My book is about people who are old and/or gender variant and/or not white having the kinds of magical adventures that in mainstream books and films are mostly reserved for white, cisgender, heteronormative children and teenagers.
So it is not surprising that as I was writing, I also thought cinematically! Who are the characters and what is the kind of magic adventure movie that I’d like to see? This means a lot of “behind the scenes” fantasizing as well as writing. This often took the form of creating and revising character bios and by “casting” the characters as if this book were going to be a movie. This kind of fantasizing helped me to develop my characters by looking for real-life actors who somehow “fit” or embodied my conceptions of the book’s characters and also let me play around a little with character “chemistry” ideas. As the book developed, some of the cast would sometimes change. A new actor would sometimes replace a previous selection.
During this fantasizing, one strict rule of mine was that a trans actor would have to be “cast” in a trans role. A Kanaka Maoli (native Hawaiian) actor would be cast in a Kanaka role. An intersex actor would be cast in an intersex role, and so on. Of course, an actor of any gender, ethnicity, or age can play an Elf–and so they do. (No one is going to look very much like a Tolkien Elf in my fantasy movie–besides, my Elves are all wild for mortal subcultures and artifacts.)
What follows next is FANTASY CASTING – like a fan game, okay? I have never spoken to anyone mentioned here about this book. And since this book isn’t published yet, this blog post really is about sharing my writer’s process. It’s strictly for fun (unless the Wachowski Sisters give me a ring). Got that?
So, pretending that The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits is now headed for the big screen, there are at least eleven good roles for trans/GV actors, including major characters (either as trans/GV roles or playing cis roles); two major roles for intersex actors; and fourteen good and major roles for people of color (these overlap with many of the above roles). The characters below are human and Elf. The Elsewherians (they are “corporate”) and Fomorians (they’re like witch burning inquisitors) are mainly ensembles of bad guys (not listed as individual characters). I’ve also neglected to think of a couple of the deities that show up in magic rituals as “characters,” but I suppose I should.
The “Hermits” (*main book narrators)
*Babe Bump – intersex woman, pansexual. Imagining singer and actor, Eden Atwood, (with darker hair). She’d be terrific. And this song is a perfect way for her to express her feelings for her new sweetheart! Eden has been “the face” of Babe almost since the first chapter.
*Tomma Bedlam – a trans woman who has claimed a gender fluid/non-binary identity by the time we meet zir, pansexual. Imagining Jamie Clayton (Sense8). How I love her! But would she want to play someone who is gender fluid and non-binary? In any case, Jamie has been “the face” of Tomma since the first draft of the first chapter!
*Oyster Olson – trans man, asexual, pan-romantic. Imagining Will Krisanda with a little grey hair (Brothers). For me, he’s been “the face” of Oyster Olson for the last year and a half as I’ve been writing. (But he’d have to learn to play blues harp or fake it!).
Aarrf Perry – a gender queer (they/them) “human puppy” who is also head of Hermitville security. This character requires a certain kind of versatility and has a pretty intense character growth. Imagining Tilda Swinton (identifies as non-binary gender).
Joe Hillstrom – cisgender man, gay, photographer and personal trainer: Imagining Chiwetel Ejiofor, because he can pretty much do anything as an actor and I love him.
Glysandra Shakti Om – cisgender woman, hetero, tantra instructor. Imagining Helen McCrory (Peaky Blinders). Or could be a cis role played by a trans woman (who?).
Massive Max Gordon – cisgender man, hetero, polyamorous, musician and singer. Massive is supposed to be 6’7″ and built like a football player, and so though I imagine the face of Morgan Freeman (with grey hair and beard), I actually don’t know how tall he is, or if he can sing!
Sybil Perry – cisgender woman, heteroflexible, polyamorous, musician and singer. Imagining Loretta Divine.
Mini Maxine Richmond – cisgender woman, heteroflexible, polyamorous, musician and singer. Imagining Annie Golden.
Jennifer Juniper – cisgender woman, hetero, musician and singer. Imagining Rhiannon Giddens.
Frank Talk – intersex man (sexual preference unknown), musician. Imagining intersex activist and professional pirate, Mx. Annunaki Ray Marquez.
Rozaline Rae – cisgender woman, bisexual, musician/singer. Imagining Poison Ivy (of The Cramps), if she’d be so kind…
Ginger Croom – cisgender woman, hetero, age 70ish, winery heiress, Hermitville founder. Dies at beginning of the book. Gotta be a “big” personality in flashbacks. Not “cast,” but Charlotte Rampling in a cameo is a persistent fantasy. Could also be a cis role played by a trans woman (who?).
