Actors play a crucial role in the fight for LGBTQ+ representation. They entertain, yes, but in helping to share rich narratives in the worlds of TV and film, they also change hearts and minds.
And there was an embarrassment of riches in LGBTQ-inclusive productions this year, from the queer pirate crew of Our Flag Means Death, to the coming-of-age high schoolers in Heartstopper, to the stranded team in Yellowjackets. Out also applauds the groundbreaking productions of Fire Island and Bros; many of these leads were profiled in recent years of the Out100, otherwise, they would most certainly be on the new list.
See the actors of the 2022 Out100 below.
This year was Barbie Ferreira's last on the wildly successful and acclaimed drama Euphoria. Since the show launched in 2019, the actor and body positive model has been a part of the main cast, playing Kat Hernandez, a self proclaimed “fat girl who doesn't give a fuck.” After appearing in Jordan Peele's Nope, one of the most talked about movies of the year, she's moving on to a bigger and brighter future in entertainment. One upcoming project? Joining Ariana DeBose in an upcoming Blumhouse and Amazon Prime thriller, House of Spoils.
But at just 25, Ferreira is still figuring out what she wants to do next. “My purpose in life is to figure out my purpose in life," she says. "Being flexible, spreading good instead of negativity, and finding myself through age and wisdom. It's been rewarding to explore aspects of myself in ways that are both public and private."
One of the ways she explored herself this year was by going to Brazil for the first time in over a decade. Her mother, aunt, and grandmother raised her in New York but her family is from that country, and she was able to reconnect with loved ones she hadn't seen in years.
"I grew up with very low resources and a single mom, limited family in the States, and not much guidance as an artist, which for sure was an obstacle at times," she says. "However, it's also been my biggest blessing because I have a lot of pride in my upbringing and perspective and how I got here. It's been a wild journey — and it's not over yet!" @barbieferreira
While the Madea Cinematic Universe has been entertaining folks for close to two decades, it wasn’t until earlier this year that audiences were finally blessed with the first out gay character in a Madea film — Tim, from Netflix’s A Madea Homecoming.
Considering the popularity of prolific writer and director Tyler Perry’s ever-expanding film and media franchise, with a lot of his titles centering around the family of Mabel “Madea” Earlene Simmons, it’s hard not to get excited about the fact that an out queer character finally showed up. And what’s more exciting is the fact that an out gay actor — Brandon Black — got to play him.
Portraying a groundbreaking character in an influential film universe is considered by many to be a big accomplishment, and Black does assure that it is one of his top accomplishments of 2022. But one of the moments that made him most proud this year was getting to take his mother to the premiere of A Madea Homecoming.
“I had an entire photoshoot set up in the hotel room we were getting ready in. My friend, Andrew Ameter, took incredible photos of my mom that I’ll always have to look back at,” he shares. “Her beaming on the red carpet after getting her first-ever full glam team really made me proud. I’ve told her she would have that moment since I was 14.”
And after having an admittedly rough time in his life just a few years back in 2018, Black is grateful to get to do the work that he does as an actor and have a lasting impact on LGBTQ+ audiences.
“That feeling you feel when you read a book and see yourself in the shoes of the main character…that’s my job, but just recorded on camera,” Black says of his work. “I get a script and find the ways that I am this person. The harder to do...the more fun. When you have to really use your imagination and empathy to consider who you might be in those given circumstances, it can be really exciting. Sometimes the job is more simple. Sometimes it’s, ‘Say your lines on your mark and believe them.’ Sometimes you have to do research before you can really believe them. So, it’s intermittent with lots of rejection, self-doubt, self-help books, side hustles and hope. It’s a ride!” @bblack
Brian Michael Smith makes such a hot firefighter on 9-1-1: Lone Star that last year he became the first Black transgender man listed in People’s Sexiest Men You Can Watch on TV Now list. And this year, Smith was able to truly shine on the Ryan Murphy Fox show, taking trans representation on network TV to new places.
“The third season of 9-1-1 Lone Star put my character, Paul Strickland, in the spotlight more throughout the season,” Smith says. “That challenged me creatively, emotionally, and physically, and I felt like I was able to deliver some of my best performances to date.”
