HBO to Premiere Transgender Drama 'Lupe'

by Matthew Wexler

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday February 6, 2021

HBO Latino has acquired the moving LGBTQ immigrant story, "Lupe," co-directed by André Phillips and Charles Vulo. The film premieres on both HBO Latino and HBO Max on February 26.

The film follows the journey of Rafael (played by Rafael Albarrán), a Cuban immigrant and boxer struggling with their transgender identity while searching for their missing sister, Isabel (Lucerys Medina), in New York City's underground sex industry. Transgender executive film producer Kerry Michelle O'Brien shepherded the project, which included further consultation by transgender artist Celia Harrison.

"We are incredibly proud to have 'Lupe' debut on HBO, this bilingual story of loss, identity and discovery has found its perfect platform," said O'Brien in a statement. "To have a film that features transgender individuals portrayed not as victims but actual champions of their own destiny is such an important message to be seen and heard, front and center without having to be hidden in allegories."

While not a documentary, the film aims to capture a raw, unfiltered style through hand-held cinematography (filmed in both New York City and the Dominican Republic) as well as unscripted scenes featuring Harrison, who portrays Rafael's friend and advisor.

HBO continues to lean into the demand for more LGBTQ-inclusive programming. The British miniseries "It's a Sin," about three gay teenage boys in 1980s London, debuts February 18.

"Now more than ever, diverse representation of all kinds has a real power to impact on how people see themselves reflected in the world," said HBO's president of programming Casey Bloys in an interview with Esquire. "We're not looking to check a box, but to find the truth in each character's journey. Everyone is more than their gender identity or sexual preference, and we hope that our characters have all kinds of traits that define them."

Matthew Wexler is EDGE's Senior Editor, Features & Branded Content. More of his writing can be found at Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.