It’s June and you know what that means – it’s pride month. And honestly, I think it’s about time that we celebrate some amazing LGBTQ+ actors who have really delivered some fantastic performances in movies in recent years, particularly in their portrayal of LGBTQ characters.
There are so many LGBTQ movie and TV characters, played by talented actors and actresses, that bring so much life to the screen, from Kristen Stewart in Happiest Season to Jim Parsons in The Normal Heart. But where exactly do we begin? Here are some of the recent LGBTQ characters in movies and TV played by members of the community.
Love, Simon - Keiynan Lonsdale As Bram Greenfeld
One of the most recent releases, Love, Simon was a story about a closeted gay boy who struggles to balance his life amongst the blackmailer that is threatening to out him at school – while also trying to identify the anonymous classmate that he has fallen in love with. The film became so popular that a Hulu spinoff, titled Love, Victor, premiered not that long after.
In Love, Simon, Keiynan Lonsdale portrays Bram Greenfeld, one of Simon’s classmates and an openly gay student, and Keiynan himself came out in 2017. The film made strides for having a gay protagonist, becoming one of the first mainstream film to showcase a gay teen romance.
Bombshell - Kate McKinnon As Jess Carr
Moving into the drama genre, we take a look at Kate McKinnon in Bombshell. You might recognize her name from her amazing performances on the classic primetime television show Saturday Night Live, or maybe even from comedy movies such as the new Ghostbusters or Office Christmas Party. But Kate McKinnon has an amazing range as an actress, and she showed that off when playing Jess Carr in Bombshell.
While her character was fictional compared to the events the film is based on, the story of Fox News employee Jess Carr was impactful, and showed what it's like being a closeted lesbian in a primarily conservative news space.
The Normal Heart - Jim Parsons As Tommy Boatwright
Since starring as Shelden Cooper on The Big Bang Theory, Jim Parsons continues to take on new and exciting roles in both film and television. Everyone knows who he is and how often he has spoken out about his sexuality. That’s why his portrayal of Tommy Boatwright in The Normal Heart felt even more compelling than any other role he has done, at least in my opinion.
The Normal Heart, based on the Larry Kramer 1985 play of the same name, depicts the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City during the early eighties, and Parsons plays a gay activist fighting to address the issue. Parsons is a talented actor, so it’s no surprise that he absolutely rocked this role. The film gives interesting insights into what happened back in the eighties and the struggles that activists had to face every single day.
Portrait Of A Lady On Fire - Adele Haenel As Heloise
Looking back at a more recent film, we examine Portrait of a Lady on Fire, where Adele Haenel portrayed Heloise, a young 19th-century lesbian who fiercely opposes the arranged marriage set up for her, but later has a romance with a woman who was commissioned to paint her wedding portrait.
Adele Haenel publicly came out back in 2014 when she won a Cesar Award and has since been very open about who she is. The film portrays what it’s like to have that effect of a romance last forever in your life and that it doesn’t matter what gender that you are – love is love, and when you meet that one person that can change you, it sticks with you until the end.
Looking - Jonathan Groff As Patrick Murray
Jonathon Groff has an impressive resume for plenty of people to admire. From voicing Kristoff in the smash-hit Frozen to portraying the king in Hamilton, he’s been around the block plenty of times, showing off his amazing acting and singing skills. But one show that you may or may not remember him from was in the HBO series Looking, where he portrayed Patrick Murray.
The series follows the story of three gay men living in San Francisco, and their lives and friendships. The series went on for two seasons, which were followed by a feature-length film in 2016. Looking may have only lasted for a short amount of time, but its impact on television is felt all the same. In an interview with the New York Times, Groff talked about the significance of the show. When asked how he'd feel if he were able to watch the show as a teenager, he said:
The whole show is very romantic. It’s about relationships. In the commercial, it’s two men kissing each other. I just never saw that except on “Will & Grace,” and that was very powerful for me to see.
Pride - Andrew Scott As Gethin
I’m sure that at some point you have seen Andrew Scott in one of his recent TV appearances. Whether that be Jim Moriarty from the show Sherlock or perhaps the Hot Priest from the Amazon hit Fleabag, Andrew Scott is an impressive actor. However, he took on another great dramatic role in Pride in 2014.
Pride tells the tale of 1984 conservative England, where several queer activists band together to help striking miners in a time of hate. Scott plays Gethin, a gay bookshop owner. Not only does the movie give a great history lesson to those who might not know what it was like back in England in the 1980s (like me), but it also shows how far a bit of bravery and kindness can go when the world is against you. Andrew Scott, alongside his other castmates, does this perfectly.
Hearts Beat Loud - Kiersey Clemons As Sam Fisher
Kiersey Clemons has had some awesome roles in the past, from her breakout role as a teen lesbian in the 2015 comedy-drama Dope to her role in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, or even her more recent role in Zack Snyder’s Justice League. However, one of her best roles from the films I have seen has to be Hearts Beat Loud, the musical comedy, where she stars as Sam Fisher.
Hearts Beat Loud is all about Sam Fisher and her father, played by Nick Offerman, who is a record store owner and tries to convince her to start a band with him after a song they recorded went viral. The story not only has some great music but captures what it’s like as a young gay teenager to try and develop a true relationship with their family when some of them don’t quite understand what you’re going through. It’s definitely one of the underrated picks on this list and deserves so much more praise.
