Pride 2020: celebrating LGBTQ+ onscreen talent

The TV editors discuss their favourite LGBTQ+ actors and actresses in celebration of Pride month

Sophie Hicks
16th June 2020
In the spirit of Pride 2020, here are the TV editors’ choices of favourite LGBTQ+ actors. Let's celebrate some talent!

Ellen Paige

Ellen Paige has always been one of those actresses that I really admire. I think the first film I saw her in was probably one of the X-Men films technically, but she's always been one of those actresses I look forward to seeing since I saw Juno. That film is incredible, and I quote it probably more times than I should. But IT HAS FINGERNAILS! So yeah, fair to say I love Ellen Paige, and I love that Juno is played by a gay actress pretending to have a child with Michael Cera- the context just makes the film even more spectacular.

Credit: IMDb

We can't help but love a self-proclaimed pro-choice feminist lesbian

However, she's also a really strong performer on TV shows, such as The Umbrella Academy which will soon have its second season. Whilst she's normally a film actress, The Umbrella Academy clearly showed that Ellen Paige can pretty much play any role she wants, and be one of the highlights on the screen. I'm yet to watch Tales of the City, the Netflix Original series also starring Ellen Paige, but I'm sure she'll be wonderful in it. We can't help but love a self-proclaimed pro-choice feminist lesbian.

Ben Platt

It's fair to say that Ben Platt has had a pretty expansive career, spanning from Broadway shows such as The Book of Mormon to Dear Evan Hansen, of course, to Netflix specials and series. He's also been an actor for films, such as his iconic role Benji in Pitch Perfect (only Pitch Perfect 1 and 2 though, I assume he was too busy by the time the third disaster came out) and I loved him long before I truly realised how much impact Ben Platt has had on me. I always thought Benji had one of the best voices in Pitch Perfect, and now I will consume any Ben Platt media I can get my hands on.

Credit: Imdb, Getty Images

It's interesting that Ben Platt only came out publically last year, with the release of his album, Sing to Me Instead. He also only recently confirmed he was dating Noah Galvin, the Evan Hansen after Platt's (and now the second confirmed gay couple made up of previous Broadway Evan Hansens, I'm here for it!) However, he was already seen as a gay icon before he actually came out as publically gay, with people aligning his roles to social outcasts who struggle to fit in and embrace themselves. His role in the Netflix Original, The Politician, is no different. Peyton is a gay character who struggles to find his place in school as he tries to follow his dreams of becoming a political figure. I am extremely excited about the upcoming series, and I can't wait to see if Ben Platt continues his career with TV acting. Or the rumoured Dear Evan Hansen movie, that would be pretty great too.

Stephanie Beatriz

Stephanie Beatriz is an iconic bisexual icon, that's all I really need to say. Her role in Brooklyn Nine-Nine as Rosa Diaz is seen as one of the best bisexual representations on TV. Although Rosa is comfortable with her sexuality, her family struggle to fully accept her and understand her, which I feel is pretty important in terms of representation, because this is the case for many bisexual people. The dealings with Rosa's sexuality never felt forced, it felt like a natural progression for her character. The show has never exploited her sexuality, it's just a part of her, rather than for a new plot point.

Credit: IMDb

As Stephanie Beatriz says herself, "I'm bi 'til the day I die."

Beatriz has also been in some shows I really love, such as Bojack Horseman and Bob's Burgers. Her voice is recognisable to any Brooklyn Nine-Nine fan, and it always makes me smile. And how can anyone forget the icon that is General Sweet Mayhem in the Lego Movie 2? What a legend. As Stephanie Beatriz says herself, "I'm bi 'til the day I die." and is such an important actress, in terms of both representation and talent.

Sophie Hicks

Indya Moore

@Indyamoore on Instagram

Indya Moore is going to be a talent to watch. They are best known Angel Evangelista in the hit FX show Pose, a highly influential and important series about ballroom culture and the LGBTQ+ community. Indya is transgender and non-binary, and has been very vocal in discussing issues surrounding the LGBTQ+ community. Time Magazine even named them one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Their activism is incredible to see. I was captivated by Indya when I first watched Pose. Their performance as Angel left me speechless. If you still haven't watched this show, do it! It is finally starting to receive the hype it deserves, but it always needs more love. Indya has been an inspiring figure to myself and so many others. Aside from Pose, Indya has also done modelling. They are also set to appear in an upcoming horror TV show, Magic Hour, a gender-bending adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Indya Moore is no doubt one of the best actors working in the industry right now. Keep an eye on them!

Keiynan Lonsdale

@keiynanlonsdale on Instagram

Australian actor, singer and dancer Keiynan Lonsdale is best known for his role in CW series The Flash and for co-starring in LGBTQ+ rom-com Love, Simon (2018). I first encountered him in the aforementioned movie, which is a lovely watch for Pride month. His portrayal of Bram is exactly how I imagined it when I read the book that the movie was based on (Simon vs. the Homosapien's Agenda by Becky Albertalli). Lonsdale has said in interviews that his role as Bram helped him come to terms with his own sexuality. Since then, he has been a passionate activist for the queer community. He frequently rejects gender norms and dresses however he wants. It is so inspiring to see, and hopefully indicative of a growing shift in the physical expectations of gender. Acting aside, his music is also incredible. There isn't really much he can't do. I can't wait to see what he does next. He is set to make a guest appearance in the Love, Simon TV spin off Love, Victor, which comes out next week. So if you haven't watched the film yet, get on it! Love, Victor is expected to be just as wholesome.

