Nickelodeon Star Michael D. Cohen Has Revealed He Underwent A Life-Altering Change Two Decades Ago

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Before he was the wacky inventor Schwoz Schwartz on Nickelodeon’s Henry Danger, actor Michael D. Cohen led a very different life. Indeed, the actor spoke with Time magazine in May 2019 about the most important decision he ever made. And he also revealed why talking about it now is more important than ever.

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Since 2014 Nickelodeon’s Henry Danger has brought joy to millions of children. Now in its fifth season, the show has become the network’s most enduring live-action sitcom. Moreover, with a 2017 Kids’ Choice Award under its belt, the series has received a warm critical reputation as well.

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The story of a teenage superhero, Henry Danger follows the exploits of 13-year-old crime fighter Henry Hart. Under the mantle of Kid Danger, Hart acts as an apprentice to the aging crusader Captain Man. But living out the fantasy of any young boy is never easy – and Hart must constantly juggle his family life with that of his caped alter-ego.

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Aiding the would-be crime fighter in his quest is the eccentric engineer Schwoz Schwartz. Epitomizing the typical ‘mad scientist’ character, Schwartz conjures up all the accessories he needs to tap into his inner superhero. And through actor Michael D. Cohen’s memorable portrayal, the inventor remains an integral part of the show.

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For those who haven’t seen Henry Danger, Cohen’s name may be unfamiliar. However, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen some of his prior work. In 2014 – the same year the actor began appearing on the show – he featured in the tense drum-themed drama Whiplash, a film that earned three Academy Awards.

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Moreover, Cohen has cropped up in some of our favorite TV shows as well. Active since the 2000s, the actor has appeared in sitcoms like My Name is Earl, 2 Broke Girls and Modern Family. He even received direction from George Clooney when he featured in the cinema star’s 2017 black comedy Suburbicon.

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Apart from his work on the big and small screens, Cohen has been an involved member of the acting community. When not appearing in film and TV productions, the thespian regularly teaches his craft to budding artists. In-training actors can receive tuition at Cohen’s very own studio or may even have received tutelage from him when he co-chaired the SAG-AFTRA Hollywood Conservatory.

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Indeed, acting is clearly more than just a passion for Cohen. And naturally, the star developed an interest in the profession at an early age. As a child growing up in Winnipeg, Canada, the actor was a huge fan of The Carol Burnett Show. To this day, the influential comedienne remains a favorite of his.

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Through Carol Burnett, Cohen learned an important lesson about the value of performing in front of an audience. As he admitted to Time magazine in May 2019, the actor understood that acting and entertainment served to unite loved ones “regardless of whatever else is happening in that family unit.”

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And even though Cohen always wanted to act, early on his career he spent most of his time voice acting or doing behind-the-scenes work. But it wasn’t just acting that Cohen had a difficult time adjusting to in his youth, as he explained in May 2019.

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Despite identifying as male throughout his life, Cohen was actually brought up as a woman. Indeed, in his first public statement on his gender to Time magazine, the actor admitted that he “was misgendered at birth.” And this naturally led to problems both with his personal life and personal ambitions too.

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“I think I loved acting so much that I didn’t want to do it as a woman,” Cohen explained to the magazine. Though he himself knew he was a man, the actor realized that other people wouldn’t identify him as such. As a result, early on the star became discouraged from stepping foot on a stage or in front of a camera.

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“As a kid, I always knew who I was, but that gets suppressed,” he added to People. “If you don’t have an environment that understands, and if you don’t have an environment that supports, then the only thing you can do to survive is suppress.” And so the only thing Cohen could do was keep his passions buried.

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In his early years, Cohen began looking into other ways that he could be of benefit to the performing arts. During his adolescence, he took an interest in writing and proved to be remarkably good at it too. By the age of 12, the thespian was already the proud recipient of a Young Playwright’s Contest award.

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Following his graduation from college, Cohen worked on the production side of entertainment and did some voice work as well. And yet, the allure of acting was too great to ignore. Soon, Cohen – who had already started studying acting in Toronto – started accepting roles written for female performers.

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Nonetheless, Cohen still wasn’t comfortable playing characters that didn’t align with his own gender. So like countless individuals who have shared similar experiences, the actor knew he had only one way to proceed. And in 2000 Cohen began the long road to transitioning.

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Speaking to People magazine, Cohen admitted a desire to be put his “core being and essence” together. He recalled to People, “It was an epiphany for me. I said, ‘I need to know, it’s now or never.’ It all came together and from that day on, I was living as a man.”

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By all means, making the change from female to male wasn’t easy for Cohen. Besides the medical procedures undergone to alter the actor physically, the actor also had to make adjustments to his own appearance and patterns of behavior. Moreover, he also struggled with anxieties about whether or not the industry would accept a transgender actor.

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“I was always scared that I wouldn’t be able to realize my dreams because of it,” Cohen continued. “I was terrified of that for so long – even as an adult when I transitioned 20 years ago.” he added, “I was like, ‘I know this is my path, I know I’m an actor. How am I going to be able to do what I want to do [and] have the career I want and transition?’”

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Fortunately, Cohen’s fears proved unfounded. Within two years of transitioning, the actor was receiving regular roles from his new base in Hollywood. Then some years later, in 2013’s It Was You Charlie, in particular, Cohen even received an ACTRA Award for Outstanding Lead Performance.

