GLAAD talks to Petey Gibson from the Fox series Alert: Missing Persons Unit

February 28, 2023

We're excited to bring you this interview with actor Petey Gibson who plays forensic anthropologist C Hemingway on the new FOX series Alert: Missing Persons Unit. Hemingway supervises the MPU's forensic imaging department and part of his job is reconstructing the faces of those who've disappeared. We also learn in the episode "Briana," which aired on February 27, that Hemingway is a transgender man.

We chatted with Gibson about his career as a transmasculine actor working in Hollywood, and about how he understands C's role in the department and how C  navigates disclosing his gender history to Rachel, a women who's been flirting with C over the course of the first season.

GLAAD: Petey, can you tell us a little about yourself? How long have you been an actor? What might we have seen you in prior to Fox’s Alert: Missing Persons Unit?

Petey Gibson: Hey team! So happy to be chatting with GLAAD, first of all. I’m a Boston native, and got my start there as a drag king, actually, and doing neo-vaudeville shows that I would write, produce, and host - it was a thrilling time and taught me how to wear a lot of hats and how to collaborate. I’ve been in LA pursuing on-camera work for about 10 years now, and was lucky to get some co-stars on shows I love like Broad City and Grace & Frankie - or you may have caught me in indie romcom The Sympathy Card

How did you find out about this character, C Hemingway? What was the audition process like?

This came through the normal casting channels, through my reps, and any trans guy in town can tell you it was thrilling to see a big old multi-dimensional character, specifically transmasc, come our way. I am beyond grateful to have booked it, and hope that this is the start of more roles like this for us all! The audition process happened totally at home through self-tapes- the second one was on the fly when I was up in Oakland and had to piece together equipment quickly! 

C is a quirky, funny, kind, multi-dimensional character, and being a transgender man is just one part of what makes him interesting. He's smart, a good scientist, a caregiver to his elderly father, and he has social anxiety. C also transitioned several years ago, so he is not in that phase where he has to tell all his co-workers that he's trans. Do you think his co-workers know C's gender history - in other words, he told them before the series begins?

Yes, exactly. It’s old news - and realistic! I love that C just exists as part of the team. 

Over the course of this season, we've seen a growing friendship and flirtation between C and Rachel, another scientist. It's realistic to portray the moment when a trans person has to reveal their gender history to someone they are becoming close to romantically. In the ninth episode "Briana," which aired last night, C has that moment with Rachel. He tells her he's a trans man. What was it like filming that scene?

Well, we talked about it a lot beforehand - I had a great phone call with our showrunner John Eisendrath to chat it through and finetune it. And then I got very lucky in both a scene partner and director, to really get it right the day of filming. Elana Dunkelman as Rachel is such a delight, and perfectly cast. She understood both the gravity and levity of the moment- we were both very dropped in. And Adam Kane directing - we were all on exactly the same page. I was just stressed in wanting to get it right, to be honest - when there is so little representation, you know the ripple is very important beyond just being a moment on a show. 

The disclosure moment to Rachel is also the moment when viewers at home learn that C is a transgender man. What do you hope viewers will take away from learning that C is trans, after they've gotten to know him throughout this first season?

I mean, I think C is just such a lovable guy. My greatest hope, for folks that don’t think they know a trans person, is that they are able to draw a straight line between having loved this guy before and finding out he’s trans. Now they know a trans person - a smart, trustworthy, loving guy who also is trans. There is so much monstrous propaganda around trans folks especially now that is truly dangerous - but all the trans folks I know are multi-dimensional kick-ass people. Get to know us. We’re cool. And we’re just trying to live, babes!

Are we going to see a season two of Alert: Missing Persons Unit? And if there is a season two, what aspects of C's life would you like the show to explore.

Goodness I hope so! I’d love to see C explore his friendship with Kemi. I love those two as pals. 

Thank you for talking to us, Petey. We're so happy that you've gotten this opportunity to portray an authentic, well-written trans character on broadcast television. We hope we get to learn more about C in season two of Alert: Missing Persons Unit.

You can binge the entire first season of Fox’s Alert: Missing Person's Unit on Hulu. And you can keep up with Petey on Instagram @petey_gibson.