“As an actor, I like to get into stories that allow me to explore my sense of self; that test and expand my ideas of being human through living truthfully in imaginary circumstances,” he says. “As an artist, I like to tell stories that challenge others to feel and to consider other ways of being. I like to take on projects and characters in stories that get people to question what they believe about themselves, and what is possible in their lives and the world around them.”
But his performance on the show wasn’t the only thing Smith was proud of this year. He also joined the Human Rights Campaign’s board of directors, which is especially important in this time when anti-trans and anti-equality bills are being proposed and passed in record numbers. @the_brianmichael
If you haven’t seen Billy Porter’s directorial debut Anything’s Possible, you are missing out on one of the sweetest (and most groundbreaking) movies of the year. This coming-of-age film stars Black transgender actress Eva Reign as Kelsa, a trans high school senior who falls for a shy, cisgender boy named Khal.
“Every day I get DMs from people who really enjoyed the film and took in the key message of love from it. That always warms my heart,” says Reign. “I’m also beyond grateful to kick off my film career with the legendary Billy Porter. He’s changed my life for the better, and I cannot wait to see all the good he continues to do with his immeasurable talents during this new chapter for him as a director.”
Though Anything’s Possible was Reign’s first feature film, it isn’t her first time in front of the camera. Earlier this year, Reign won a Peabody Award and a GLAAD Media Award for her work as a correspondent on the Vice News docuseries Transnational, which explores the experiences of trans people around the world. Reign hosted Transnational’s premiere episode, “Love Us in the Light,” which celebrated the life of Kelly Stough, a Black trans woman and member of the House of Ebony, who was murdered by a local pastor.
“My purpose in life is to create,” says Reign. “When I’m not being creative, it takes a toll on my physical and mental health. Whether that means giving it my all on set that day, doing a sketch of the New York City skyline, singing my favorite showtunes, writing a new screenplay or an essay, or even just dancing around with my friends — expressing myself is a daily practice. Creating something bigger than myself and creating for change, that’s my purpose in my life.” @msevareign
While LGBTQ+ fans were blessed with much queer content this year, one of the standouts productions that will be added to the canon of classic queer television shows in the years to come was Netflix’s Heartstopper, a live-action adaptation of author and illustrator Alice Oseman’s LGBTQ-centered web comic and graphic novel series of the same name.
A British coming-of-age story that details the budding romance between gay teen Charlie Spring (played by young, out actor Joe Locke) and his bisexual classmate Nick Nelson (Kit Connor), the series was praised for its realistic depiction of what’s it’s like to navigate being out and queer in a modern-day high school and the wholesome way it portrays love between young folks of all different sexualities, gender identities, and races.
While the two do have plenty of challenges to overcome, such as bullies, trauma and pain aren’t at the center of Heartstopper, which is probably why it was such a hit amongst audiences young and old who want to see queer characters find happy endings. Due to its popularity, the series was renewed for a second and third season shortly after the first season’s release.
Filled with multiple LGBTQ+ characters, the success of Heartstopper can also be attributed to the performances of out cast members like Locke, who says he is proud of “the impact the show has had around the world,” and Yasmin Finney, who plays Charlie’s best friend Elle, a young, trans schoolgirl who gets her own love story in the form of her friend Tao (William Gao).
“We’ve been waiting for so long to have representation like Elle in Heartstopper and to be that representation gives me hope for the future of this industry,” Finney says. “There’s so much more queer joy coming to your screens, get ready!” @heartstoppertv
Comedian and actor Jason Stuart is a pioneer in the industry, having come out almost 30 years ago, when very few comics were open about their sexualities. Over the course of his career, Stuart has developed a cutting-edge comedic style, which includes being brutally honest about his life as a single, Jewish gay man living in Hollywood.
In 2019, Stuart teamed up with Mitch Hara to create the comedy series Smothered, which revolves around a gay, Jewish middle-aged couple that has been in a relationship for over 30 years, and though they despise each other, they cannot afford to get divorced. Stuart costars in the show alongside Hara, and recently won Best Actor in a Comedy at the Indie Series Awards for his role in the show.
