Tyler DiChiara on the ‘subtle’ ways trans identity is celebrated in superhero show Gotham Knights
Trans actor Tyler DiChiara, who plays Cullen Row in Batman spinoff Gotham Knights, has opened up about the experience of creating a fully realised trans character.
Gotham Knights centres on various ‘disciples’ of the Caped Crusader, many of whom are framed for his murder. The series cast multiple queer and trans actors in these roles – one of whom is Tyler DiChiara.
Based on the DC comic series of the same name, the events of Gotham Knights takes place after the death of Bruce Wayne, aka Batman. Without the Dark Knight roaming in the shadows, Gotham’s seedy underbelly takes over, prompting Wayne’s children and their new allies to form a misfit group of vigilante heroes known as the Gotham Knights.
In a new interview with Digital Spy, DiChiara opened up about his character’s trans identity and how the the writers of the show gave him creative freedom to incorporate his own experiences into the role of Cullen.
“I hope people who don’t understand what us trans men and women go through can understand a little bit more after watching Cullen’s story,” DiChiara said.
“I wanted to introduce Cullen organically and not really have his trans identity be the main focus. The main focus is us running from the police and all that.”
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DiChiara, who made his acting debut in 2019 comedy-drama Relish, before going on to appear in 2022 film The Virgin of Highland Park, explained that although his character’s transness is an integral part of their identity in Gotham Knights, it’s by no means the thing that defines them.
“He’s just a human who happens to be transgender,” DiChiara continued, highlighting small but significant moments in the script that highlight Cullen’s identity.
“It’s the subtle hints, like, “Don’t use his dead name”, and conversations around his chest surgery. Us trans men and women, we live among everyone, every day, and you wouldn’t know it. You wouldn’t bat an eye.”
This nature of easy acceptance – while not always, unfortunately, mirrored in the real world – was an important element for DiChira in characterising Cullen “organically.”
“I wanted Cullen to be a part of this group and have that just be who he is. These things are natural and I think the way that we do it in Gotham Knights just flows organically.”
DiChiara’s character’s sister is Harper Row, played by trans actress Fallon Smythe. The inclusion of not one, but two, trans characters, was aided by the writers consulting the pair on the authenticity of their characterisation.
“I really, really appreciated the writers for letting me sometimes help them write certain things for Cullen,” DiChiara continued. “They would come to me and say: ‘Hey, is this something that Cullen would say? Is this something that an actual person like yourself would do in this situation?’
“They would let me give them my ideas and they would run with it”.
“Without them, I don’t think I would have felt so seen and heard, so I really do appreciate the writers letting me have a little bit of a voice in that process. It really did help me a lot, and it helped Cullen become Cullen.”
Gotham Knights premiered on Tuesday 14 March on The CW.
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