The #MeToo Movement came to the attention of the mass media as a Hollywood-related anti-harassment revelation. The talking heads on television acted as if it were a new idea that women were treated as less than men in the entertainment biz, but Hollywood knew better. Jill Soloway has been fighting for a fair shot since the 1990s and helping others who faced similar battles along the way.
Soloway was born the younger of two sisters on September 26, 1965, in Chicago, Illinois. Their birth mother, Elaine Soloway, is an entrepreneur and writer who still lives in Chicago. Their birth father was a psychiatrist who in 2011 revealed herself as Carrie London, a transgender woman.
Their Jewish upbringing impacted their life in powerful ways, with Jewish ideas strongly evident in much of their work. Soloway experienced a revival of their religion as positive in 2008 and thereafter became involved with several Jewish communities in Los Angeles, even helping to found or lead some.
For their age, Soloway seems to have had a fairly typical childhood, complete with their parents’ divorce in 1990 after the kids left the nest. Soloway would have been finished with their major in communications arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison by then. They got a taste for film as a student of JJ Murphy. While living in Chicago they worked in commercials, music videos, and even theater, sometimes collaborating with their sister Faith. Soloway’s projects often pushed the edge by dealing with subjects such as Jewish culture and religion, gender, and the spectrum of sexuality, and provocative titles such as the plays The Real Live Brady Bunch and The Miss Vagina Pageant. They even sold HBO a pilot script for a never-produced superhero show entitled Jewess Jones.
Soloway continued to push the edge when they moved to Los Angeles with the play Not Without My Nipples and the short story Courtney Cox's Asshole. That short story got the attention of writer, director, and producer Alan Ball, who hired them for the five-season-long HBO show Six Feet Under. Even before then, Soloway was working on the series The Oblongs, The Steve Harvey Show, Cartoon Cabana, Baby Blues, and Nikki.
Writing and working in various capacities on television production paid the bills and even got Soloway Emmy nominations starting in 2003. Soloway fought for their own projects that highlighted women, sometimes with success, but it was a hard fight. At times sexism was a hurdle, but at other times it was a matter of basic competition. By 2013, their directorial debut was in theaters in the relationship comedy Afternoon Delight, which won them the US Dramatic Directing Prize at Sundance.
Soloway’s most famous project to date must be their award-winning five-season series Transparent. In Soloway’s 2019 book She Wants It: Desire, Power, and Toppling the Patriarchy, they discuss how the Amazon show was a fictionalized account of their own family’s experience with a trans parent, bolstered by research into the lives of trans people that relied upon working directly with trans communities. While Soloway worked on the show, they worked on themselves, seeing the end to a marriage and accepting their own identity as non-binary and bisexual.
Throughout their career as writer, director, and producer, Soloway has been nominated for 21 awards and has won six of them. They are continuing to explore strong characters in their current and future projects, which the IMDB lists as including College, Mothertrucker, and a potential Red Sonja reboot. Given their record of having more diverse crews when they are producing or directing, there is hope that Soloway will help expand Hollywood inclusiveness.