Remember the name: Brian Michael Smith.
The actor was one of three casting announcements that trickled out on Tuesday morning ahead of Fox’s 9-1-1 spinoff, Lone Star, which debuts in January. This next installment in Ryan Murphy’s burgeoning franchise will take place in Texas and star Rob Lowe and Liv Tyler as first responders tasked with saving lives every week at 8 p.m.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Smith will play a “transgender male firefighter with a gift for observation worthy of Sherlock Holmes.” He joins Natacha Karam and Rafael Silva, who are playing Muslim and Latinx firefighters, respectively.
While THR notes that Smith, who is Black and transgender, is just “one of just a handful of trans and non-binary regulars on broadcast TV,” his casting is also historic. While Angelica Ross of Pose and American Horror Story became the first trans woman to be featured as a series regular on two television shows earlier this year, the silver screen has never had a Black trans male regular. Smith will be the first.
The 36-year-old was cast in small roles on Girls and Homeland before landing his most significant role to date in OWN’s Queen Sugar, playing a transgender cop. It was one of Smith’s first opportunities to play a trans character on TV, as his previous parts were not specified as trans or cis.
“I was excited at the thought of sharing this with people who may not know that they know trans people in their personal life,” Smith said in a statement released by GLAAD at the time.
In an email, the national advocacy group called Smith’s casting “a truly groundbreaking step forward for transgender visibility and representation,” especially given a 2018 report from GLAAD showing that there are just five trans male recurring characters on TV.
“Trans men, especially Black trans men, have been largely underrepresented on television,” said Alex Schmider, Associate Director of Transgender Representation at GLAAD, “making this casting and character significant not only to the entertainment landscape but also in furthering the public’s understanding of who trans men are.”
Other trans and nonbinary actors to book regular roles on television include Laverne Cox (Orange Is the New Black), Jen Richards (Tales of the City), Elliott Fletcher (The Fosters), and Asia Kate Dillon (Billions). FX’s Pose, which debuted in 2018, was the first show in history to have a predominantly transgender cast — most of whom are trans women of color. Many are featured as regulars.
Out has reached out to Smith for a comment on this story but did not hear back prior to publication time. It will be updated should he respond.
NOTE: This story has been updated since its original publication.