Fox’s remake of the 1975 cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show just got a whole lot more interesting. As a fan of Jim Sharman and Richard O’Brien‘s original celebration of counter-culture rebellion and B-movie campness, I was somewhat dismayed to hear that a commercial network would adapt the cult classic into a two-hour TV special. With Kenny Ortega – the man behind Disney’s squeaky clean High School Musical franchise – attached to produce and choreograph, the project was looking as lifeless as a corpse.
However, The Wrap is now reporting that Orange is the New Black star and Trans rights trailblazer Laverne Cox has signed up to star as Dr. Frank N. Furter; the sexually charged, morally ambiguous mad-scientist originally portrayed by Tim Curry. Curry’s lascivious performance leaves large stilettos to fill, however if anyone can reanimate this potential cadaver it would be Cox.
Best known for her role as Sophie Burset in prison drama Orange is the New Black, Laverne Cox has a host of ‘firsts’ attributed to her name. The first Trans person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award; first Trans person to star and produce their own show; first Trans person to appear on the cover of Time magazine, Cox is a prominent LGBT activist and has written about her experiences in publications such as the Huffington Post.
She famously faced an onslaught of uninformed and invasive question from Katie Couric; rebuffing inquiries into her transition and surgery. Her response was clear and direct: “I do feel there is a preoccupation with that. The preoccupation with transition and surgery objectifies trans people. And then we don’t get to really deal with the real lived experiences”.
“The reality of trans people’s lives is that so often we are targets of violence. We experience discrimination disproportionately to the rest of the community. Our unemployment rate is twice the national average; if you are a trans person of color, that rate is four times the national average. The homicide rate is highest among trans women. If we focus on transition, we don’t actually get to talk about those things”.
Cox has used her celebrity platform to open up discussions on Trans rights; in 2014 she presented the MTV documentary The T Word, which thanks to the actor’s talent and openness, was well received. Fox’s Rocky Horror Picture Show follows a series of musical adaptions by the series; with live performances of The Sound of Music and Peter Pan falling flat, this latest project will be pre-recorded. The TV special will be produced by Lou Adler and Gail Berman, who worked on the original, and is expected to air late 2016.