'Transparent' first look: RIP Maura Pfefferman, in Jeffrey Tambor-less musical finale
LOS ANGELES — A first look at the "Transparent" musical finale reveals the death of Maura Pfefferman, the lead character at the center of the groundbreaking Amazon series about a transgender woman and her family.
Maura’s fate had been suspected, but not revealed until now, after the 2018 firing of Jeffrey Tambor in the wake of sexual harassment allegations and an Amazon investigation. (Tambor, who does not appear in the finale, has denied the accusations.)
Siblings Jill Soloway – who created the series and directs the finale –and Faith, who wrote the music and lyrics, conceived of the series' sendoff as an extended musical episode, “The Transparent Musicale Finale.” It will be released on the streaming service this fall, although no date has been announced.
Faith Soloway already had written songs with an eye toward mounting a stage musical of “Transparent,” which is still a goal after "Transparent" ends. Jill brought up the idea of a musical to Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke as a creative way to close out for the series without its star.
The show's musical 42nd episode seemed like an appropriate path after ups – two Emmys each for Tambor and Soloway and a series that spoke “to the reality of the trans community in a way that landed with people" – and downs, the events surrounding Tambor, Soloway told USA TODAY in an on-set interview on the last day of production in February.
“It felt like a confluence of all these things, to go on a journey of all the show’s success as well as the pain of last year losing Jeffrey … and to have been able to turn toward my sister, Faith, and her music, to create a musical.”
The production also gave the cast and crew a chance to reunite, commiserate and bond.
In “Musicale Finale” (think of the words as a rhyme), Maura’s death will be mourned and celebrated by her family of three adult children – Sarah (Amy Landecker), Josh (Jay Duplass) and Ali (Gaby Hoffmann) – and their mother, Shelly (Judith Light).
After Maura’s death, ex-wife Shelly adjusts to the loss by staging her own musical. On the final day of filming, Light, a two-time Tony Award winner, showed off her song-and-dance skills on a big stage number, “Your Boundary Is My Trigger.”
That sharply written song defines Shelly’s relationship to her children. It reflects the tone of the musical, which has both upbeat and sad elements, and also parallels the “Transparent” cast's feelings about the loss of a colleague.
“It’s about a family mourning somebody, so we’re able to synthesize some of the real things that happened: the grieving, the shock, into a story of losing a parent,” Jill says.
The expanded episode features the return of familiar characters played by Kathryn Hahn, Trace Lysette, Cherry Jones, Tig Notaro, Melora Hardin and Rob Huebel. (Lysette accused Tambor of sexual misconduct, saying he “acted inappropriate to me” and once pushed himself against her physically after a scene.)
Faith Soloway, also a “Transparent” writer, says the musical provides the hope of future life, with a goal of getting to Broadway with a show about Maura.
“We’re ending it in such a way that it feels more like a transition than an ending,” she says. “It feels like a different animal. You try not to do the carbon copy of what you’ve done when you lose a core person. You take the magic of what you have and rebuild.”