Big Sky may be ABC’s only new drama in the network’s entire fall lineup, but it is poised to make history in the arena of onscreen representation. The Montana-set crime show blazes a trail as the first primetime program with a non-binary series regular, as reported by The Advocate.
The series is an adaptation of The Highway, the first novel about private detective Cassie Dewell by C.J. Box (Blue Heaven). It is a crime thriller wherein Dewell (Kylie Bunbury, When They See Us) and her partner Cody Hoyt (Ryan Phillippe, Cruel Intentions) attempt to solve the mysterious disappearance of two teenage girls with the assistance of Jenny Hoyt (Katheryn Winnick, Vikings), Cody’s estranged wife who also happens to be an ex-police officer, via The Hollywood Reporter.
Jesse James Keitel (Alex Strangelove, Miller & Son) is a transfeminine non-binary actor who plays aspiring musician and sex worker Jerrie Kennedy in the show, The Advocate reports. Jerrie, like Keitel themselves, is tranfeminine non-binary, according to The Advocate. The role of Jerrie had allegedly been conceived differently when Keitel first encountered the script. As they told The Advocate, “the character was originally described as a ‘cis gay man who dressed in drag to turn tricks at the truck stop.’ ”
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Keitel is the latest non-binary performer to break new ground in the world of television. In 2019, Jacob Tobia (Blank Slates) had the honor of being the first non-binary actor to play an animated non-binary character when they voiced the mischievous Double Trouble on She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, as reported by SyFy Wire. A couple of years before, Asia Kate Dillon (John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum) appeared on the second season of the Showtime drama Billions to play intern Taylor Mason, thereby making Taylor the first openly non-binary character in an American television series, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Keitel spoke to The Advocate about how they felt that on-screen representation is only the first step toward evolving the participation of non-binary people in the entertainment industry: “Giving a Queer person the agency to describe themselves… will resonate with the community. I know there’s only so much me [sic] as an actor can do. At the end of the day, I have to say the words I’m given.”