Laverne Cox isn't just another actress. And her appearance tonight on the CBS series "Doubt" isn't just another TV debut.
Cox, an Alabama native, has become the first transgender person to play a transgender character in a major, recurring role on network television. That's a milestone for the LGBTQ community, and for the entertainment world at large.
On this new show, Cox portrays Cameron Wirth, a smart, serious lawyer whose quest for justice is grounded in personal experience. She's passionate about her work, committed to her clients and savvy in the courtroom.
"I'm an avid TV watcher, and there are people in my community who watch a lot of TV. Growing up, I did not see people like me on television," Cox said during a panel discussion for the Television Critics Association's summer press tour.
"That folks can have a character like Cameron, who is Ivy League educated, it's wonderful," Cox said, according The Hollywood Reporter. "And to be a black transgender woman in that position on CBS is really special."
Cox is part of a cast that includes Katherine Heigl (best known for her work on "Grey's Anatomy") Dule Hill (formerly of "The West Wing") and veteran actor Elliott Gould (most recently seen on "Ray Donovan").
Personal concerns and professional ethics don't always mesh on "Doubt," a drama series helmed by executive producers Joan Rater and Tony Phelan. It debuts at 9 p.m. Central.
Heigl, the star of the series, plays a lawyer at a boutique firm who's struggling to reconcile her job -- defending a pediatric surgeon accused of killing his girlfriend -- with her romantic feelings for her client. Cox and Hill portray her colleagues; Gould plays the head of the firm.
Cox makes a strong impression on the show, according to a review from Variety.
"The standout of the cast is not Heigl but Laverne Cox's Cameron, who expands into the role to offer it a touch of gravitas that gives the show much-needed grounding," writes TV critic Sonia Saraiya, who reviewed the first three episodes.
"Cameron, like Cox, is trans, and her gender identity is discussed in the pilot with careful explanation before becoming a part of the scenery with quick, natural ease. The third episode introduces the beginnings of a flirtation with a rival lawyer (apparently, on 'Doubt,' characters are required to dabble in professionally perilous romances), which provides an avenue for truly unique storytelling for network television."
Cox -- who was born in Mobile and attended the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham -- also broke new ground with her role on the hit Netflix series "Orange Is the New Black." On that show, she portrays a transgender inmate and former firefighter, Sophia Burset, who's serving time for credit card fraud.
Cox has appeared on four seasons of "Orange Is the New Black," and earned a 2014 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series. She's also the first openly transgender person to appear on the cover of Time magazine.
"For me as a viewer, whenever I've seen trans characters up on screen played by trans actors, it gives me hope and inspiration that I can be up there doing it, as well," Cox said during a 2013 interview.
"Also, it validates my experience," Cox said. "It makes me feel like I am not alone. I think everyone needs to feel a sense of connection, a sense of belonging. That happens interpersonally, but it also needs to happen in our representations in mainstream media, so that when we see ourselves up on the screen and we see our stories, we feel less alone, we feel less invisible. It also teaches the world that being around people who are different from us teaches us wonderful lessons, if we choose to listen to those lessons."
Laverne Cox, transgender actress and Alabama native, earns acclaim on 'Orange Is the New Black'