Greg Berlanti has produced a host of superhero TV shows for the CW, many of which feature LGBTQ characters. But he says it’s time for audiences to see an LGBTQ superhero on the big screen.
“I grew up a huge James Bond fan and I really think it’d be nice to have a LGBTQ character in one of the mainstream superhero movies or action films, that happens to be LGBT,” Berlanti said on Thursday during a panel at UTA for GLAAD’s Where We Are On TV report.
Joining Berlanti on the panel — moderated by Variety‘s Marc Malkin — were”Pose” co-creator Steven Canals, UTA TV agent Lucinda Moorhead, actress Lyrica Okano (“Marvel’s Runaways”), and GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.
Berlanti also said that as a gay parent (he and his husband Robbie Rogers have a son, Caleb, 2), he’s realized there’s a lack of LGBTQ representation in children’s books.
“Reading bedtime stories, every night when we sit down, everyone is a mom and a dad,” he said. One of the exceptions, Berlanti said, is “Prince & the Knight.”
Canals said he wants to see biopics honoring the work of real-life heroes who paved the way for LGBTQ rights, such as Sylvia Rivera, an transgender activist who fought for homeless drag queens and trans women of color, and Bayard Rustin, a gay rights activist and leader in the Civil Rights Movement.
“It’s really know important to know your his or her story, to know where you’ve been, so you know where you’re going,” Canals said. “Folks like Sylvia Rivera, or Bayard Rustin. Those are people who I think are so important to the LGBTQ movement and for whatever reason, their stories haven’t been told.”
Berlanti said throughout his career, he’s noticed an improvement in the willingness by executives and allies to include LGBTQ scenes. Nearly 20 years ago, his team on “Dawson’s Creek” had to fight to show what ended up being the first-ever gay male kiss on primetime TV. They made their case to executives by showing them clips of “staking people in the heart” and other violent content that the network featured to highlight that the gay kiss was far tamer in comparison. When he went to work on “Brothers & Sisters,” which ran from 2006 to 2011, he didn’t even have to talk the higher-ups into depicting a same-sex kiss.
Even with these strides, the panelists said there is still a lot of work to do in LGBTQ representation. Before collaborating with Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk on “Pose,” which has garnered critical acclaim for including the largest cast of transgender actors for a narrative TV series, Canals said many others turned down the idea.
“There were two years of my bouncing in and out of offices, being told, ‘This show is too urban, too black, it’s too queer, too trans. It was just too much,'” Canals.
He said it’s important, not just for creators to champion representation, but for agents and executives to keep pushing diverse content. If there can be “10 shows about doctors,” there can be more than one about LGBTQ people, Canals said.
And while he acknowledged that film and TV can make people more open-minded toward LGBTQ communities, Canals hopes viewers can then translate their newfound perspective into action. He said it was especially urgent given the Trump administration’s threat to no longer recognize the existence of transgender individuals.
“Watching a show like ‘Pose’ or watching ‘Supergirl’ or whatever and saying, ‘Oh now I know someone who’s bi or trans,’ It’s like great, I’ll give you a cookie for that but that’s not enough,” Canals said. “How are you showing up, and how are you being a vocal advocate for these communities, for marginalized voices? That’s important.”