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What is Pride? Stars behind major LGBTQ+ characters talk representation

The stars behind recent LGBTQ+ TV characters talk about Pride and representation.

Ben Aldridge, Sasha Lane, Ash Palmisciano
Getty Images
Published: Friday, 24th June 2022 at 9:00 am
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Just what does Pride mean in 2022?


The annual month of focus on LGBTQ+ culture can be seen as everything from a celebration to a protest and a rallying cry.

A key component in Pride has - and likely always will be - the medium of television. In fact, the small screen has had its fair share of ups and downs when it comes to portraying LGBTQ+ stories.

For Pride 2022, spoke to some of the stars and creatives behind recent major LGBTQ+ characters on our screens about the importance of Pride and also which examples of representation have been major inspirations to them in their careers and personal lives.

Sasha Lane (Conversations with Friends)

Sasha Lane
Sasha Lane attends a special screening for Conversations with Friends in May 2022 in West Hollywood, California. Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic

Sasha Lane recently portrayed Bobbi in the BBC/Hulu series Conversations with Friends and also has appeared in films such as American Honey and The Miseducation of Cameron Post.

What portrayals of LGBTQ+ individuals and issues have really had an impact on you?

I think for me The L Word was the first LGBTQ show that I had watched. I was a pre-teen at the time and came across it. It was a group of smart, independent, sexy women who were lesbian and bisexual, but went through exactly what any heterosexual people would – heartbreak, major life decisions, jealousy and confusion. The mess of chaos and beauty of life - I appreciated it. And also of course had a major crush on Katherine Moennig and Sarah Shahi.

What does LGBTQ+ Pride mean to you?

Pride to me means honour to one’s self and the journey they and those before them took to achieve something, someone, anything really. It’s an internal and sometimes outward territorial expression of who you are.

Jesse James Keitel (Queer as Folk, 2022)

Jesse James Keitel
Jesse James Keitel attends the Peacock Queer as Folk premiere screening during NewFest Pride 2022 in New York. Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Jesse James Keitel can be seen as Ruthie in the 2022 reimagining of Queer as Folk and also has had roles in Big Sky and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

What portrayals of LGBTQ+ individuals and issues have really had an impact on you?

Individually, Laverne Cox’s career has been tremendously thrilling. Her work and advocacy are such an open love letter to the community and she has been a beacon of inspiration for me. For projects, I think VENENO set the bar for what trans storytelling could be. The beauty in the pain in that story is breathtaking. And it was told from such an empathetic point of view.

How do you think LGBTQ+ representation could be improved on-screen?

We need to see more LGBTQ+ creators behind the camera if we want to see real triumphant strides made in front of the camera. What makes our reimagining of Queer As Folk so impactful is that it is made by the communities it is representing.

What does LGBTQ+ Pride mean to you?

I used to view Pride as, “Where do I fit in? Who am I in the community?” But now I think of Pride as where do WE fit in? Where do we, as LGBTQ+ people, fit into the culture? It’s about championing each other because we are all under attack.

Ben Aldridge (The Long Call)

Ben Aldridge
Ben Aldridge at The Virgin Atlantic Attitude Awards in London in October 2021. David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

Ben Aldridge recently portrayed DI Matthew Venn in ITV crime drama The Long Call and has also appeared in Pennyworth and Fleabag.

What portrayals of LGBTQ+ individuals and issues have really had an impact on you?

HBO’s Looking had a real impact on me. I watched it when I was abroad on a very long TV job. I was the only gay person in that environment and I hadn’t realised how much I needed the company of those characters. I think it’s the first time I had watched anything about queer dating and friendship that I truly understood and related to. Seeing what you know is a pivotal experience, it strengthens and emboldens. When it was over I really missed them. I still do.

How do you think LGBTQ+ representation could be improved on-screen?

I think it’s the best it’s ever been, there’s no doubt. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t be better, more diverse, explore intersections, be more specific. I want to see more joy. I want to see more projects that have the courage to tell it like it really is, not cater to or be aware of their potential straight audience.

