Jeffrey Tambor was honored at the Emmy Awards on Sunday for playing Maura Pfefferman, a transgender character, on Amazon’s “Transparent.” Although he won the Best Lead Actor in a Comedy category, the actor noted how serious the material on the show is when he stopped by the press room after his win.
“What I said on the stage was from the heart,” Tambor said of his acceptance speech where he dedicated the award to the transgender community. “It’s a privilege. I play Maura Pfefferman and it’s a huge responsibility because we want to do it right. And lives are at stake. I know we are in a comedy category, but I do believe with our stories and our humor we are moving the whole question forward.”
Tambor, 72, hopes that the light tone of the show helps viewers learn more about the serious issues faced by the trans community. “I always thought there was teaching in the laugh and in humor,” he explained. “With the laughter and real humor you can kill prejudice and keep it far away.”
— Transparent (@transparent_tv) September 21, 2015
“Transparent” follows Tambor’s character Maura, who is transitioning late in life. The show addresses tolerance and equality, and the actor hopes that viewers take those messages into their real lives. “I hope it doesn’t sound glib, but W.H. Auden said, ‘Love one another or die.’ And that’s it, you know?” Tambor said. “And connect. This is all about connection. So how important is [tolerance]? It’s everything. But I think it’s moving forward. Are we all the way there? No, but what’s wonderful about streaming especially … real transforming stories are starting to be told. And I think that’s going to change things, and both young and old seem to be responding.”
The actor, who used to star on “Arrested Development,” told a story about a family coming up to him and telling him they loved the show. Their child recently indicated that he might be transgender, and the show was helping them. “Their little son, Robert, was going to play softball and he came home one day and said to his mom and dad, ‘Mommy, Daddy, I don’t want to go back there.’ And they said ‘Why?’ And he said, ‘I’m not a boy-boy,’” he explained. “And that’s changed their lives and they told me that they watch ‘Transparent’ and that gave them confidence. And that makes me feel good. I always thought that that’s what it was supposed to do.”
Tambor said he often has fans who share deeply personal stories. However, he doesn’t believe that his Emmy Award is just about him alone. “I’m not shy and bashful, but holding this up, because this is bigger than me,” he said. “It represents what Amazon has done and what the transgender community is doing and what our show is about. We are the little engine that could.”
Amazon hit picked up plenty of awards at the 2015 Emmys. In addition to Tambor’s Best Lead Actor in a Comedy statue, “Transparent” also won awards for directing (Jill Soloway), guest actor (Bradley Whitford), costumes (Marie Schley, Nancy Jarzynko) and main title theme music (Dustin O’Halloran).
“Transparent” Season 2 will debut on Amazon on Dec. 4.