The slinky female assassin squeezed into an equally slinky catsuit is a mainstay of television and film thrillers. From the moment Anne Parillaud locked and loaded in Luc Besson’s La Femme Nikita, the promise of a foxy fusion of sexiness and an automatic weapon has lured a succession of sultry young actresses to take aim in a career as a hired killer. Now, however, the sub-genre is being given a welcome shot in the arm. Prepare to meet Mia.
Mia, played brilliantly by Big Love’s Chloë Sevigny, is a preoperative transgender woman who works as a contract killer. And she has just found out that she is a parent after her ex-girlfriend dies of cancer, naming Mia as the guardian of her children. The series is one of a number of shows in recent years that have dealt with trans issues, such as the mainstream success Transparent, which won a Golden Globe for the astonishing performance by Jeffrey Tambor. Hit & Miss combines the gender identity issues affecting the transgender and non-binary community with kick-ass action.
Created by Paul Abbott, the writer behind Shameless (the family comedy was based on his life) and State Of Play, and shot in Northern England, the show garnered considerable press attention for Sevigny’s prosthetic penis. While it is impressive, there is far more to the show - Hit & Miss is more grounded than the salacious conversation surrounding the show suggests.
The grim environs of an area of the UK hit by recession, unemployment and increasing class divide ensure a kitchen sink resonance and gritty realism as a backdrop to the sexual ambiguity, shock parentage and ever-growing bodycount.
It was a confronting role that the actress reportedly often found overwhelming. She was reduced to tears when the faux appendage was fitted, each make-up session an intense reminder of the torment many go through to try and define their own sexuality. “I also sat down with some M to F girls and they were very open with me, very generous,” the New York actress told The Telegraph. “I asked about sex, and how you would manage if you wanted to seduce a boy.”
Mia is a fascinating character. New to motherhood she is discovering what it means to be a woman. Already hanging in limbo as she awaits gender confirmation surgery, the arrival of her son has only added to Mia’s gender confusion as she deals with the challenges any woman must deal with as she becomes a mother. And father. To add to the X and Y chromosomal chaos, romance rears its head in the form of potential love-interest Ben (played by Jonas Armstrong).
Anyone familiar with Sevigny’s work will not be shocked by discussions of fake male members and contestable casting. Having started her career in Larry Clark’s controversial Kids she has regularly chosen challenging projects like American Psycho, Lars Von Trier’s Dogville, and fellating Vincent Gallo on camera in the infamous The Brown Bunny. She was cast in the role of Mia after the show’s producers decided that acting talent was more of a requisite than being transgender. This also caused a minor furor - protests made that casting a straight actress in the role was little better than the “black face” of old - and ensured that Sevigny was initially hesitant; worried she would upset the trans community.
It's a justified concern. Sevigny is spectacular in the role, but there is an increasing number of transgender actors who are building enough of a public profile to star in a series like this. As considered a performance as Sevigny gave, it lacks the personal experience that a transgender actor could have brought to the role.
Check out Sevigny's performance for yourself in Hit & Miss, streaming now on SBS On Demand: