Candis Cayne Made TV History on ABC’s ‘Dirty Sexy Money’ As First Trans Woman in a Recurring TV Role

Audiences everywhere are seeing more and more LGBTQ representation in media. Elena Alvarez’s queer identity may be beneficial for queer Latinas who desire a relatable character. Pose has one of the largest casts of transgender actors for a network series. 

One could argue it is all thanks to Candis Cayne, who starred in ABC’s Dirty Sexy Money. She is a trans woman who portrayed a recurring trans character on the show. After her role, other tv shows started to follow suit.

Candis Cayne was in ‘Dirty Sexy Money’

Candis Cayne attends a benefit for onePULSE Foundation at NeueHouse Hollywood.
Candis Cayne | Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Cayne is an American actress and performance artist. According to The New York Times, she spent a year in Los Angeles to train as a dancer after she graduated from high school. In New York City, she performed in drag during the 1990s. 

 In 1996, she came out as a trans woman. The actress rose to fame in 2007 when she landed a role in ABC’s Dirty Sexy Money. She played a minor but relevant and impactful character in the show. Cayne has since worked hard to build a successful career and appeared in other TV series. 

Dirty Sexy Money is a drama and satire series that first aired in 2007. The premise of the show focuses on a man named Nick George, who is living his life as an idealistic lawyer. Of the show’s 23 episodes, Cayne appeared in 11 of them. 

The actress portrayed Carmelita Rainer, who is the married Patrick Darling’s love interest. Their relationship faced some obstacles throughout their storyline. However, Carmelita met her tragic end before their relationship could become public.

Candis Cayne was the first trans woman with a recurring role

Cayne may not have been the first trans person to appear on television. However, she did make history by being the first trans woman to have a major role on prime-time TV, according to Stacker. This moment was significant for the trans community concerning representation in the media. 

For decades, transgender portrayals have been a source of humor in movies and TV shows. Other times, the media portrays trans-coded characters as dangerous. Whether they are canonically transgender or implied, cis actors often play these roles. It was not often that a trans person got the part of a trans character. 

Openly trans actors may not have appeared frequently on shows and would play small roles when they did. Many of them are striving to find prominent work and build successful careers. Perhaps, seeing Cayne in action inspired hope. Perhaps seeing how Cayne was well-received by the audience told networks to be more inclusive.

Other shows now have trans characters and actors

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One trope that many people in the LGBTQ community do not prefer is when LGBTQ characters get killed off. As mentioned before, Carmelita in Dirty Sex Money gets murdered before she and Patrick can reveal their relationship. It would seem that Cayne could not escape the negative trope. 

However, the actress paved the way for others in the industry to offer a better representation of the community. More creators would develop characters that are transgender in canon.

Other TV shows started to cast trans actors for recurring roles. Take HBO’s Euphoria, which is wildly successful and its lead character is a trans female.

The L Word: Generation Q is a 2019 reboot of the 2009 series The L Word. Showrunner Marja-Lewis Ryan informed that the series has some trans actors playing cis parts. She expressed a desire to explore this creative choice. 

3% is a Brazilian Netflix original that takes place in a dystopian world. 20-year-olds get to compete for the chance to live on an island utopia. In the second season, trans actress Marina Matheus appears several times to portray Ariel. Ariel is the only transgender character in the show and becomes more prominent in the fourth season.