What does LGBTQ+ Pride mean to you?

LGBTQ+ Pride is vital. It helps us to heal shame, allows us to celebrate our existence and reminds us that the work is not done. Until it is truly globally safe for every member of this community to live freely and equally, Pride will and should always be political.

Jack Rooke (Big Boys)

Jack Rooke
Jack Rooke in March 2022 in London. David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for dunhill

Jack Rooke is the creator, writer and narrator of the semi-autobiographical Channel 4 comedy Big Boys.

What portrayals of LGBTQ+ individuals and issues have really had an impact on you?

As a kid, I’m pretty sure Ian in Shameless made me gay (laughs). I loved that show so much. It’s still a favourite with really brilliant performances in every series. I also really remember Ianto Jones in Torchwood (*swoons*) as being a really touchingly written same-sex attraction between him and Jack Harkness. In more recent years, I adore Broad City. It’s my favourite comedy ever. I think that Broad City really subtly and hilariously portrayed two queer characters in Ilana and Abbi that realise their sexuality in very simple, fluid and honest ways, especially in the latter seasons.

How do you think LGBTQ+ representation could be improved on-screen?

Getting rid of the gatekeeper commissioners, tee-hee-hee! BBC Comedy has been taken over by Jon Petrie and he’s already commissioned so many more queer creatives in the 10 minutes he’s been there. I am so excited for Mawaan Rizwan’s series Juice next year – it’s the best pilot I’ve seen in ages and explores LGBTQ+ identity in such a fresh and artfully hilarious way. I also think it’s important we accept that we’re in a period of self-discovery for a lot of people. Everything is changing and shifting and we have to be respectful of people’s right to change and be whoever they want to be. We’ve just seen that with the Rebel Wilson stuff, like let’s let her be whoever she wants, with whatever label she wants. It’s all up for change and it’s all up for grabs, let’s just accept the privacy and fluidity of it all and see how great stories can be told on screen without the need for concrete labelling.

What does LGBTQ+ Pride mean to you?

It means paying respect to queer history and it means educating everyone, even ourselves. It’s about learning about the stories Russell T Davies has written so beautifully in It's A Sin, as well as Section 28 and the history of queer prejudice in this country. By learning, we can prevent the same mistakes from happening and we can pay homage to older queer generations that fought for the freedom many of us experience today, despite there still being some work to do!

Michael Cimino and George Sear (Love, Victor)

Michael Cimino and George Sear portray lovers Victor Salazar and Benji Campbell, respectively, in the Hulu/Disney series Love, Victor.

What portrayals of LGBTQ+ individuals and issues have really had an impact on you?

Michael Cimino: "I mean, well, Love, Simon, dude. That was the one that really did it for me. I was super poor at the time... in the US, or at least in Cali, in Vegas, where it's $5 movie nights on Tuesday. So I had $5. I was like, 'Let's go and see this movie'. So we went and saw Love, Simon. And coincidentally, right down the street from the Fox lot, which is where we filmed in season 2, season 3. And I just remember walking in that movie theatre and being like, 'Man, I can't wait to be in a project like that.' And that was before I booked anything."

George Sear: "Yeah, I'd second Love, Simon definitely. I remember being like, we'd filmed season 1, and then I was like, 'Oh, I'm gonna watch'. I'd read the book. I was reading the book while we were filming, but I kind of was superstitious about seeing the film while we were doing it. And then I watched it and I was like, ‘Wow, this is a beautiful film.' It's an amazing story. Our hope is our show can, like, live up to this, you know?

“But I also think Years and Years in the UK... Yeah, and Russell Tovey's character. And then my friend Maxim [Baldry] was playing Viktor. Actually, it was his character's name! I remember that. Like, that story being really just so riveting and the performances from both of them were amazing."

CG (Queer as Folk, 2022)

CG attends the Peacock Queer as Folk premiere screening during NewFest Pride 2022 in New York City. Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

CG currently portrays Shar in the 2022 re-imagining of Queer as Folk.

What portrayals of LGBTQ+ individuals and issues have really had an impact on you?

