Welcome to the seventh article in our Pride series for the month of June! Each day we will be highlighting a different LGBTQ+ character who we think is a great example of representation, dynamic characterization, and overall badassery. Check out the rest of the series here.
What do you call The Breakfast Club, minus detention, plus a mysterious un-blind girl who has just resurfaced after being missing for seven years?
The Netlix Original series The OA.
Briefly summed up, The OA tells the story of Prairie Johnson. When Prairie went missing seven years before the start of the show, she was blind. Now she has returned with her sight and strange scars on her back. She will not tell anyone what happened except five strangers from the local high school. Mrs. Allen, or “BBA,” a teacher at the school, and four students: Jesse and Alfonso, Steve, a troublemaking drug dealer, and Buck. Buck is a student who knows Steve because he provides him with testosterone. Buck joins the group of five -and Prairie – each night at midnight to hear her story.’
Not much is known about Buck from the first season. (Granted, that is because 90% of the season is spent on filling in the gaps in Prairie’s story.) We know Buck is a student at the high school and a member of the school choir. When we see him at home, his parents call him Michelle, and considering his testosterone and HRT is coming from Steve, it is clear he is not fully out. But this is not an issue within the group. Prairie accepts each of her audience members, and they accept each other, because her mission is much more important than gender or age or class.
(I’ll leave out the details of Prairie’s mission as it is much more fun to watch The OA with the mystery in tact.)
This Pride spotlight is not just shining on Buck, but on the actor who plays him: Ian Alexander. Ian is actually trans – a rare occurrence on television. Brit Marling, who plays Prairie and also created the show, told Vulture:
“Ian [Alexander,] who played Buck — we’d always written the character as a 14-year-old transgender F-to-M Asian-American, and when we gave our casting director Avy Kaufman that description, she said, ‘We might not be able to find this person, so what are you flexible on?’ We told her we weren’t flexible, so she finally took to the internet and posted some casting notices on various trans chat rooms and groups, and audition tapes came flooding in. Ian was among them, he had shot his with his iPhone in his bathroom and uploaded it all without his parents knowing. Out of nowhere, his parents get a phone call that Netflix wants to cast their son! They’re like, ‘What?’ His tape was brilliant. He told us, ‘I’m having a really hard time in school, because I wanted to act but it’s not like the plays that are done in high school have roles that describe a person like me. You can’t imagine what it was like to go online and see a posting for a Netflix show that describes me.’ We got really lucky.”
There is no reason not to cast trans actors as trans characters, and The OA proves that. There is a season two in the works, but the story has been left wide open – hopefully with room for more Buck.
Do you have a character spotlight suggestion? Leave it in the comments down below!