Jennifer’s Body - Megan Fox As Jennifer
I bet you didn’t think a horror movie was going to be on this list, but look no further than Jennifer’s Body, starring Megan Fox as Jennifer. In Jennifer’s Body, the titular character, characterized as bisexual, is possessed by a demon, who goes on a rampage in school to fill its need for human flesh, whether that be boys or girls.
Megan Fox herself is bisexual, telling Esquire back in 2011 about her thoughts about her sexuality.
I think people are born bisexual and then make subconscious choices based on the pressures of society. I have no question in my mind about being bisexual.
After seeing her star in several films for her beauty and talent as an actress, it’s empowering to hear Megan Fox speak so openly about who she is, and even more interesting to rewatch her portrayal of Jennifer years later. It’s awesome to see sexuality portrayed in something like a horror movie, but I’m here for it regardless.
Happiest Season - Kristen Stewart As Abby Holland
2020 was a year of few big film releases, with so many dates changing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many viewers turned to streaming for their entertainment and Happiest Season was one of them, telling the story of a woman who is struggling to come out to her conservative family when she brings her girlfriend home for the holidays.
Kristen Stewart takes on the lead role as Abby Holland, the girlfriend of Harper, who comes home with her during the holidays. Kristen Stewart herself has come out as queer, and discussed in an interview with InStyle, how her journey of coming out helped her portray the character in the film. When asked if it was her own experiences that drew her to the role, she discussed the challenges of dating and fame during her early twenties, and being asked about her sexuality, stating:
I felt like maybe there were things that have hurt people I've been with. Not because I felt ashamed of being openly gay but because I didn't like giving myself to the public, in a way. It felt like such thievery. This was a period of time when I was sort of cagey. Even in my previous relationships, which were straight, we did everything we could to not be photographed doing things — things that would become not ours. So I think the added pressure of representing a group of people, of representing queerness, wasn't something I understood then. Only now can I see it. Retrospectively, I can tell you I have experience with this story. But back then I would have been like, "No, I'm fine. My parents are fine with it. Everything's fine." That's bullshit. It's been hard. It's been weird. It's that way for everyone.
Onward - Lena Waithe As Specter
Onward is one of those movies I often forget about just because it came out right at the beginning of the pandemic, but that doesn’t excuse it for still being an awesome film. Onward tells the story of two brothers who go on a magical quest to somehow find a way to talk to their deceased father through a magical spell. The animated movie features the character Specter (played by openly gay actress Lena Waithe) during a scene in which the brothers get pulled over.
The scene is brief compared to the rest of the movie, but important nonetheless, as it was the first openly LGBTQ animated character in a Disney Pixar film, with the character referencing her girlfriend. It may seem small but it’s still important for that representation in children’s movies and is a great step in the right direction.
Thor: Ragnarok - Tessa Thompson As Valkyrie
Okay, while not confirmed in Thor: Ragnorok, it looks like it will happen soon in Thor: Love and Thunder. But we first see Tessa Thompson's warrior Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok, and again in Avengers: Endgame, where, in the end, she is made King of Asgard. Tessa Thompson, who is openly queer, has confirmed this on the 2019 Marvel Comic-Con panel.
As new king, she needs to find her queen. That will be her first order of business. She has some ideas. Keep you posted.
It’s not like the character, who is canonically bisexual in the Marvel comics, is receiving any pushback from the producers or director of the Thor films either. In an interview with Taika Waititi, the director of the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder, at Variety, the director said he’s not opposed to having the character lean that way.
I think so. The IP is not mine. But with the actors, I feel whatever makes them comfortable – whether they feel like there’s a natural choice, or a natural way for that character to go – then I’m pretty supportive. If Tessa wanted to do that, I’m in.
With how popular Marvel has gotten, it would be awesome to see some true representation amongst superheroes in the media. And with how things are looking, I think Valkyrie might be the answer for that.
Schitt's Creek - Dan Levy As David Rose
I feel like everyone has heard about this show one way or another in the last few years. Schitt's Creek ended up becoming extremely popular in 2020, even going on to sweep the comedic awards at the 2020 Primetime Emmy's for its final season. One of the stars of the show - as well as one of the creators - was Dan Levy, who played David Rose, the pansexual son of Moira and Johnny. And in my opinion, David Rose was one of the funniest characters that Schitt's Creek had, and I am going to miss him terribly now that the show is over.
Dan Levy, who is gay, recently did an interview with Entertainment Weekly about David's pansexuality, and how its impact affected Schitt's Creek as a whole.
When you break down a character, certain things just appear. And there’s something exciting about exploring things that haven’t necessarily been represented on television before. But I knew we never wanted it to be a “teachable moment.” We made a conscious choice that his sexuality would never be in danger—that the town was going to be completely accepting of everybody. I wanted to show a projection of our own world that was kinder, show how much people can grow and the capacity with which people can love when they are not fearing for their lives. We never really tackle politics on the show, but in a way, that was the political stand I took.
All representation starts somewhere, and I believe that David Rose was the perfect step in the right direction. Besides, who else would have been able to pull off that character other than Dan Levy? And if you had another option, I'm very uninterested in that opinion.