Hunter Schafer

@hunterschafer on Instagram

Hunter Schafer made their acting debut as Jules on the HBO series Euphoria, a drama about the struggles of teenagers. Like herself, Jules is transgender. Schafer collaborated with the Euphoria creator Sam Levinson in order to assure that Jules reflected their own experience. Schafer's portrayal of Jules is incredible. She works alongside Zendaya and their chemistry is amazing. It is a heavy show, but absolutely worth watching if you're interested in that genre. Outside of Euphoria, Schafer is a model and an avid LGBTQ+ activist. In an interview with Dazed, she explained that she is "closer to what people would call a lesbian." She has been consistently open about their identity, and uses their platform to raise awareness. Schafer's role on Euphoria is essential representation for the LGBTQ+ community. The whole show is diverse and shows queer characters functioning in American society, without falling into the trap of just being about sexuality. She is definitely another talent to watch. I need a new season of Euphoria like... right now.

Amy Brown

Laverne Cox

Credit: Getty Images, IMDb

Transgender actress Laverne Cox broke onto the acting scene with her portrayal as Sophia Burset in Netflix’s Orange is the New Black. Although being credited as a guest role in the first season, Cox’s performance did not go unnoticed and broke gender barriers, becoming the first openly transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy Award for acting in 2014. Portraying an inmate who runs the hair salon at Lichfield penitentiary, the series represents Sophia’s experience as a trans woman within the prison. This was particularly explored in season three when Sophia is targeted by transphobic inmates, only for her to be denied her hormones when she is sent to solitary confinement.

Through her activism, Cox has been noted for the impact she has made for the transgender community in the media. She has particularly focused on the experience of transgender women as well as race and gender equality. Since her breakout role as Sophia, Cox has delved into other projects such as portraying a transgender attorney in the series Doubt and executively producing Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word. For the latter, Cox became the first openly transgender person to win a Daytime Emmy Award as an executive producer.  

Jim Parsons

Credit: CBS, IMDb

Best known as the egotistical theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory, Jim Parsons solidified himself as one of television’s most talented actors in his four-time Emmy Award winning role. Beginning (and ending) the series as a socially inept nerd whose only goal is to win a Nobel Prize, Sheldon gradually changes across the series when he connects with neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik). Although the series revolves around the gang, it was Parsons’ portrayal of Sheldon which acted as the backbone of the series, with the majority of the humour centred around him and his inability to recognise basic social cues. Where Sheldon initially displayed characteristics of asexuality, Parsons is openly gay, having come out to the public in 2012.

However, Parsons’ talent goes beyond his lovable portrayal of Sheldon, as proven in recent Netflix drama Hollywood. Centred around the Hollywood Golden Age and the exploitation of young people attempting to break the film industry, Parsons appeared to embody a 1940s version of Harvey Weinstein as talent agent Henry Willson. For fans of Parsons’ comedic side, his performance as Willson was harrowing to watch as he takes advantage of young actors who would do anything to catch a break in Hollywood. His performance is sure to be a frontrunner during awards season.

Sarah Paulson

Credit: IMDb

Although she made her television debut in 1994, Sarah Paulson is best known for her dual roles in anthology series American Horror Story and American Crime Story. Now considered the face of AHS, Paulson has portrayed a diverse range of characters which has showcased her talent, from a reporter wrongly admitted to a mental asylum and an undead drug addict to a reigning witch leading a coven against the apocalypse. For her work in the series, Paulson has been met with consistent praise, receiving five Emmy Award nominations since 2012. Having portrayed lesbian characters in two seasons of AHS, Paulson is an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. She came out as bisexual to the public in 2005 and has been in a relationship with her partner actress Holland Taylor since 2015.

It was in 2016 that Paulson was finally awarded for her portrayal of prosecutor Marcia Clark in ACS: The People v. O.J. Simpson. The series documented Clark’s growing unease with the O.J. Simpson case whilst tackling the challenges of being a single mother, soon becoming a target for the media to scrutinise. Paulson swept up all major awards for her performance, including a long overdue Golden Globe and Emmy Award for Best Actress. Paulson will next be seen as Linda Tripp in American Crime Story: Impeachment, following the scandal between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, which she is sure to pick up even further critical acclaim.   

Kate Dunkerton

 Featured image credits- Pride flag: Wallpaperflare. Indya Moore, Ben Platt and Sarah Paulson: IMDb. Keiynan Lonsdale: @keiynanlonsdale on Instagram.

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AUTHOR: Sophie Hicks
Former TV Sub-Editor for The Courier and BA Media Communication and Cultural Studies graduate

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