By Gwen Aviles
Zach Barack, a 23-year-old transgender actor from the suburbs of Chicago, will appear in Marvel’s upcoming “Spider-Man: Far From Home” movie. He is believed to be the first out trans actor to be cast in a big budget superhero film.
Barack, who has also guest-starred on Spectrum TV’s “L.A.’s Finest,” posted the movie’s trailer on Twitter last week, then wrote: “Being able to work with other trans people is a gift. Trans people are a gift. Im so lucky to be me.”
Barack will be joined by fellow trans actor, Tyler Luke Cunningham, who is best known for starring on the BBC sitcom “Boy Meets Girl” and will be a featured extra in the film.
Though details of Barack’s exact role are being kept under wraps, his agent, Ann Thomas, said Barack will be playing a classmate of Peter Parker’s and that his role is significant.
“He’s not a background character,” Thomas told NBC News. “He has lines.”
Marvel fans have long called for the franchise to feature more LGBTQ characters. Two of Marvel’s movies, “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Black Panther” were supposed to have characters that identified as such based on their comic book counterparts, but references to their sexuality were ultimately cut in the film versions of their stories.
Marvel leadership has also entreated the company for more LGBTQ visibility. Victoria Alonso, Marvel Studios executive vice president of production said in a November interview with BBC, “The gay community has not been represented whatsoever. I’m gay, so I can tell you that I would long for that.”
Thomas, who in 2015 founded Transgender Talent — thought to be Hollywood’s first transgender talent agency — said it’s “amazing to see Zach and so many other get a big break like this.”
According to Thomas, who is herself transgender, Barack’s casting reflects a growing demand for transgender actors.
When Thomas first started the agency, she said she was “lucky” to get a casting call once every three months. Now, Transgender Talent is receiving calls for transgender and non-binary actors “every other day.”
“We’re finally getting to the point where actors can transition to working full-time,” she said.
In 2017, there were no transgender characters featured in mainstream films, according to GLAAD’s 2018 Studio Responsibility Index. Whether the gender identity of Barack’s character will be explored in the Marvel movie is unknown at this point, but either way, the casting choices mark a positive step in transgender film representation. Sony’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home” trailer broke a studio record earlier this month when it received 130 million views in 24 hours, reported Deadline, demonstrating the high-profile nature of the film, which is set to be released July 5.
“Most stories have been stereotypical, focusing on transition or sex — portraying us all as as sex workers or a dead body under a sheet to get made fun of,” Thomas said. “I want to see trans and non-binary actors play roles that don’t even talk about gender identity.”