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I TALK TO Rebecca Root

When Boy Meets Girl launched last year on BBC Two, it made TV history by becoming the UK’s first ever transgender comedy.

The nation fell in love with the series and really took the characters of Leo and Judy to their hearts as their love story played out on screen, from strangers in a pub to a couple who were very much meant to be.

We meet Leo and Judy in series two as they are living together in Peggy’s house. But circumstances such as Leo’s job offer and Peggy’s worrying health issues force the couple to ask serious questions about their relationship.

Their respective families are very supportive but cannot resist sticking their noses in and causing a fair amount of chaos along the way!

The other day I was invited down to the BBC for the launch of series two where we were treated to the first episode as well as a Q&A hosted by Paris Lees (who cameos in the series) with series creator Elliot Kerrigan as well as Denise Welch, Rebecca Root, Harry Hepple and newcomer Tyler Luke Cunningham.

As a huge fan of the first series I couldn’t wait to see what was in store this time around and I’m happy to say that if you loved series one, you’re going to love series two with more brilliant comedy, some great new characters and several rather moving moments.

After the Q&A, Rebecca Root, herself transgender, was kind enough to stick around and chat with me about the reaction to the first series, what’s to come from series two and the rise of transgender actors on television. Here’s what she had to say...

First of all congratulations on the success of Boy Meets Girl, you must have been pretty happy with the reaction to the first series?

Thank you. Yeah, of course. It did well, we had good audiences, we had a wonderful reaction in the LGBT community and in a way, it’s not a show just for the LGBT community, but obviously it’s such a core component of the storyline, that it’s kind of a target audience.

If we couldn’t get the LGBT audience on our side, then I think we would have let ourselves down.

You mention the LGBT community there, but outside of the community the show was incredibly popular. Were you surprised by that?

I was surprised. I mean, I suppose there are always allies who claim a population as theirs and want to protect them almost. Like “my gay best friend” or whatever, so there is a certain protectiveness from our allies who are cisgender or heterosexual or whatever and it feels lovely.

I mean the show is a warm, sensitive show and if you want to watch Fast & Furious 11 then you’ll watch that, you ain’t going to watch Boy Meets Girl. I mean, you might do. I’m not ruling it out, but chances are you’re not, because you’re not going to find a gentle, sensitive romantic comedy your cup of tea.

What I loved about the first series was that the jokes weren’t the stereotypical transgender jokes...

Well, the thing is some people will see the line about "the strong handshake” in the first series or “Oh you’re tall” from the second series as being stereotypical jokes, but it’s the way it’s played and the punchline is that there is no punchline. It’s not a gag, so it diffuses what can be perceived to be a stereotypical joke.

It’s just, a lot of people have firm handshakes. You don’t have to be trans to have a firm handshake! I know a lot of cisgender males and females, who have the wettest handshake in the world ever. So it’s the way those lines are deflected which is what made the writing so successful.

Last year was a great year for the trans community, how do you feel that Boy Meets Girl was a part of that?

Yeah, I mean 2015 was a wave wasn’t it? Boy Meets Girl was a big moment in the UK, but it hasn't travelled overseas yet unfortunately. For the UK it was a major thing. Maybe it will go overseas at some point and plucky Britain will share its wonderful TV. I don’t know how these things happen! It felt part of the greater story, but very much Britain’s moment.

How did you feel when you heard that there was going to be a second series?

I was obviously delighted, but at the same time I’m perhaps a little bit cynical and I thought, I’ll believe it when I see it. I’ll wait for the contract to come in. Commissioning is such a fickle thing.

To be honest with you, until something has been on the box, I’m still wary. I’ve had my fingers burnt before. I’ve filmed things, I’ve been in shows and I’ve had my part cut or shows haven’t gone out, you can’t predict it. You know enough about TV to know that schedules change, so at the moment I’m fairly confident that this will go out, but we live in an uncertain time. Nothing is 100%

What can you tell us about Judy in the new series?

She and Leo of course have a relationship to develop, and build, and negotiate. We have a relationship that’s strong but we need to find a place to live and a way to live.

The relationship between Judy and Pam has changed this series...

 Yeah! That’s really nice. It’s grown, it’s developed and obviously series two has moved on an unspecified number of months since the end of series one. But yes, everyone’s relationships have moved on. Except maybe for James, the brother who’s still an idiot (laughs).

It’s lovely to see Judy and Pam’s relationship grow, and also Pam and Peggy’s relationship.

Without giving anything away, there’s a lovely moment between the two later on in the series isn’t there?

Yeah. I didn’t see the filming of that scene, but the next day when I was in everyone said they were in tears, and I wish I had been there to see it. She just reduced the whole company to tears.

There are lots of new characters this series - a lot of trans characters. What was that like?

It was nice to open up the story to the community. I remember saying to the producers and writers when we were developing series one, that it would be nice to emulate what Transparent have done in the US and include as many trans people as possible in the show.

For series one they said they really wanted the focus of the story to be just Judy and Leo and to have other storylines with more trans people would just dilute the essence of that story.

I kind of understood where they were coming from, so I was delighted that they’ve opened it up for series two.

How important is it for you that trans roles on television are played by trans actors?

Yes, of course. I think a production company or a production would be very hard pushed to justify casting a cisgender person in a trans role now. Perhaps if the character is largely pre-transitional, or maybe in the contemplative stage, perhaps.

But even then, there are ways of expressing a moment of time before transition through make-up, prosthetics, bindings, whatever.

I think in the current climate I think it would be almost impossible to cast a cisgender person in a trans role. You’ve now got Annie Wallace in Hollyoaks, Riley Carter in EastEnders and I went up for a job in Doctors recently. A guest role, for a trans person, but I didn’t get that part so I’m not the only trans actor out there.

I know they were looking particularly for a trans actor, I believe they cast a trans woman. It’s a competitive industry, and just because I’m in a highly successful show doesn’t mean to say I’m the only one.

It’s healthy competition and also it means that there are more and more people from an available pool, which means there are more and more types of characters being written which means there are more and more actors that need to be called upon.

It’s really exciting and when I talk to journalists, bloggers, tweeters... people like yourself, who have influence and a voice, they talk to me and interview me about the show and then they tell their story in their articles about their perception of the show.

The voice that you give us is just amazing, so thank you for that. Because you’ve got a vast reach and it does make a difference. It really does.

Boy Meets Girl returns Wednesday 6th July at 10pm on BBC Two


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