On the surface, Hulu’s High Fidelity has a lot in common with both the 1995 Nick Hornby novel that it’s based on and the 2000 John Cusack film that precedes it. The series will, like the novel and the film, tell the story of a record store owner ranking previous breakups in a top five list, and it even seems to be going for an aesthetic similar to that of the Cusack film. But for all its similarities, Hulu’s High Fidelity has also found an immediately apparent, yet simple way of separating itself from the two previous iterations... it has switched the gender of its protagonist.
Where the main character in both the High Fidelity novel and film was male, the upcoming Hulu series features actress Zoë Kravitz in what is, practically, the same role. While that choice makes Hulu’s High Fidelity stand out from the earlier incarnations of the story, it's not the first time a TV series has chosen to switch the gender of one of its notable roles. Here are just a few other shows that have chosen to gender swap a memorable character.
Perhaps the most famous gender swap in TV history came at the end of 2017, when Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor regenerated into Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor — marking the first time in the history of Doctor Who that the titular character would be played by a woman. While the decision was controversial at the time, Whittaker’s portrayal of the character has been well-received by fans and critics since her debut.
It’s also worth noting that Whittaker’s regeneration wasn’t the first time that Doctor Who has gender-swapped one of its key roles. The Doctor’s gender swap actually came several years after Michelle Gomez made her debut in the show’s eighth season as The Master, the villainous character that had, up until that point, been played only by men. While surprising at the time, Gomez’s memorably eccentric turn made the decision seem like a no-brainer in hindsight.
CBS’ take on Sherlock Holmes boasted one of the more notable instances of gender-swapping in recent TV history, when the series premiered with Lucy Liu as Holmes’ crime-solving partner Dr. Joan Watson.
The decision to change Sherlock’s male partner to a woman had its fair share of naysayers, and had to be defended by the show’s creative team leading up to its premiere in 2012. However, it wasn’t long before Jonny Lee Miller and Liu’s chemistry won over even the most skeptical viewers. In the end, the series was celebrated for its unique portrayal of platonic love between a man and a woman.
When Lost in Space premiered on Netflix in 2018, few fans of the original series knew what to expect. What they got was an earnest, and surprisingly well-imagined take on the classic, which managed to pay homage to the original while throwing a few curve balls. One of the most notable twists was the decision to change the villainous Dr. Smith from a man to a woman, with Parker Posey filling the role in the reboot.
The gender swap was just one of the series’ many pleasant surprises, and allowed for Posey to offer up a unique and unexpected take one a well-known TV villain. It wasn’t long before her presence in the show felt almost as dominant as Will Robinson’s.
When Ron D. Moore rebooted Battlestar Galactica in 2004, he made the unexpected decision to gender-swap not just one role in the show, but two. The rebooted series featured actress Katee Sackhoff taking on the role of Starbuck, and Grace Park as Boomer, roles that had been played in the original 1978 series by Dirk Benedict and Herbert Jefferson, Jr., respectively.
The gender swaps were one of several out-of-the-box decisions that helped to upend preconceived expectations that fans might have had going into the reboot, while jettisoning several outdated, gender-related genre cliches.
This 2015 Marvel series put its female characters front-and-center in the show's narrative right from the start. That choice didn’t just revolve around telling its titular character’s story either, but also the stories of the supporting female characters around her. Notably, that included Carrie-Anne Moss’ ruthless attorney, Jeri Hogarth, who was a gender-swapped version of the male attorney, Jeryn Hogarth, from the Marvel comics.
AMC’s 2016 limited series was an ambitious and artful adaptation of the John Le Carre novel. But while The Night Manager aimed to tell the same story as its source material, it did so by swapping the gender of one of its key characters. Olivia Colman (The Crown) played the character of Angela Burr, a female version of Leonard Burr, a male Secret Intelligence Service agent from Le Carre’s novel.
This entry makes Grace Park the only actress on this list to have played not just one, but two gender-swapped roles on television. Following her stint as Boomer on Battlestar Galactica, Park made her debut on the 2010 reboot of Hawaii Five-0 as Kono Kalakaua, a character played by actor Gilbert Lani Kauhi in the original series.
This artistic and grotesque adaptation of Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter novels offered an ambitious take on its source material, one that wanted to honor, expand upon, and modernize it. Gender-swapping two characters from Harris’ original novels was just one of the ways that Hannibal sought to achieve that latter goal. Caroline Dhavernas made her debut as Dr. Alana Bloom, while Lara Jean Chorostecki played Fredericka Lounds, based on the male characters of Dr. Alan Bloom and Freddy Lounds from Harris’ original novels.
All ten episodes of High Fidelity, featuring Zoe Kravitz as its gender-swapped lead, drop February 14 on Hulu.
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Alex Welch has written about television and film for TV by the Numbers, IGN, The Berrics, Paste Magazine, Screen Rant and GeekNation. Follow him on Twitter @alexrwelch.
TOPICS: High Fidelity, Hulu, Battlestar Galactica (2004), Doctor Who, Elementary, Hannibal, Hawaii Five-0 (2010 series), Lost in Space (2018), Marvel’s Jessica Jones, The Night Manager, Carrie-Anne Moss, Grace Park, Jodie Whittaker, John Cusack, John le Carre, Katee Sackhoff, Lucy Liu, Michelle Gomez, Nick Hornby, Olivia Colman, Parker Posey, Zoë Kravitz, Women and TV