It doesn’t take a media expert to know that stories about transgender characters – and namely ones told with authenticity and nuance – are exceptionally rare to come by on the big screen. But as our month-long series on trans representation proved, there are plenty of talented trans actors ready and waiting for their leading role close-ups. This fall you’re destined to hear a new name added to the mix of talented actresses helping change the way the trans community is represented on screen: Daniela Vega.

The Chilean trans actress and singer makes her debut in Sebastian Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman. Vega plays Marina, a night club singer whose older lover Orlando (Francisco Reyes) falls ill and dies. The first trailer finds Marina remembering her time with Orlando as they kiss in nightclubs and restaurants, as she’s haunted by his presence afterwards, and later banned from his funeral by his family. Most refreshing of all, the trailer for A Fantastic Woman looks nothing like the cliched portraits of trans women you’ll find across American cinema, but simply a story about a woman’s strength and resilience. If it’s anything like Lelio’s stellar 2013 film Gloria, which followed an older woman seeking balance in her romantic and family life, it could be a standout of the fall movie season.

While the small screen has made progress in telling rich and diverse stories about trans characters, and especially trans women of color, from Transparent to TV Land’s Lopez and Sense8 (RIP), Hollywood remains far behind. Studios continue to cast cisgender actors in trans parts, from The Danish Girl to Matt Bomer’s upcoming role as a trans sex worker in Anything. But films like Tangerine, and now A Fantastic Woman, are slowly helping to change that, proving that there are talented trans actors available to fill these roles, and to play them with depth.

The Chilean film has already gotten near unanimous praise out of Berlin and Telluride (it was New York Times critic A.O. Scott’s favorite thing out of the latter). While I haven’t seen A Fantastic Woman yet – stay tuned for a review out of the Toronto International Film Festival this weekend – it looks like it could make its way into the awards conversation. How incredible would that be for Vega to make Oscar history? Check out the gorgeous poster below. A Fantastic Woman hits theaters November 17.

A Fantastic Woman onesheet


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