The fascinating story behind Laverne Cox’s transgender character on CBS’s ‘Doubt’

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‘Doubt’ star Laverne Cox talks to Business Insider during the Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles in January. Francis Specker/CBS

When the news broke that “Orange Is the New Black” actress Laverne Cox, who is transgender, had been cast on CBS’s new legal drama “Doubt,” some may have seen it as a way to capitalise on the transgender TV trend led by shows like Amazon’s “Transparent” and E!’s “I Am Cait,” as well as on the ongoing legislative fights surrounding transgender rights across the country.

Even Cox wondered at first if the creators of “Doubt,” married couple Joan Rater and Tony Phelan, had originally written the role for a transgender actor.

“I was reading the script and I knew they wanted me,” Cox told Business Insider during the Television Critics Association press tour last month.

“I’m used to it be a trans character, being obviously trans,” she continued. “But I was reading it and I was like, ‘This character doesn’t seem trans.'”

When viewers watch the first episode of “Doubt,” which premieres on Wednesday at 10 p.m., they may think the same thing that Cox did.

She plays Cameron Wirth, a competitive attorney and Ivy League graduate at the same boutique law firm as star Katherine Heigl’s character, defence attorney Sadie Ellis.

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Katherine Heigl as Sadie Ellis, left, and Laverne Cox as Cameron Wirth on CBS’s ‘Doubt.’ Sonja Flemming/CBS

On the premiere episode, there’s only a hint of why Cameron is so passionate about defending her clients from injustice.

“There’s one little line in the pilot [episode] where a client sort of makes a comment and we understand that Cameron is trans,” Cox said. “But then we move on from it. It doesn’t really come up again. And I love that Joan and Tony wanted to have a trans character on TV. I think it’s because they have someone they very much love in their lives who is trans. Their son, Tom “

So yes, the creators of “Doubt” did originally write the role of Cameron as transgender. They’d tell you they weren’t capitalising on a TV trend or the news. And their son, Tom Phelan, who appeared on Freeform’s “The Fosters” for three seasons, had a lot to do with them wanting to portray Cameron as they would any other character.

“It was striking to me that once your son tells you he’s transgender, the next day I realise, he’s still the same person he was yesterday,” Rater told Business Insider.

“He’s still a slob. He’s funny. He’s annoying and delightful and smart. And transgender,” she continued. “It’s not like there’s a different person there. It may sound cliche, but it was sort of revelatory. We wanted to show a transgender person who was a badass lawyer, really smart, and it wasn’t about their transgender identity. That’s a part of who Laverne is, who Cameron is, but there’s a lot of other parts. That was important to us.”

Watch a trailer for “Doubt” below:

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