Today, fans of the original Tales of the City can stream the first installment on Netflix. The streaming giant added the original PBS miniseries to its offerings just weeks after launching a reboot of the iconic series.
You’ll recognize many faces appearing in both the old and new versions, including stars Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis, but the latest incarnation of the series is notable for its embrace of diversity, inclusion and representation. Righting one of the original series’ most glaring flaws, the new Tales introduced a generation of Barbary Lane residents that is more diverse in terms of race, gender and sexuality.
Among those new residents is Jake, a trans man navigating his sexuality and relationships, played by mononymous non-binary actor Garcia. Tales marks the young actor’s first major screen role.
We spoke with them about the experience, the importance of representation and one secret they have from Barbary Lane. Light spoilers follow.
Check out what Garcia had to say below!
Congratulations on the new Tales of the City. Your story in particular was so impactful.
Had you seen the originals or read the books before joining the project? How familiar were you with the material?
I had no familiarity. As soon as I got the audition, I started doing research on it. That’s how I found out the history behind it. When I booked it, my agent gave me the first book. I started reading it, I got maybe halfway through the second book, but then school started, and I didn’t have as much time to read for pleasure. I plan on reading the rest of them. Hopefully I get to them this summer.
What are some ways you and Jake are similar, and how are you different?
Well, I’m not a nurse, I know that much. And that’s pretty much the biggest difference, to be honest with you. I’m really honored to play him. I got the audition, I read the description , and I was like ‘Holy sh*t, someone wants to write about ME!’ Not in a specific sense, but in a sense of how I feel and what I’ve been going through. It really gave me this assurance that I’m not the only one … A lot more similarities than differences!
Do you have any memories of seeing queer characters that really affected?
Growing up, I don’t remember being impacted by many. There was this movie Thirteen. It’s about 13-year-old girls. One of them is a badass, the other one wants to be her friend, she wants to be just like her. They develop this friendship. They get really high one day, and that was one of the first queer kisses I ever saw. I took that as truth. Fast-forward to my freshman year of high school and this girl I was dating at the time asked if I had ever seen Boys Don’t Cry. I said no, and then there I was watching Boys Don’t Cry, not being really thrown off by it. I later learned that wasn’t the best representation of queer people, but, again, I took it as truth. Like oh, people like that exist. A lot of people learn things from the media and what they watch. There’s that statistic that’s like 80 percent of people got their knowledge about trans people from the media. So, when you have trans people misrepresented, that’s going to affect how people view us and treat us.
Then you have a show like Tales that does it well. They talk about queer people, but not just as their identities. I’m not just a trans person. That’s not all I am. I have feelings, I have relationships. Tales does a really good job of talking about queer people as people, and not just as these weird boxes we have to check off. We also know the original Tales, but we’ve seen it, and we know that story. We know what it means to be a white, gay man in San Francisco. But what does it mean to be a trans person of color or a queer person of color? What does that story look like? Even within queer people of color, we all have different backgrounds and cultures. How do our backgrounds and cultures play into our queerness?
There’s been a lot of discussion about the importance of trans actors playing trans characters. Can you talk about the importance of that as both an artist and a viewer?
What I’m hearing more often than not is that we don’t want straight people playing queer people, because it’s inauthentic. I’m still struggling to figure out how I feel about that specific idea. Because what is acting? Because the queer community has not been given many roles, when they cast them the problems come into play. I read this article about all these Latinx movies and all these white people playing these Latinx characters. There were like twenty something movies on this list! That’s insane. That’s lack of representation and diversity within the industry. We already know who’s dominating the industry. We already know that story. It gets frustrating as a trans person when you’re trying to get your foot in the door as an actor, and you want to be treated as such. They want to write the roles, but they don’t want to give it to you. You can’t want to write about it and then not include us. It becomes that weird thing, like are you writing about us because it’s in right now? Because it’s cool? If you leave us out of the room, out of the conversation, you don’t really care about us. You don’t really care about being inclusive, you don’t care about being an ally. You’re just doing it to benefit off us in this capitalistic way. I think that trans people right now need to play trans roles, or, depending how they identify, can also play cisgender roles. Once we are no longer being killed at an alarming rate, living in poverty, being attacked by the government, once we have all our basic human rights, THEN it’s like who gives a sh*t about who plays what? But we have much longer to get there.
Did you have any conversations with Olympia Dukakis as two actors both playing trans characters?
I had talked about it with some of the EPs on the show, and the argument was that she’d been grandmothered in, she’s reprising her role. It already has a cult following, it already has a history before I was around. The older gays love Olympia, they love Anna Madrigal. It’s exciting for them to see that. Then you see episode eight with the flashback, and it’s done properly. Jen Richards is playing her, and she’s a phenomenal trans actress. It’s wonderful to see that care was put in, and I don’t think that anyone on Tales has any bad intentions. It’s all done with rhyme and reason, and I support it. All the care that was put into making the show, all these writers and directors that are part of the queer community, it’s all done with care. There’s nothing that I ever read or saw or heard that made me cringe once. Tales is telling multiple queer stories across the spectrum, but that’s still not all of them. I’m interested in all the other queer stories that are going to be told because of Tales.
Tales is a story all about secrets. What’s one secret from Barbary Lane you can share that viewers wouldn’t know otherwise?
You know how that person carried Olympia inside the house [in the final episode]? That ain’t me, gurl! Hell no! Are you kidding me? I would have to get a personal trainer to carry her from her chair into the house, into the bed, no way. That was not me!
You can stream the original Tales of the City and the new reboot now on Netflix.