Boy Meets Girl and beyond: meet the transgender actors breaking new ground on British TV
Rebecca Root from Boy Meets Girl, EastEnders star Riley Carter Millington and Hollyoaks' Annie Wallace talk about their careers as trans actors
Groundbreaking BBC2 comedy Boy Meets Girl returns tonight. Star Rebecca Root became a star following her taboo-busting sitcom, but she's not alone.
Meet the new transgender trailblazers on British TV.
You became a star at 47 playing Judy, a transgender woman in BBC2’s sitcom, Boy Meets Girl. Do you feel like a role model?
People say, “I had the courage to transition after watching Boy Meets Girl,” and that’s heart-warming. As a humble actor – and I’m nothing compared to the amazing surgeons and hormone specialists – it’s lovely to play my part. It’s great that people feel able to seek help, whereas before they’d have thought, “I’m a freak. What’s wrong with me?”
Have you always acted?
I was a jobbing actor for ten years as a boy, in boring romantic roles as the hunky soldier or doctor. I wasn’t happy in myself and that permeated my performances. I don’t know how I made a living. I’m more comfortable now and that comes across in Judy.
Has it bothered you that non-transgender actors have played transgender roles?
Yes. I didn’t even get a look-in to play Hayley in Coronation Street. I met Julie Hesmondhalgh once and jokingly said, “That was my role!” It’s not her fault, but I did feel slighted.
Things are changing. Hollyoaks had a couple of cisgender [non-transgender] actors in for trans roles, but now they have the brilliant Annie. Finally – thank you, Hollyoaks!
What can we expect in series two of Boy Meets Girl?
Judy attends a support group to share her experiences, and we meet new characters such as Charlie [below], who’s female to male. That’s a story that isn’t told as often, so that’s great. I hope the audience is on our side as much as they were for series one.
Did you attend support groups when you transitioned?
No. It was 14 years ago. I did go on one creaky forum, mainly to ask questions about the machinations of changing your name. It was a world away from all the social media we have now. But I didn’t need to seek out those groups, as my family were very supportive.
What would you like to do next?
Everything! I’ve just voiced an alien in a Doctor Who audio drama, which was great fun. I’d like to do more Shakespeare and act at the Almeida and the Old Vic. That said, I wouldn’t be averse to starring in a Jennifer Aniston-style romcom, opposite George Clooney! Why not?
Tyler Luke Cunningham
Cunningham lives in London with his girlfriend. He plays Charlie in the second series of Boy Meets Girl
When did you transition from female to male?
I began taking testosterone in December 2014, which made my voice lower, my muscles grow, and now I have a beard. I’m awaiting the first of two major surgeries to transition fully.
When did you know you were transgender?
I was always a bit of a tomboy; my mum Angela says she knew something was up with me. At first, I thought I was bisexual and dated a girl. But that wasn’t right, either. I wasn’t comfortable being touched. In 2011, I saw My Transsexual Summer on Channel 4 and something clicked.
How did your family react?
I had behavioural issues as a teenager and went into care for four months. That’s when I worked it all out and knew I should be a boy. My mum cried when I told her; she was emotional that I’d been going through this thing and she hadn’t been able to help me. It’s been hard for some of my family and friends to get their heads around, but everyone accepts me now. My anger issues have gone away and I’m much more chilled!
How did you get the part of Charlie in Boy Meets Girl?
I got chatting to a BBC casting director and the subject of transsexuals came up – normally I don’t tell people until I know them well. Within weeks, I was auditioning for Boy Meets Girl.
What’s Charlie like?
He’s confused and just wants to be loved. He’s like I was a few years ago. It’s not my words, but I do get to show a bit of what goes on inside my head. I’m really pleased to be playing a trans character.