If you binge-watched “The OA” on Netflix like the rest of us this weekend, it was hard to miss Buck, the transgender teenager played by Asian American actor Ian Alexander.
Alexander, whose social media response (“Shut the f—k up”) to an anti-transgender tweet from a group of UCLA students holding signs that read, “There are only two genders!” went viral and which landed him on Buzzfeed earlier this year, struck a chord with viewers through the character Buck Vu, who took to social media to praise his positive depiction of the trans teen on the show.
Buck becomes a part of the ragtag team that helps Prairie, the titular character of “The OA,” in the show. Buck’s a quiet 15-year-old kid coming to terms with his own sexuality. We see glimpses of his life, from his disapproving Vietnamese American family to a passing mention of his testosterone use.
In an interview with Affinity Mag, Alexander said the role helped him tell his own story as a young transgender man. Alexander, who is Vietnamese on his mother’s side, comes from a biracial Mormon family, and told Affinity that he used to sneak YouTube videos when he got his first iPod Touch at age 12: “I remember particularly being obsessed with [female to male] videos — I didn’t connect with it personally yet, but I still remember tucking my long hair into a hat and taking a few ‘boy’ pictures on that iTouch.”
Huge shoutout to The OA for casting a n actual trans actor (@ianaIexander) to play the transgender character. Netflix knows how to do it.
— Brianne Twiddy (@Brianne_esque) December 17, 2016
seeing an asian trans teenager being accurately portrayed by an asian trans teenager is huge. mad love to the casting/producers on this. https://t.co/jH9QXVnVgY
— Ben J. Pierce (@BenJPierce) December 19, 2016
im so glad i could help you!! this is why i do what i do ❤️ representation is important. https://t.co/cROGphUbyR
— IAN (@ianaIexander) December 19, 2016
One Twitter user asked Alexander whether he was invited to give input into Buck’s character building.
“I absolutely was!” Alexander replied. “They were always listening to my input & really wanted me to make the character my own. They wanted him to be realistic.”