Before stepping down, the actress was set to play a transgender man in the film Rub & Tug
Scarlett Johansson is reflecting on a “hard time” she experienced when she was widely criticized for defending her choice to play a transgender character — comments she now regrets making.
Speaking to Vanity Fair for the cover story of the publication’s awards issue, the actress, 35, admitted that she “mishandled that situation.”
“I was not sensitive, my initial reaction to it. I wasn’t totally aware of how the trans community felt about those three actors playing—and how they felt in general about cis actors playing—transgender people,” she said.
“I wasn’t aware of that conversation—I was uneducated. So I learned a lot through that process. I misjudged that…. It was a hard time. It was like a whirlwind. I felt terribly about it. To feel like you’re kind of tone-deaf to something is not a good feeling,” she added.
After her casting in the film Rub & Tug as Dante “Tex” Gill” — a transgender person who owned a massage parlor in Pittsburgh’s underground sex industry in the 1970s — drew backlash in 2018, a representative for Johansson said in a statement to Bustle: “Tell them they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment,” referencing other cisgender actors who have portrayed trans characters.
Johansson later exited the project, telling Out Magazine that “in light of recent ethical questions raised surrounding my casting as Dante Tex Gill, I have decided to respectfully withdraw my participation in the project.”
A year later, however, the actress, readdressed her original comments, saying that art should be “immune to political correctness.” Speaking to As If magazine, Johansson said she should be “allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job.”
In a statement to PEOPLE from her representative at the time, Johansson said that while she stood by her As If interview, she felt the quotes were “edited for click bait” and “widely taken out of context” by other outlets.
Elsewhere in the Vanity Fair profile, the actress teased her upcoming Black Widow standalone movie for Marvel.
“I did not want it to be an origin story,” she said of the 2020 release. “I did not want it to be an espionage story. I didn’t want it to feel superficial at all. I only wanted to do it if it actually fit where I was with that character. I had spent such a long time peeling those layers away—I felt that unless we got to something deep, then there was no reason to make it.”
Johansson can currently be seen in Marriage Story and Jo Jo Rabbit, both of which are playing in theaters.