Though comedy has been a major part of Stuart’s career, his acting certainly transcends the genre. In 2016, he played a Christian slave owner in the historical drama The Birth of a Nation, which tells the story of Nat Turner, a Black man who led the only sustained slave rebellion against white plantation owners in U.S. history. He’s also acted on television shows like Entourage, The Closer, House, and My Wife and Kids, as well as films like Tangerine, Love is Strange, and Lena Waithe’s The Line.
“I’m a character actor first. That is the root of who I am,” says Stuart. “It’s my first love and kept [me] alive as a kid.”
When he’s not on set or making people laugh, Stuart is the national co-chair of the SAG-AFTRA LGBT Committee, a committee he co-created. “[My purpose in life is] to use my position and notoriety to mentor LGBTQ folks to be the best they can be and let them know we got their back,” he says. @thejasonstuart
After voicing the buff middle sister Luisa in Disney’s Encanto, Jessica Darrow and her deep, husky voice became a star. The queer Cuban American actress, singer, cat parent, and “emo 4 lyf” also released a song and music video this year titled “Make it Clean” and was able to take her family on a much-needed vacation.
Darrow also became a star on sapphic TikTok, as girls around the world got crushes on both her character and on Darrow herself. Girls all over who felt bad about their deep voices, body size, and mental health struggles saw someone they could relate to.
“I believe my purpose in life is to always use access that is granted to me as an artist to tell stories that seldom get heard — important stories that may not always be the easiest to embody but the most fulfilling to bring to life,” Darrow says. “I believe it is my purpose to do this while practicing self-love as dutifully as possible, to always lead with love so that I can hopefully inspire others to do so by example. And to convince the world that it’s queer as fuck and kick the patriarchy’s butt.”
After reuniting with her Familia Madrigal again this November at the Hollywood Bowl, where she’ll be performing Encanto Live, Darrow also has a role in an upcoming Amazon Prime series where she gets to play a “sexy queer sports publicist” that she’s “so excited about.” We are too. @jessdarrow_
For actress, comedian, and podcaster Laci Mosley, there’s no higher purpose than bringing others joy. “Laughter has always felt like a connection to me and I always want to be a part of something bigger.” And that’s exactly what the bisexual star brings on both her hit podcast, Scam Goddess — which focuses on exposing fraudsters, but in a light and fun way — and in her turn as the bisexual Harper on the reboot of the beloved Nickelodeon series iCarly.
In the first season, Harper and her crush Double Dutch (Poppy Liu) share an onscreen kiss, in a moment that was incredibly meaningful for queer fans of the original series, as it was proof of how far TV representation has come.
It was a big moment. However, for Mosley, her greatest accomplishment this year was something a bit closer to home. “My plants are still alive!” she says. “I know this sounds like a joke but I’m truly so proud. I’ve spent most of my life attaching my worth to what I produce, [and] I recently realized how wild that is. I’m trying to focus more on building a life that brings me peace and joy. The peaceful life is a work in progress for sure, but I got plants and they are green; I take all the wins I can.”
That kind of peace is priceless, especially as she has faced health struggles recently. “I have fibroids and had to have three procedures this year to remove them while shooting iCarly and Lopez vs. Lopez and recording my podcast,” she says. “Many people deal with fibroids, especially Black people. Working with great folks and the support of my family [and] friends is the only way I overcame it.”
Next up for Mosely is a return to iCarly for season two, a book about scams, and “some things I’m not able to talk about just yet,” she teases. @divalaci
Actor Leonardo Nam gives off smart, chill L.A. vibes — but don’t mess with his family. While living in San Diego with his husband, internet exec Mike Dodge-Nam, and their two sons, someone slipped a note under his front door, calling his rainbow family offensive and suggesting they shut their blinds. Nam ran outside and burned the note in the street; soon after, he bought a giant Pride flag and hung it from the house.
Nam had to be determined, thoughtful, and tough to make his family and career dreams happen. Born in Argentina to South Korean parents, Nam moved to Australia as a child, studied architecture in college, and eventually moved to the U.S. to work as an actor — enduring numerous warnings about how uninterested Hollywood was in Asian actors, especially gay Asian actors. Still, he made a name for himself in movies like The Perfect Score, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift before his big breakthrough in Westworld. This year, Lam starred on the Hulu series Maggie and became part of the Marvel universe with his role in Werewolf by Night.
