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As groundbreaking series ‘Transparent’ heads into its fourth season, star Jeffrey Tambor tells USA TODAY the changes he has seen in society.
USA TODAY

NEW YORK — Four years ago, Jeffrey Tambor couldn’t have imagined he’d be getting his nails done with his daughter.

But that became his reality when he landed the “role of a lifetime” as transgender Maura Pfefferman in Amazon’s signature series Transparent, which returns Friday for a fourth season.

Tambor, 73, remembers his daughter, Evie, now 10, visiting the dramedy’s Los Angeles set. At first, he struggled to explain that his character — a retired professor formerly named Mort — came out as a woman to her wife (Judith Light) and three grown children in the show’s first season. But any uncertainty was short-lived.

“I remember her saying, ‘Daddy, I get it. Your character is just more comfortable being a woman,’ ” Tambor says. “So there it is, from the mouth of babes. We had a mani-pedi together in the makeup room and she just loves it.”

That proud parenting moment is just one example of how Transparent has helped sparked conversation about trans stories and representation since it premiered in 2014, clinching eight Emmy Awards including outstanding lead actor (Tambor) and directing (creator Jill Soloway). Season 4 shines a larger spotlight on Maura’s best trans friend, Davina (Alexandra Billings), and delves further into the Pfeffermans’ knotty lineage, as Maura learns that she isn’t the only transgender member of her family. 

In one of the season’s most emotional scenes, Maura says, ” ‘Why weren’t people more honest with me about the history in our family? Why didn’t people tell me? I could’ve lived a different life,’ ” Tambor says. “That, to me, is interesting.”

But Maura is also at her most comfortable, and confident, in the latest batch of 10 half-hour episodes. After exclusively dating women, she is now in a satisfying relationship with a man, Donald (John Getz). She also resumes teaching and accepts an invitation to lecture in Israel, where she’s joined by her younger daughter, Ali (Gaby Hoffman), whose own complicated relationship with…