• Television

‘Transparent’’s Musical Transition

When twice Golden Globe winner Transparent was rocked by the sexual harassment allegations against the show’s star Jeffrey Tambor, it caused a lot of grief. When he was finally fired from the show, the fourth season seemed destined to be the show’s last. However, the show’s creator, Jill Soloway, was not ready to let go and wanted to find another artistic solution. This was when artistic partner and sibling Faith Soloway’s initial idea to make the show a musical came in handy. Within the musical genre, the show could make a complete transition and be reborn into something new and fresh – as a feature-length musical slated to air next Fall, which would end the show on a different note. We went on set and met siblings Jill and Faith Soloway on stage 14 at Paramount Studios, where they wrapped the final scenes in the Pfefferman house and spoke to them about the transition of Transparent.

The ending of Transparent will not be a traditional final season. What is it?

Faith: We call it the musical finale. We are just coming up with a new breed. Jill calls it the finale musicale. We are just having fun with this because obviously, it is not going to be a season of television. It is about a two hour or one-and-a-half-hour big piece.

How did you get the idea to make it into a musical?

Faith: Believe it or not, but from season one I had been envisioning this as a musical. That is who I am, that is what I do and that is what I have been doing for so long. So I really started thinking of songs for each character and what that would be. As I started to do that and we were going through what we were going through emotionally with everything that happened, it felt like it was time to pair it. I told Jill that this was more of a stage idea not so much a television film idea, but it was starting to feel right. Shelly (Judith Light’s character) was discovering her theatrical side and her quest for her own voice and exploring her drama and her life in a way that she was never able to tell her story before. That is sort of how we were able to braid it in.

How do you feel about it now that you are actually working on it on stage?

Jill: I am so proud of it and so pleased. I cannot believe how exciting it is. I love showing some of the musical numbers to friends when they come over. This coming Friday, I will see the edited cut of the whole thing and I am so excited to see it all put together. I can’t wait. I am just over the moon.

What was it like working closely with your sibling on this and letting her take center stage since she’s the musical expert?

Jill: I love it. It is a really good feeling. Faith and I are unnaturally close and we really love sharing everything that happens and it was actually hard I think for me and probably for my mother and my family that it was really our family story but it was all being focused on me. Everybody knows about faith’s incredible talent and what a genius she is, so it is just so great to be able to move into this second stage of Transparent love that enters with my sister.

Faith (left) and Jill Soloway.

mike coppola/getty images


Jeffrey Tambor, who stared as Maura, is no longer with Transparent. There has been a lot of talk about why that is. How did you all react to what happened and how did you come to terms with it happening to your show?

Jill: It will take a lifetime to come to terms with it. It was a real tragedy. It was incredibly traumatic and painful for everybody involved and we all had to process a lot of grief and we did a lot of that – we did a lot of getting together and talking. We had a lot of uncomfortable feelings and had a lot of difficult conversations. We made sure that people felt that they were heard and let time pass to get to the place we are now, which is one of quiet acceptance of the complexity of this family and this work family that is our environment and what it means to really be safe.

There is a lot of talk about grief in connection with what happened with Jeffrey Tambor and how it affected the creative family on the show. How did the musical genre fit into this theme?

Faith: When you are watching a musical, songs come out of places where there are no words anymore, so in a way, this felt right for everybody because you sing for prayer, you sing for celebration, you sing for healing, you sing to wrestle with your demons, so it just felt right. It is interesting that our cast members at first, Jay and Gaby and Amy and of course Judith – when we were first working on this, they commented that it just felt right and that is the most important thing. They held hands with the idea and jumped with us.

So the songs and singing took care of dealing with the grief of what happened?

Faith: Totally. I think the finale is about grief. A good percentage of the songs are about grief. They are about loss, grief and missing and re-examining the way we have done life and it is about loss.

Jill: I think when people talk about musicals, they talk about a moment or a scene where some people are talking but then there are no words left and they start singing because what they are feeling cannot be put into words. I think that that happens with the movie. There were just too many things that were too nuanced, too emotional and too complex to really put into a scene and dialogue but when we got the songs and the music and the melodies, we were able to start to feel some of the more complex scenes. Music – like poetry is the way to deal with things that regular life cannot deal with.

Do you feel it is a risk to make Transparent into a musical finale?

Jill: I definitely felt very scared at different times. It was really a huge risk. I probably would have been easier to say goodbye to the family after the four beautiful seasons, and kind of end it but we needed so much to find a way to not only end it beautifully and to honor it and being able to transition it into a musical has given it a new life and it turned out to be exactly what we needed even though we did not realize it.