlands," says Fox.

Shooting is expected to begin in February 2015, with new episodes airing and streaming in August. There are still 25 days left in the Kickstarter campaign.