LGBTQ characters are well represented in TV shows such as 'Handmaid's Tale' and 'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina', but is it enough?
The representation of LGBTQIA+ characters in mainstream TV shows has improved in recent times, but actors from the community feel there is still a long way to go
Susie Putnam, now Theo in 'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina', Jinn and Salim and Sam Black Crow in 'American Gods', Moira and Emily in 'The Handmaid's Tale', Ulysses in 'Now Apocalypse', Eric Effiong in 'Sex Education', Cheryl and Toni in 'Riverdale.'
These are just a few LGBTQIA+ characters that have captured the interest of audiences in recent times.
These characters have broken boundaries not just in terms of representation, but also the depth with which each character is portrayed. While the going has gotten strong for such characters there is still debate about casting. Should actors who are LGBTQIA+ be the only ones to play these roles? How can the industry further improve on the representation of characters and roles that can inspire and educate the audiences at large about the diverse community?
We spoke to actors who played memorable roles about what they expect in the future and their opinion about characters that are currently popular among audiences.
For instance, Lachlan Watson's character of Susie Putnam, now Theo, is a great example of a complex character arc being explored by an actor who identifies as non-binary. Watson's character started off as a girl who fights feeling uncomfortable in her own skin but gradually builds confidence with the help of her friends throughout the first season to come out as being comfortable identifying self as a man.
They portrayed this transition effectively enough for audiences to understand why Theo's decision to try out for the basketball team is important, or why it was important for Theo to explain how he really felt to his father. Of course, the writers deserve credit for writing scene such as the one in which Theo asks his father, "Can you take me out for a haircut?" It is touching, without being overly dramatic.
Speaking about Lachlan's role in 'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina', 'Santa Clarita Diet' star Liv Hewson, who also identifies as non-binary, expressed happiness for the role that Lachlan plays in the series. They said, "I think they do an amazing job and I would love to see more characters like that in the future. Most of the characters I have played are women. I think a lot of that has to do with me only just recently being more expressive about my gender identity publicly and on a professional setting. I have only started talking about it quite openly with people who aren't just my friends this year. We'll see what the future holds now that I am being more open. Also, it depends on those characters existing in the first place. The character needs to be written... Those characters need to exist in order for actors to audition to play them. So much of the snowballing effect will happen once we open the doors for more gender-nonconforming and trans characters in storytelling."
Devery Jacobs who plays the two-spirited Cherokee Sam Black Crow in Starz show 'American Gods season 2' spoke about where LGBTQIA+ representation stands right now and said that there are positive steps forward, but there is still more work to be done. She said, "Pasting BIPOC or LGBTQIA+ faces in front of the screen does not mean it’s a diverse story; until there are equal parts in front and behind the screen can we truly claim we are properly representing communities."
Devery also feels strongly about actors who claim to belong to LGBTQIA+ community to further their own agenda and said, "When it comes to casting Indigenous characters, a good guideline to follow is that the actor has to claim a specific tribe or nation, but the community has to claim them back. Similarly to LGBTQIA+ casting, many people claim to be queer to further their own careers without actually belonging to the community. Casting accurately needs to come from a place of wanting to tell a story truthfully as opposed to just appeasing LGBTQ+ or Native Twitter."
The 'American Gods' actor who revealed her favorite LGBTQIA+ actors are Lena Waithe, Ellen Page, Tessa Thompson, and Amandla Stenberg also added, "Since the beginning of film and television, there has only been a misrepresentation for every community. LGBTQIA+ people and BIPOC were never given the platform to share their voices and so white, cishet actors played their idea of what that experience looked like. I believe that now is the time to tell our truths, our stories, and experiences by casting accordingly, and by hiring diverse creatives — in front of, and behind the camera."
'Supergirl' trans-actor Nicole Maine plays television's first transgender superhero Dreamer in the fourth season of the show. When asked about what she feels about LGBTQIA+ representation on television today, the actor said it was on a really great track especially with shows such as 'Pose' and movies such as 'Simon'.
"We do see positive changes and I feel that we are moving in the right direction. I think that more stories about trans-women where show revolves around these people, not their 'transness' but character arcs should be written." She also added that her role in 'Supergirl' is refreshing since the character arc is beyond genders and wanted to see more roles about trans-men.
She also said, "Writers and showrunners need to take the initiative in showcasing diversity. That includes having more trans-writers, trans-directors. Having more people involved in every part of the process," and added, "If there are a lack of opportunities for LGBTQIA+ actors, if a trans actor was to go up against cisgender actors who are high profile than the roles would go to cisgender actors as there are not many high profile trans actors who can compete with that."