How Elliot Page’s ‘Umbrella Academy’ Character Viktor Hargreeves Came Out As Transgender

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Netflix

Amid mounting legislative, rhetorical, and physical violence against trans people by those who insist we are destroying the very fabric of civilization, Elliot Page revealed that he is transgender—and, overnight, became the de facto face of transmasculinity around the world. He also confirmed that he would remain in his role on Netflix’s popular superhero series. the umbrella academy. It was a relief to many fans, who raised an important question: would he “play cis” or would his character transition alongside him? As a trans man whose own transition was delayed by absent, damaging misrepresentation, he expected the latter. According to GLAAD, trans men and boys are notably underrepresented on television: There were only fourteen transmasculine characters in the 2021-22 television season on all networks.

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I have known Elliot since 2018, when we met on the set of Netflix. tales of the city, for which I was a writer. Shortly after making his announcement, Elliot introduced me to Steve Blackman, the showrunner of the Umbrella Academy. Steve was passionate about incorporating Elliot’s real-life transition into the show. It suited both the actor and the character because it delved into existing themes, Steve told me. The only problem? The scripts were locked. Season 3 was neatly arranged, and they were ready to go into production in less than two weeks. The job would be to graft a transition story onto the convoluted plot of a joint show.

Headaches aside, the result was celebratory news. Elliot’s character would become Viktor Hargreeves, making that character the most prominent transgender man on television.

Still, the constraints of time and narrative presented a unique opportunity. Because Elliot was returning to the screen in an established role and with a fully developed character arc that intersected with every aspect of the show, his story required his transsexuality to exist as a texture, not a defining trait. of the character. The creative obstacles did not stop there. The events of season 3 pick up immediately after season 2, so Viktor couldn’t have been aware of this between seasons. Instead, his transformation would have to happen within the first few episodes, and without the hand-holding that is usually afforded to cisgender audiences. He was, like all trans people, always himself, whether his siblings on the show or the viewers knew it or not.

Like life, I mean.

Trans people often know that we are trans long before we disclose that information to others. We have goals that don’t revolve around being trans. We have family dramas unrelated to our gender identities, strengths, and flaws that span our entire lives. By necessity, this was an opportunity to show a transition so organic, so fundamental to the character, that it could only work in conjunction with existing character arcs, not overshadow them. Elliot and I had a long conversation about when and how Viktor might have come to discover his gender identity, and how he might embody that identity in Season 3. Steve and I used Elliot’s ideas as a starting point to form and layer an inexpensive narrative onto those existing scenes, one that reflects where Elliot was in his own transition process at the time of shooting. Because Steve had an encyclopedic knowledge of the cis characters on the show, he helped develop how the family might react to news of his brother.

The result of our work is truer than true in many key respects. In this story, being trans is a context, a focus, a sharpening of perspective that will only deepen the connection millions of viewers already have with Viktor and his family. And that is why the truest truth of all shines through: the Umbrella Academy, Elliot Page plays a transgender man who, like most trans people I know, works not to destroy the world but to save it.

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RUVEN BUSY

This article appeared in the SUMMER 2022 issue of Esquire
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