×

Matter-of-Fact Approach Graces GLAAD Awards

Shows embrace gay characters without the drum roll

The late activist Vito Russo comes home to the GLAAD Media Awards this year in Gotham.

Not only are exec producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, last year’s recipients of the Vito Russo Award, returning to the gala with their nom for the NBC series “Smash” but Jeffrey Schwarz’s HBO doc “Vito” is nommed in the category.

“Russo was one of the founding members of GLAAD,” Schwarz says. “That organization came out of his work, and it preceded ACT-UP. GLAAD was a response to the fear-mongering and misinformation that the right-wing media was spewing about AIDS, especially on the front page of the New York Post.”

Schwarz goes on to say he’s gotten “wonderful responses from younger people who’ve seen the film. They’re almost angry that they didn’t know about Vito.”

Younger auds have also been particularly responsive to another GLAAD-nommed doc, Sundance Select’s “How to Survive a Plague,” about the medical response to the AIDS epidemic, which took Russo’s life in 1990.

“What I found with ‘Plague’ when it went out in January at Sundance was that anybody under the age of 35 is shocked to learn how disenfranchised gay people were,” says producer-director David France, who is adapting the doc for an ABC scripted miniseries. “Across the board, they identify with the characters in the film, and they see in their youthful self reliance images of inspiration. In an earlier day, people would have just seen them as gay people.”

Meron and Zadan see a similar reaction to the fictional gay characters in “Smash.”

“The gay presence is so matter of fact, it is never underlined,” Meron says.

“As opposed to a drum roll: now the gay character!” says Zadan.

“And no one complains. That’s the breakthrough,” adds Meron.

TeenNick’s “Degrassi” series has garnered a few complaints for its many LGBT characters over the years.

“The Florida Family Assn. did quite a campaign to our broadcaster to get advertisers to pull ads from our show,” says creator-exec producer Linda Schuyler. “They felt that we were encouraging people to become gay. Fortunately, their campaign didn’t have any traction with our broadcaster.”

Schuyler’s new series “The L.A. Complex” on CW is also GLAAD-nommed in the drama series category. The show’s creator-exec producer Martin Gero put the gay-rapper character Kaldrick (Andra Fuller) into the show’s first season, before the Frank Ocean story broke. Casting, however, wasn’t easy. “Thirty percent of the guys coming in just did not show, which is crazy for a series lead,” he says. “But we knew, this story: It felt new.”

Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), the gay African-American character in HBO’s “True Blood,” stirs great pride in creator-exec producer Alan Ball. “ Lafayette dies in the book, but I really responded to him, and beefed him up in the show,” Ball says.

“I really like that he’s African-American and gay in Louisiana, and he’s unapologetic about the way he dresses and what he wants, and if anybody gives him grief he fucks them up.”

GLAAD prexy Herndon Graddick has praised the networks for their inclusive of gay and lesbian characters, but feels transgender people continue to be underrepresented on TV. That’s not the case on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” also GLAAD-nommed.

“We’ve been doing those stories for a while,” says creator-exec producer Shonda Rhimes. “We just did a story about a young couple who met in a transgender support group, and he was having one of his first surgeries.”

The show’s characters Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) got married a couple of seasons back. Will they tie the knot again now that it’s suddenly legal in Seattle?

“We’ve talked about it a lot,” Rhimes says. “Their marriage not being legal was a big deal in the show, so if we had them marry again it would have to feel special and different and new.”

In addition to “Vito” and “How to Survive a Plague,” other GLAAD-nommed docs are First Run’s “Chely Wright,” TodPix’s “Codebreaker” and Variance’s “Hit So Hard.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Gerard Butler Angel Has Fallen

    Film Review: 'Angel Has Fallen'

    “Angel Has Fallen” marks the third time that Gerard Butler, as the Secret Service agent and scowling samurai cowboy Mike Banning, has had to rescue the President of the United States from an international conspiracy so cuckoo bananas that the movie barely expects you to believe it. (Actually, in the six years since this series [...]

  • Jessica

    Ninja Thyberg's Female POV Porn Industry Portrait Seduces Buyers (EXCLUSIVE)

    HAUGESUND, Norway  —  Paris-based Versatile has announced a raft of pre-sales on Ninja Thyberg’s debut feature “Jessica,” set in the adult entertianment industry in L.A. World distributors that have pre-bought the Swedish drama take in Weltkino for Germany/Austria, Xenix for Switzerland, MK2/Mile End for Canada, KTH for South Korea and Movie Could for Taïwan. Several [...]

  • Sony Pictures: 'We Are Disappointed' by

    Sony 'Disappointed' by Disney's Divorce on 'Spider-Man' Projects

    Sony Pictures has gone public over its divorce with Disney on future “Spider-Man” projects. In a rare public rebuke to Disney, Sony announced Tuesday night that it was “disappointed” over the decision, highlighting Disney’s refusal to allow Marvel President Kevin Feige to continue as a producer on the projects. It also praised Feige, who teamed [...]

  • Good Boys Movie

    ‘Good Boys’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Universal Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Good Boys.” Ads placed for the comedy had an estimated media value of $4.42 million through Sunday for [...]

  • Demi Lovato

    Demi Lovato Joins Netflix Comedy 'Eurovision'

    Demi Lovato has joined the upcoming Netflix comedy film “Eurovision.” Will Ferrell, who co-wrote the film with Andrew Steele, announced the news Tuesday with an Instagram post, in which he wished Lovato a happy birthday with a “homemade” cake. Following the announcement, Lovato can be seen blowing out candles on the cake next to a “Eurovision” [...]

  • Rob Schneider'The Week Of' film premiere,

    Film News Roundup: Rob Schneider Wins SAG-AFTRA National Board Seat

    In today’s film news roundup, Rob Schneider wins a SAG-AFTRA board seat; “Badland,” “Sorry We Missed You” and “Extracurricular” find homes; and “The Shawshank Redemption” gets a re-release.  SAG-AFTRA Rob Schneider has won a SAG-AFTRA national board seat as a member of presidential candidate Matthew Modine’s progressive Membership First slate. Schneider won a four-year term [...]

  • This photo shows actor David Oyelowo

    David Oyelowo Joins George Clooney in 'Good Morning, Midnight' Adaptation (EXCLUSIVE)

    David Oyelowo is in final negotiations to join George Clooney in Netflix’s untitled adaptation of Lily Brooks-Dalton’s 2016 novel “Good Morning, Midnight,” sources tell Variety. Felicity Jones and Kyle Chandler are also on board, with Clooney set to helm the pic — his first feature film directing gig since 2017’s “Suburbicon.” “The Revenant” screenwriter Mark [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content