Transparent guest star Trace Lysette is the latest woman to come forward with sexual misconduct allegations against a Hollywood figure, this time fellow Transparent cast member Jeffrey Tambor. In a statement released to The Hollywood Reporter, Lysette – who plays a yoga instructor in the Amazon series – details allegations that Tambor not only sexually harassed her multiple times but “got physical” on set while filming season 2. Lysette decided to come forward with her story after last week’s news that Tambor’s former personal assistant Van Barnes came forward with allegations of her own, which led to Amazon launching an investigation into the claim and Tambor’s behavior. Lysette also says she and Barnes previously approached Transparent producers about Tambor, but ultimately no actions were taken.
In her statement, Lysette also points out that trans women “have often felt we never had the power or the voice to speak out on our personal and collective pain” and urges Amazon to “make another bold affirmative move to our communities: Remove the problem and let the show go on.” Read the full statement below:
Last week, it was reported in the media that Van Barnes, who previously worked as Jeffrey Tambor’s assistant while shooting Transparent, had privately spoken out on her social media about her experiences of abuse. Sadly, I must add my voice to the chorus. Jeffrey has acted inappropriate to me too. Jeffrey has made many sexual advances and comments at me, but one time it got physical. One day on set during Season 2, Jeffrey, Alexandra Billings and I were all outfitted in pajamas. I was in a flimsy top and matching short shorts. Upon seeing my in my costume, Jeffrey sexualized me with an over the top comment. Alexandra and I laughed it off because it was so absurd and we thought surely it had to be a bad joke. I shook it off. Then later, in between takes, I stood in a corner on the set as the crew reset for a wide shot. My back was against the wall in a corner as Jeffrey approached me. He came in close, put his bare feet on top of mine so I could not move, leaned his body against me, and began quick, discreet thrusts back and forth against my body. I felt his penis on my hip through his thin pajamas and I pushed him off of me. Again, I laughed it off and rolled my eyes. I had a job to do and I had to do it with Jeffrey, the lead of our show. When they called action, I put that moment in the corner into its own corner of my mind. Compartmentalizing has always been part of my survival took kit, long before I came to Hollywood. It’s shitty to admit out loud — and I don’t say it to justify what I went through — but given the journey and circumstances of my life, I was used to being treated as a sexual object by men — this one just happened to be famous. Despite multiple uncomfortable experiences with Jeffrey, it has been an incredible, career-solidifying honor to bring life to my character Shea on Amazon’s Transparent. Working on the award-winning series as a low-income trans woman with active roots in New York’s ball culture is a rare opportunity most of my sisters are not given. My hope is that Amazon can find the good in this, and use this as an opportunity, a teachable moment to re-center the other trans characters in this show with the family members instead of just pulling it. Let our brilliant writers continue to craft something that is entertaining and creates a social change the way they know how. Don’t let the trans community suffer for the actions of one cis male actor. Transparent has been a guiding light in the industry, by employing more trans people in Hollywood than any other production in history, which made it even more difficult to speak out. As trans-women and survivors we have often felt we never had the power or the voice to speak out on our personal and collective pain. I am so proud of my work on Transparent and its “trans-affirmative action” mission, as coined by its creator Jill Soloway. And I call on Amazon to make another bold affirmative move to our communities: Remove the problem and let the show go on. It’s vital that the show’s creator, showrunner and its studio re-center the narrative of Transparent on the experiences of the other trans characters and family members audiences have grown to love on the series.
Here’s the statement Tambor released in response:
For the past four years, I’ve had the huge privilege — and huge responsibility — of playing Maura Pfefferman, a transgender woman, in a show that I know has had an enormous, positive impact on a community that has been too long dismissed and misunderstood. Now I find myself accused of behavior that any civilized person would condemn unreservedly. I know I haven’t always been the easiest person to work with. I can be volatile and ill-tempered, and too often I express my opinions harshly and without tact. But I have never been a predator — ever. I am deeply sorry if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as being sexually aggressive or if I ever offended or hurt anyone. But the fact is, for all my flaws, I am not a predator and the idea that someone might see me in that way is more distressing than I can express.
A spokesperson for Amazon told THR that Lysette’s claims “will be added to our ongoing investigation.”