His biggest success of 2022 wasn’t work-related, but rather his kids “starting kindergarten, Korean school, and soccer this year.”
It took a lot of work for Nam to finally believe he deserved his life. “One of the largest obstacles I had to face was my own internal struggle to celebrate being a married gay man with kids,” he says. “For more than half my life I was told by society that because I was gay, I would never be married to a man I love openly and have kids…. I had to work on unwinding the old ways of thinking and that only came through deep private soul-searching, and the courage of self-reflection through therapy and meditation.”
Matt Rogers just wants to make people smile. The actor and comic extraordinaire is doing that by staying booked and busy, having recently starred in a myriad of titles that include Hulu’s gay Pride & Prejudice adaption Fire Island, Showtime’s I Love That For You, Netflix’s LGBTQ-filled animated spy series Q-Force, and his popular podcast Las Culturistas, which he continues to co-host alongside best friend and fellow comedy pro Bowen Yang.
“I want people to feel better after they interacted with me or saw me do my thing than they did before,” Rogers said of his purpose in life. “The best advice I ever got was to have more fun and not take myself too seriously. It changes everything. I want to spread that around.”
“My podcast, Las Culturistas with Bowen Yang, had a live awards show at Lincoln Center that 3,000 people attended,” he says of some of his proudest accomplishment this year. “I got to look Vanessa Bayer and Jenifer Lewis in the eyes and act with them for an entire season of television on I Love That For You. I was in the ensemble of Fire Island and I’m so proud of what we accomplished, and the community we had shooting and promoting that film. I binged every episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey while I had COVID. So much happened.”
Like a certain Bravo queen of the Garden State, Rogers is working on harnessing love and light. “I think you never know how vulnerable and sensitive you are going to feel about your art and your work until it’s being shown to people, and this year I think I showed more vulnerability than I had before and committed more of my energy to a larger audience than ever before,” Rogers shares. “All you want is to be in things that people see, and then suddenly you can feel very exposed and scared. So I finally started therapy and I’ve learned how to navigate emotions that arise related to that.” @mattrogerstho
Our Flag Means Death premiered on HBO Max this year, a funny and exciting new pirate comedy featuring Taika Waititi and Rhys Darby. What viewers didn’t know initially was that it was also going to be one of the best queer love stories on TV, and that it would have a brilliant supporting cast filled with scene stealers like Lucius, the ship’s sassy scribe played by British comedian Nathan Foad. The show features a gamut of queer characters, but Lucius is perhaps the most relatable. While everyone around him is a complete disaster, he sighs, rolls his eyes, draws nude portraits of other pirates, and says what we’re all thinking.
Foad is a comedy writer, an actor, a showrunner of his own sitcom Newark, which aired on UKTV Gold this year, and is a self-proclaimed “full-time scamp.” He says his purpose in life is to “make comedy so good people are just like, giggling at funerals,” and that if he could change one thing in the world, he’d “make it illegal to list calories on restaurant menus.”
Clearly, his sense of humor is impish and cheeky, and definitely fun. Yes, he’s a rascal, but he’s one of the most lovable rascals in the world. So, what’s next for Foad? Well, according to him, “I’m filmin’, I’m writin’, I’m eatin’ snacks.” Sounds like a pretty good time. @nathan_foad
A fan favorite from Our Flag Means Death is nonbinary pirate Jim, played by the wonderful Vico Ortiz, a nonbinary, genderfluid, pansexual Puerto Rican actor also known for Vida and The Sex Lives of College Girls. When we first meet Jim, he’s in disguise, and it seems like the character is going to be a classic “woman disguised as a man.” But when Jim takes off the fake beard and false nose, they make sure everyone else on the crew knows they’re still Jim.
Jim is a character we’ve never seen before on TV but has always existed in real life. Trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming people have always existed — especially in outsider communities like pirate crews — and now, we’re finally seeing that.