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As Time pointed out, Cohen stands out as he waited over two decades before revealing his story. To wit, his interview with the publication was the first time the actor had publicly acknowledged his transgender status. Up until then, he’d only made that information known privately to friends and colleagues.

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There’s also the matter of Cohen’s own manner of self-identification. Unlike some who readily use the term transgender, Cohen doesn’t himself identify as such. Rather, he views himself solely as male. He told People, “The transgender part, that’s the journey, that’s my history, that’s my situation – it’s not my identity.”

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That being said, Cohen nevertheless still views himself as being a part of the wider LGBTQ umbrella. He continued, “These are my people. I belong to this group.” And this is why the star has chosen now to publicly disclose his place in this community.

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Certainly, the current era is proving to be a strange time for trans people. On one hand, figures like Caitlyn Jenner – who revealed her trans status in 2015 – have become role models for people struggling with their gender identity. Meanwhile, TV shows like Transparent have introduced trans themes to mainstream entertainment.

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But the current period has also been a time of division as well. In particular, Donald Trump’s administration has enforced notable laws that negatively affect trans people. For example, in January 2019 the Supreme Court passed a ban on allowing trans soldiers in the military, while current laws are already being discussed to block transgender healthcare rights.

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Moreover, there still remains a climate of fear for those living openly as transgender within the U.S. In 2018 the Human Rights Campaign reported that 26 transgender people had died that year as a result of violence. The report singled out black transgender people as particularly vulnerable and cited evidence of transphobia as being a motivating factor for several assaults.

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Besides this, many in the community see themselves forever battling a climate of ignorance on what it means to be transgender. During a House Judiciary Committee hearing on LGBT rights in April, for example, some conservative lawmakers deemed being transgender a “radical ideology.” They even brushed the term off as an “internet phenomenon,” according to Time.

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“This crazy backlash and oppression of rights is happening right in front of me,” Cohen rebutted to Time. “I can’t stay silent. The level of – let’s be polite – misunderstanding around trans issues is so profound and destructive. When you disempower one population, you disempower everybody.”

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“It is not random, it is not arbitrary, it is not chosen,” Cohen added regarding his gender. “It’s like trying to negotiate with gravity. In my experience, I was born male. What my body said about it was irrelevant. No matter how hard I tried, it was not up for negotiation. Believe me, it would have been so convenient if I was actually a woman.”

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After years of remaining silent, Cohen hopes that his admission will provide a beacon of hope for those dealing with the similar struggles. As perhaps kids TV’s most prominent trans figure, he has a unique opportunity to connect with vulnerable children. And the actor intends to use his platform to the full.

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“What’s going on in recent years with the rollback in rights of people with trans experience, it’s really disturbing to me,” Cohen continued. “When it affects youth and kids, it really gets to me at my core, because they don’t have the life experience yet to be able to speak out or make changes. I feel like they need an advocate.”

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Cohen also feels that he can encourage vulnerable kids to talk about their own gender identities at an earlier age. He added, “Suppression is one of the biggest disease-causing issues in society. We need to be able to express ourselves, it is our birthright and it is what we need in order to be healthy.”

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Through his work, Cohen believes he can provide a “safe space” for those in need. He told People, “Sometimes you have to really look for it, but you can always find it. You can feel alone, but it doesn’t mean that you are alone. Those feelings are real, but they’re not the realty of the world. There will always be people that welcome you with open arms.”

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At first, Cohen had reservations about speaking openly about his transgender status. But the response the actor has received since his first public statement has been nothing but supportive. Rather than creating a backlash, the star’s admission has prompted a wave of love from both Cohen’s fans and colleagues alike.

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Echoing Cohen’s own views of representation, Henry Danger star Jace Norman highlighted the importance of having Cohen on the show. He wrote in an email to Time, “[I think that] it’s in the best interest of the entire world to have every type of person represented on TV.” Moreover, he enthused that his co-star’s revelation “didn’t change anything about the high level of respect and admiration I have for the guy.”

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And it wasn’t just from within Henry Danger that Cohen received admiration. In response to his statement, the Human Rights Campaign tweeted their appreciation for the actor’s bravery. The star replied, “Your support literally moved me to tears this morning. Thank you for all you do.”

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As Henry Danger’s showrunner Chris Nowak explained to Time, Cohen’s revelation doesn’t change anything about who the actor is. Nowak added, “[He’s] just a guy who’s real good at his job.” Yet that doesn’t mean that Cohen isn’t going to reflect his identity in his work. In fact, the star is already putting some ideas to use.

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Indeed, since 2004 Cohen has been working on a one man show based on his life experience. Named 4 Cubits Make a Man, the autobiographical production examines family, romance and identity from his own unique point of view. And after years of work, the show is almost ready for its opening night.

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Naturally, Cohen’s decision to finally mount the production also stems from today’s climate. He explained to People, “As I was writing it, I was also changing and evolving and so the play kept changing and evolving – and it wasn’t quite ready to put up. I said, ‘I’m not gonna wait until I do my play to share my history because the time is now.’”

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Ultimately, Cohen is hopeful that his honesty will help others understand what it is to be transgender. The actor concluded, “My chromosomes do not dictate my gender.” And for those still unsure about his identity, the actor has some very simple words. He added, “I’m a man. It’s not that hard.”

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