In an August 7 interview with The Telegraph, the theatrical producer said of making existing characters transgender, “You can’t implant something that is not inherently there in the story or character, that’s what I think. Just to do that, that becomes gimmick casting. It’s trying to force something that isn’t natural.”
"I am an actor," said Billings in an Instagram post. "I am Mame and I am Madame Rose. I am Miss Hannigan and I am Annie Oakley and I am Fantine… But I am these stories because I am part of the human fabric and no one has the right to take any this away from me.… I am an actor, Mr. Mackintosh, not a gimmick.... We have been playing these musical roles in the theater for centuries. The only difference is, now we are becoming visible. And that’s frightening. That’s upsetting. This is about you and your fear and the fear of many others, but it is not about the Trans community.…"
Others have pushed #NotAGimmick into the conversation to highlight the importance of Trans performers.
“I was recently asked by a journalist if I would consider making the character of Mary Poppins (not the actor playing the role) a transgender woman. Unfortunately, my answer has been misinterpreted to suggest that I am opposed to casting a transgender performer to play the role.
“This is absolutely not true. I meant only that I would not as a producer disregard the author P.L. Travers’ original intention for the character. To be clear, whether a person is trans has no bearing on their suitability for any role in any of my shows, including Mary Poppins, as long as they can perform the role as written.
“I am very sorry for any distress caused by my remarks being misrepresented. Trans actors are welcome to submit and audition for any of my productions. What matters is what has always mattered: the talent and storytelling. I have long been and will continue to be a proponent of diversity in casting for my projects around the world.”