There was not a whole bunch of media as a child or the kid, person, teen that I had immediate intake to besides, like, Rent that I had seen. And obviously, that was/is in a groundbreaking time in history. But honestly, being from New Orleans, and walking down Bourbon Street at night, [aged] 17, 18, 19, and just seeing all the different kinds of people that are on that street and not even just on this street, but on the outskirts of the street and just in the mix of New Orleans and in the mix of my family – like, I have a very queer family in my bloodline. There's just sometimes more of us than there are straight, narrow, whatevers of us. And so the combination of New Orleans and the fam that is around me, that's also figuring out their own selves since we were small – that has been the most impactful.

Ash Palmisciano (Emmerdale)

Ash Palmisciano
Ash Palmisciano attends the National Diversity Awards in Liverpool in February 2022. Shirlaine Forrest/Getty Images

Ash Palmisciano portrays Matty Barton in the long-running ITV soap opera Emmerdale.

What portrayals of LGBTQ+ individuals and issues have really had an impact on you?

When I was much younger, there wasn’t any trans representation on television at all. If there was, it was often negative and scare-mongering. Because of that, it was difficult to understand what a trans person was like or identify that within me. Until one evening my mum suggested we watched a documentary on Channel 4. The premise – young trans people living in a house and seeing their lives. It was called My Transsexual Summer and although the title is now problematic and the show didn’t always get it right, just seeing people able to transition and become more comfortable in their bodies was extremely impactful and different from the scary stuff I was used to seeing. Seeing that you can just happen to be trans and still create a beautiful and successful life really was life-changing for me.

How do you think LGBTQ+ representation could be improved on-screen?

We need the representation on-screen to tell authentic stories but not just that, we need to see the human story, not just the label. That way, people will relate and empathise with the characters, just like Russell T Davies did with It’s A Sin. Make the character relatable to people in many other ways, not just by their gender identity or sexuality. Make them human and colourful and have main characters that just so happen to be LGBTQ. I think what needs to happen next is to see more LGBTQ actors on-screen being cast for any role they can play, seeing talents and not just labels or tick boxes. The real game-changer is going to be having more LGBTQ writers or producers in the industry, who will be able to write the stories that need to be told.

What does LGBTQ+ Pride mean to you?

Pride to me has always been an amazing day to feel proud of who I am, rather than feeling different or lesser than others. It’s a chance to celebrate and feel a part of an accepting space. It’s the one day of the year the LGBTQ+ community can celebrate just how far we have come and also remind ourselves of how much work still needs to be done. Although Pride is always an incredible celebration full of fun and love, it did originally start as a protest and many Prides are still just that. Taking Trans Pride in Brighton, for example, it's a chance for the community to come together and educate others on the injustices trans people sadly still face today. It’s also a huge chance for trans people to feel safe and find a sense of belonging.

Connor Jessup (American Crime, Locke & Key)

Connor Jessup
Connor Jessup in February 2020, in New York. Manny Carabel/Getty Images

Connor Jessup stars in the hit Netflix series Locke & Key and previously had LGBTQ+ roles in the series American Crime and the film Closet Monster.

What portrayals of LGBTQ+ individuals and issues have really had an impact on you?

Garth Greenwell’s novel Cleanness had a really big effect on me. He writes so clearly about the beauty and perversity of gay desire, how it’s both different than straight desire and the same. It forced me to recognise my own prudishness.

How do you think LGBTQ+ representation could be improved on-screen?

Honestly, I’m feeling pretty hopeful about the queer art I’m seeing. The most exciting thing is just that it’s becoming so varied. I can't wait to see more aro-ace stories, more trans and non-binary stories, more queer BIPOC stories, and more sex-positive stories. I hope people keep pushing out in every direction. I hope we always find ways to be transgressive.

What does LGBTQ+ Pride mean to you?

To steal a line from a friend: queer means anything is possible. For me, Pride is just trying to believe that. It’s questioning my assumptions and limitations; it’s looking beyond the smallness of my life for a sense of history, pattern, and possibility.

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