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Laverne Cox breaks ground on ‘Orange Is the New Black’

Aug 12, 2013

From the mind that brought you “Weeds,” Jenji Kohan’s “Orange Is the New Black” is – in my opinion – the most well received Netflix Original to date. Chronicling the lives of several female inmates, the 13 episode series is both hilarious and poignant.

A different inmate’s journey to the slammer is focused on with each different episode, but one inmate has created quite the buzz. Laverne Cox plays Sophia Burset, a transgender inmate that serves as the beautician in the all female prison. Cox has made appearances on several renowned series, such as “Bored to Death” and “Law and Order: SVU.” She even produced and starred in her own short-lived makeover reality series “TRANSform Me” on VH1. But Laverne’s role on “Orange Is the New Black” marks the first time that a transgender actress has played a transgender character in a recurring role on a mainstream American series.

Cox’s role on the show gives viewers something they haven’t had before — the chance to connect with and relate to a real transgendered character on television. It’s not just Laverne’s inspirational story that has garnered attention from audiences and critics alike, though. What really shines (other than those sparkling pearly whites) is her undeniable talent. Cox’s portrayal of Sophia Burset is both heartfelt and believable. You laugh with Sophia (crack up, actually) and feel pain for her in the pit of your stomach during her trying times. Her relationships and experiences within the federal women’s prison offer a glimpse into the lives of transgender inmates that audiences simply have not had access to up to this point.

The importance of the role to the LGBT community and beyond has not gone unnoticed by Cox. A website like Netflix, with its enormous and varied viewership, has given Cox a platform larger than any she’s had before. “Orange Is the New Black” offers a chance to reach an audience that might otherwise not expose themselves to the trials and tribulations of the life of a transgendered person. In a recent interview, Cox stated, “A beautiful blog [post] was written by this woman who said that she didn’t really approve of the transgender thing and had all these misconceptions about trans people, and Sophia’s story line changed that for her.”

Hats off to Laverne from those of us over at Death and Taxes for blazing the trail and opening doors for other transgender actors and actresses, and here’s to seeing more from this talented woman in the future. You can catch Laverne and the rest of Jenji Kohan’s girl gang streaming on Netflix. Viewers beware: this show is completely addicting, and Laverne’s flawless tresses will make you hate your own hair. You’ve been warned.

Image: Dodge & Burn

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