A dialogue on inclusion, horror and more with The Birch writer Casey Modderno

The Birch Season 2 - Courtesy of Crypt TV
The Birch Season 2 - Courtesy of Crypt TV /
2 of 3
The Birch Season 2
Nikko Austen Smith in The Birch Season 2 – Courtesy of Crypt TV /

Discussing inclusion and on-screen representation in The Birch Season 2 & Hollywood

HR: Hollywood is finally, slowly, undergoing a reckoning in regards to inclusion and representation. Can you talk about that as a transgender woman yourself?

CM: It’s endlessly important. I don’t think that I saw positive representation of trans people until really six years ago. I would not have transitioned if it were not for that representation, because prior to that it was really just Buffalo Bill and the villain in Ace Ventura, who was like the butt of a joke and made an entire police squad vomit when she came out as trans. I remember there was a moment when I almost came out as trans to a friend of mine and then the South Park episode dropped where one of their teachers transitions and the whole episode was centered around what a freak she was, misgendered her, showed her body as disgusting.

I think Matt [Stone] and Trey [Parker] have clearly tried to grow as people and they’ve tried to make up for those depictions, but that was really damaging. To see my friends laugh at something like that was equally damaging. My brother laughing at that was super damaging, so now to know that people are out there rooting for trans people, I think that’s huge. And obviously, that issue of representation extends to so many groups that have been cast as supporting characters, as sort of nameless victims or as villains, and as villains. I think it’s beautiful everyone is waking up.

HR: Right, sometimes it’s hard to watch older shows and movies because you’re like, “Wow, this has really not aged well at all.”

CM: I’m literally writing something right now and I was watching scenes from Silence of the Lambs, because it is a well-crafted film, and you kind of have to dissociate a bit because you’re like, okay I’m going to put this huge elephant to the side of the room and try to see through it for craft, but it can be hard, it can be really hard.

HR: Yes, as a bi woman myself, I only came out a few years ago and I remember watching Sex and the City and even The L Word, which was supposed to be this revolutionary show, and seeing so much transphobia and biphobia. It’s especially disappointing when it comes from your own community.

CM: Absolutely. I think that bi people still have a hard time, people just assume that whoever you’re sleeping with or seeing at this particular moment that that just defines your entire being. I do still struggle to see nuanced depictions of bisexuality and pansexuality on screen, I don’t see it much.

HR: Yeah we still have a long way to go, in every regard.

CM: Right, but it’s exciting to see.

HR: It is exciting to see! Especially in regard to The Birch, you guys have included more representation this season with new characters, and I think there is a lot of exciting growth this season. Did you have an idea in your mind headed into The Birch Season 2 of how you wanted to expand the universe or broaden the scope of the show?

CM: Our conversations all related to what are the themes of the show. So, as mentioned there is this warring conversation of punishment/condemnation versus reform and forgiveness.  There is Rory on side and Evie who is on her own journey of reformation, and then we have a newcomer, Jihan played by Nikko Austen Smith who is a social worker, her brother is targeted by Rory on her path of destruction and she decides to help Evie out.

She wants to make a difference. Her whole life is committed to the cause, she works with ex-felons and tries to reintegrate them into society, it’s like a small part in the back of the story, when I was thinking about issues of criminal justice, Rory’s father was a cop, Jihan comes from a position of social work and helping felons reform, that was really where we saw that philosophical debate play out. You know, that’s sort of where it came from, always keeping the themes central.