Published in Blackbook
A few minutes with Jill Soloway
As the creator of the hit series Transparent, Jill Soloway has turned a father of three grown children who “comes out” as transgender into a pop-culture hero/ine. The show has won Soloway not only a devoted audience — and a Golden Globe for best series, after its first season on Amazon — but something maybe even more elusive: the approval of Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, who sees Transparent as proof of his company’s own transition, into a programing powerhouse. Which is how Soloway found herself on a morning program with Bezos, who had recently renewed Transparent for as second season, and who called her “one of the world’s great storytellers.”
Soloway, 49, is trying not to let success go to her headshots. She keeps hair and make-up artists at bay, even when doing morning shows, lest she end up looking, she says, “like a realtor on a bus bench.”
Make-up is for Jeffrey Tambor, who stars in Transparent as a 68-year-old transitioning from Mort to Maura. The series is loosely based on Soloway’s own trans-parent, whom she calls Moppa — a combination of Momma and Papa. Transparent is a joy to watch, but Soloway makes clear that it is isn’t just entertainment. “People have told me they’re more loving and kind and open because they’ve watched,” she says. “The show is making the world safer for my parent.”
In fact, Soloway says her goal is to tell stories by “people who have been other-ized — women, gay people, trans people, people of color” — as a way of “toppling the patriarchy” (a phrase she uses earnestly but gently).
To make that happen, Soloway and her business partner, Rebecca Odes, have created their own network, wifey.tv, which they hope will be a place for the formerly ignored to tell their stories (“It’s for the Jill Soloways of the future,” says Odes). Soloway says she’s glad the Internet permitted her to circumvent studio executives—whom she calls “golf course males,” adding, “we got to do a side run around how you usually get stuff on the air.” But she is hardly abandoning corporate media. In addition to producing the second season of Transparent — which she says may include a musical episode — she is executive-producing a series for MTV about two feminist superheroes. And she is writing a memoir-slash-manifesto (she calls it a “femoir”) for Crown, under the working title You Just Know.
Soloway, a Chicago native who lives in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake, is equally focused on her family, which includes a husband and two children. After all, writing Transparent was about the Soloways — doing the program, she says, is a way of “processing my own Moppa’s experiences.” And that, to Soloway, is a gift. After15 years trying to sell pilots, she says, sounding both surprised and grateful, “the true story of our family became the story that resonated.”