Transgender actor MJ Rodriguez rode a wave of critical praise for her turn in the 2011 Off-Broadway production of "Rent" into roles in films and on television, including "Luke Cage" (Netflix, 2016-) and "Pose" (FX, 2018-). Born and raised in New Jersey, Rodriguez came to two very important decisions about her life by the age of seven: though born male, she identified as a girl, and wanted to pursue a career in acting and music. She came out to her parents in her early teens, who supported both of their child's paths in life; her mother enrolled Rodriguez in the Summer Youth Performance Workshop at New Jersey Performing Arts Center, where she appeared in numerous productions over the next eight years, including "Rent." Rodriguez continued to pursue performance and music as a student at the Berklee College of Music, but a chance to audition for the Off-Broadway revival of "Rent" in 2011 proved too much to pass up. She landed the role of the cross-dressing Angel in the production, which led to critical praise and the Clive Barnes Award that same year, as well as a burgeoning acting career on television and in film. She made her screen debut in a 2012 episode of "Nurse Jackie" (Showtime, 2009-2015), and landed minor roles in "The Carrie Diaries" (The CW, 2013-14), but soon went on hiatus from acting work and social media to make good on her decision to physically transition to being female. Upon her return to her career, Rodriguez found herself in demand for screen and theater roles; she became the first transgender person to audition for the role of Peggy Reynolds in "Hamilton," and played a trans sex worker on a 2017 episode of "Luke Cage." She also drew critical praise for her turn as a trans woman who befriends a young gay man (Luka Kain) in need of family and guidance in the independent feature "Saturday Church." Rodriguez and co-star, also a trans actor Indya Moore, were subsequently cast in "Pose," a drama series from Ryan Murphy ("American Horror Story," 2011-) about life in mid-1980s New York, with an emphasis on the drag ball culture and its young ethnic community.
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