A TV docuseries about a teenage boy whose transgender father is becoming a woman is filming in the Chicago suburbs.
ABC Family announced last week that it picked up the reality series “My Transparent Life” from Ryan Seacrest Productions (“Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” “Shahs of Sunset”).
A spokeswoman for the cable network, part of the Disney/ABC Television Group, confirmed that the show is being shot in the Chicago region but declined to be more specific. An industry source who asked not to be named said it’s set in Evanston.
The story revolves around a teen named Ben who learns that his parents are getting divorced and that his dad is transitioning into a woman, going from Charlie to Carly — a gender-identity issue that’s become increasingly popular on the small screen.
“We love family stories, and we couldn’t be more excited that ABC Family is helping us share this heartwarming story of how an ordinary teenager grapples with a challenging and unexpected family situation,” TV producer, radio personality and “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest said in a written statement.
The premise of “My Transparent Life” — not to mention the title — is similar to that of another recent transgender-based series, “Transparent,” the critically acclaimed dramedy that started streaming on Amazon Prime Instant Video in late September.
The Golden Globe-nominated comedy tells the poignant tale of a family patriarch who transitions into a woman relatively late in life. The titular character is played by Jeffrey Tambor (“Arrested Development”), whose performance is a virtual shoo-in for an Emmy nod. (Tambor received a Globe nom last week.)
Amazon Studios’ 10-episode series — renewed for a second season — comes from Chicago native Jill Soloway (“Six Feet Under,” “Afternoon Delight”), whose own father went through a similar experience in real life.
“Transness is something that feels like it’s trending,” Soloway said during an interview about her series at the TV critics’ summer press tour in Beverly Hills, California. “It just feels like the next frontier. It’s exciting that this show might be part of the beginning of a changing of the national temperature.”
With lesbian, gay and bisexual characters more fully integrated into the television landscape than ever, it would follow that folks represented by the latter letter of the LGBT label see their stories get more attention, too.
Laverne Cox made history earlier this year as the first openly trans actress to be nominated for an Emmy for her role in the Netflix hit “Orange Is the New Black.”
Cox, who also graced the cover of Time magazine this year, was up for best guest actress in a comedy series for her turn as Sophia Burset, an inmate who landed behind the bars of a women’s prison after committing fraud to pay for a sex change procedure. She lost to fellow “OITNB” actress Uzo Aduba.
One of the most testosterone-filled shows on TV, FX’s recently ended biker drama “Sons of Anarchy,” featured transgender escort Venus Van Dam (Walton Goggins, “Justified,” “The Shield”) — a fan favorite — in its later seasons.
The reality series “My Transparent Life” is tentatively slated to join ABC Family’s schedule in mid-2015. Filming is ongoing.
It marks an expansion into the unscripted arena for the network, founded decades ago by evangelist Pat Robertson’s television ministry. Disney bought the channel in 2001, and it’s now known for its youth-centric dramas like “The Fosters” and “Pretty Little Liars.”
Variety reported earlier this month that the network is mulling a reboot designed to make it more appealing to a millennial audience as opposed to a place where parents and kids watch together.
“ABC Family is best known for its complex, loving and relatable family programming,” said ABC Family President Tom Ascheim in a written statement. “While Ben’s family situation is unusual, the themes and coming-of-age issues are universal, and we think our viewers will find a real connection to them.”