Sidley Croom – cisgender man, bisexual, Ginger’s younger brother. Imagining David Strathairn.
Bad Guys & Irritants
Anna Phylaxia – cisgender woman, hetero, pretend “domme,” CEO of Anna’s Wicked Wares. Imagining Pooya Mohseni (trans woman actor) as fantastic in this cis female role.
Stanford Lawsome – cisgender man, bisexual, Anna’s assistant. Imagining Reeve Carney (Penny Dreadful) with bleached hair and a spray tan.
The Lawyer® – gender neutral (ze, zir), Elsewherian, preference unknown. Imagining Jamie Casbon (Brothers) with a very corporate wardrobe.
Sri Nimrod – cisgender man, hetero. Self-righteous yoga guy with man bun. Small role. Not “cast.”
Miranda Jackson – cisgender female, lesbian, documentary filmmaker. Imagining Lea DeLaria (Orange is the New Black).
Shank Stoma – Trans or gender queer person, sexual preference unknown. Camera. Imagining Hudson Krakowski (Brothers).
Eddie Sedgwick – Nonbinary trans male (they, their). Camera. Em Grosland. (Trans actor. Em would also make a good Elf–see below.)
Toledo Jackson – Cisgender male, hetero. Miranda’s goat-selling, former tweaker brother. Hippie dude. Imagining someone similar to Russell Brand, but even more unraveled.
Jason – Cisgender male, hetero. Obnoxious to women. Kicked out of the crew. Small role. Imagining a white, frat guy type. Not cast.
Hawaiian (Kanaka Maoli) Neighbors
Namaka – cisgender woman, mother of two including kapu (sacred) child. I imagine someone like singer Hāwane Rios.
Uncle Iolana – cisgender man, kupuna (cherished elder), age 70. I imagine someone like singer Liko Martin.
A baby (gender not specified) and a boy of ten. Not cast.
Note: The Elves have 29 genders in their world and many of the Elf genders have developmental “shifts” to other states over the course of their lives.
Septimus Sitwell – Filly Lord gender, pansexual. Imagining Benedict Cumberbatch. Because I can… And because Septimus has some great lines.
The Wee One (aka T.W.O. and Breadcrumb) – Filly Lassie gender, pansexual. Character based on Angela Mae, a clown and bellydancer (used to perform with Gooferman). Would love to cast Angela Mae in this role. She’s super-talented.
Professor Osbert Almond – Lord of Ice gender, pansexual. Imagining Ezra Miller with long hair.
Parsifal Berry Blue – Murlord gender, pansexual, T.W.O.’s dad. Character based on the real-life Puddles, the Sad Clown with the Golden Voice. Would love to cast Puddles (Mike Geier) in this role.
Maud o’ Bedlam – Lady Flame gender, pansexual, T.W.O.’s mom. Imagining Eva Green (Penny Dreadful).
Indigo – Simple Female gender, lesbian. Imagining Samira Wiley (Orange is the New Black).
George Potts – Lady Pheonix gender, pansexual, married to Archie Smegley. Imagining Jake Zyrus (trans man actor/singer).
Archie Smegley – Murlord gender, pansexual, married to George Potts. Imagining Scott Turner Schofield (trans man actor) .
Gingevus Sitwell – Filly Lord gender, pansexual, brother to Septimus. Imagining Bill Nighy (with longish hair).
Tom Crumpet – Simple Triad gender, pansexual. Imagining Emmett Jack Lundberg (trans man actor).
Sulferous Pete – Simple Dyad gender, pansexual. Imagining Kingston Farady (trans man actor, Black is Blue).
Who’s There – Murlette gender, pansexual. Imagining Bae Doona (Sense8). (Korean name. Family name is Bae.)
Hamfast – Simple Dyad gender, pansexual, shapeshifter. Imagining Richard O’Brien (Rocky Horror Picture Show).
Hamfast shapeshifting as Goddess Mal-i-bu Bar-bee – Imagining Stormy Daniels in a cameo appearance.
Shane – Laddie Gora gender, pansexual, Fomorian expert. Imagining Alexander Vlahos (long hair, goth).
This “casting” is actually a productive exercise for a (cis, white) writer, to step out of a tendency to “cast white” and “cast cis” and really broaden the character possibilities beyond a token character or two, tossed in as a sop to “diversity.” It is also a way to search out and appreciate the work of talented people who in some cases have less recognition than they deserve. And it’s also a bit of “magical thinking.”
So mote it be.