This coming Thursday, February 11th marks the premiere of the new CBS series Clarice. The series, set one year after the iconic thriller The Silence of the Lambs, follows FBI agent Clarice Starling as she re-enters the field. As anticipated as this series is, the lasting effects of the character Buffalo Bill have been enough to deter some fans from keeping interest in the new storyline.
In a virtual event to promote the premiere, it was announced that Jen Richards, known for her work in Nashville and Better Things, would feature in the show as a character that would help Clarice navigate the complicated history of the villainous Bill. As Richards herself put it, her character is introduced “in a way that her transness isn’t central,” but that “her identity as a trans woman prompts her to discuss with Clarice the complicated legacy of Buffalo Bill.”
Originally, Richards, who herself is a transgender woman, was brought on to help the writers and producers shape the character in such a way as to avoid some of the troublesome and transphobic points of Buffalo Bill, but ended up playing the character she has been cast as. The character, in Richards’ own experience, was an unfortunate touchpoint among some of her friends and colleagues who she came out to:
“Right prior to my coming out as trans I started to delicately tell a few friends and colleagues I was thinking about transitioning,” Richards said, “kind of treading water to see if I could do it successfully, and one looked at me and said, ‘Do you mean like Buffalo Bill?'” (Quote courtesy of Variety)
Not only does Richards’ role in Clarice help to get more trans actors and actresses in major roles, but it will help to mitigate some of the controversy behind a character who is problematic at best, and harmful to the transgender community at worst. Is this enough for some of the horror community that are somewhere under the transgender umbrella? That’s something to be answered on an individual basis, but the fact that the producers are actively trying to set the record straight some thirty years after the fact says a lot about how far trans representation in film and media has come - but also how long it still has to come.
Clarice premieres on CBS this Thursday, February 11th. See the trailer for the series below: