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Heartstopper’s Yasmin Finney on the problem with Eddie Redmayne playing trans in The Danish Girl

The Doctor Who stars give her take on the 2015 drama about trans pioneer Lili Elbe.

By Emily Maskell

Words: Emily Maskell

In conversation about her Doctor Who casting that was announced last week (16 May), Heartstopper star Yasmin Finney has shared her thoughts on transgender roles in relation to identity-conscious casting.

Yasmin, 18, who plays Elle Argent in Netflix’s beloved Heartstopper, spoke to The Guardian on Tuesday (24 May) about the “surreal” experience of being part of the new Doctor Who era as well as her hopes of being cast in an array of roles as a transgender actress. 

Reflecting on the uplifting portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters in Heartstopper, Finney shared how she fiercely desired young Black transgender representation in her youth: “You do not understand: the amount of time I’ve spent searching for representation, clawing for it, and trying to find somebody I could look up to as an idol, somebody that is a reflection of me.”

“we can play any role that we want to”

The actress also addressed the complexities of identity-conscious casting and how the volume of transgender roles being played by cis actors can be damaging, citing Tom Hooper’s 2017 drama The Danish Girl as an example.

“He gave such a great performance. I don’t have a problem with that,” Finney caveated, before continuing. “What I have a problem with is when people search up the cast for The Danish Girl and they see Eddie Redmayne isn’t trans and it was all a lie.

“Sadly, it creates this image for trans people that we aren’t actually what we say we are.”

While she is eager to continue to play transgender characters on screen, Finney noted that hopes that won’t be all her career is narrowed to.

Photography: Jordan Rossi

“I think we’ll really [have] change when I can play a character whose gender identity or sexuality isn’t specified,” she said. “That’s when the industry will start to see trans actors as normal actors like everybody else, and we can play any role that we want to. When I can play a cis role, it will be sunshine and rainbows.”

Ultimately, Finney emphasises: “For the most part, I’m just happy to be seen.”

That visibility will be increased two-fold when she stars in Russell T Davies’ re-rebooted Doctor Who beside Sex Education’s Ncuti Gatwa, who will play the first Doctor to be played by a Black male.

“I am in awe of the fact that I’ve been seen by such a legend,” Finney said of Davies, the returning Doctor Who showrunner who is renowned for bringing queer representation to British TV with the likes of Queer As Folk, Years & Years and It’s A Sin.

With exciting projects on the horizon, Finney is an actor on the rise and she too seems gleeful about her future: “I will play trans roles for the rest of my life if I have to because I think every trans story is valid. But bring on the next role: trans, cis, alien – whatever!”