Ortiz is using their new platform to advocate for change, authenticity, and visibility as a queer and trans Latine. “By existing and taking up space [that belonged to me to begin with], I show the world that queer folks are just as human as everyone else,” they say. “We belong in every space just like everyone else.”
One fight they’re still fighting is trying to get their identity recognized in the Spanish language in mainstream media (their Spanish pronouns are elle/le/e).
“Some interviews do use neutral pronouns for me after I’ve explained how to use them, however, some other outlets have chosen to not recognize my identity and stick to binary language when they talk about me, saying they won’t use it until the royal academy of Spanish has approved it,” explains Ortiz. “I challenge this by saying that language is alive and in constant change and evolution, and the only way new words get recognized is by using them. Soy no binarie, soy Puertorriqueñe y mi identidad vale más que un pedazo de papel. [I am nonbinary, I am Puerto Rican, and my identity is worth more than a piece of paper.]” @puertoricaninja
Theo Germaine is a rising star in Hollywood — and now, one of Tinseltown’s most prominent trans and nonbinary talents. Their past credits include Netflix’s The Politician, Showtime’s Work in Progress, and HBO Max’s Equal. And this year, they queered the horror genre with They/Them (pronounced “they slash them”). In the groundbreaking Peacock film, they portray Jordan, a trans and nonbinary teen who takes on the head of a conversion therapy camp portrayed by Kevin Bacon.
Acting isn’t just a means of paying the bills for this Illinois native. They see their art as “as a way of exploring the world and healing myself, hoping to help others to navigate the same.” These forms of art include music and writing. In fact, they completed a writing project that has been “a dream of mine to do since I was a child” and is excited to share more news of it shortly.
For Germaine, being trapped in a conversion therapy camp wasn’t the only terrifying part of 2022. The actor contracted a serious case of COVID-19 earlier this year. “I couldn’t walk for about three weeks, could barely eat, I really thought it was going to destroy me,” they share. “A way I overcame it was by receiving really amazing care by my partner — their name is William Rusan — and by having a lot of conversations with myself about mortality, to be perfectly morbid. Some of my friends also Zoom-called with me over my birthday, because that’s the time that I was sick. Not being alone is what helped me get through it.”
Community is important to Germaine, who believes their purpose in life is “to be a good person to other people, through the relationships I have and that I foster, and through creation. I don’t know anything else as well besides trying to make or create.” @theogermaine
“This one is for the gays, as everything I do is,” Jasmin Savoy Brown, the star of Yellowjackets and Scream, says about her past year. Brown became a star of the horror genre this year, playing queer teens in both the popular Showtime drama about a girls soccer team that crashes in the Canadian Rockies, and in the legendary slasher film franchise. And in each role, she’s defying expectations. This is one gay who won’t be buried.
Both Taissa in Yellowjackets and Mindy Meeks-Martin (Randy’s niece) in Scream can take care of themselves and are all too aware of the way Black lesbians like them are treated. But these are characters who won’t be going away any time soon; Taissa grows up to become a politician in a power lesbian couple, and Mindy will be back for the next Scream sequel.
Brown identifies as lesbian, queer, and pansexual, but right now, she’d mostly say she’s in love with her girlfriend. “Honestly, I’m most proud of myself for falling in love again,” she says. “I think love is scary and hard, and to open yourself up to someone new is the best and worst thing you can do. The best because you have the opportunity to get to know someone, get to know yourself in a new way, meet new people, expand your capabilities to love and listen, to grow, to change, to laugh…and the worst because that person could eviscerate your heart in the blink of an eye if they so choose. It’s terrifying and vulnerable and healing and fun. And that is all you’re getting from me about my romantic life for the foreseeable future! Feast on crumbs, babes. I’m a Scorpio rising after all. A Scorpio rising in love.” @jasminsavoy
As one half of a couple of lesbian soccer players lost in the Canadian Rockies, Liv Hewson (they/them) is playing one of our favorite characters on TV. In Yellowjackets, the nonbinary Australian actor plays Vanessa Palmer, better known as Van, the girlfriend of fellow soccer player Taissa Turner (Jasmin Savoy Brown). Van is the team’s goalie, and never backs down from a challenge, even when it ends up in her being attacked by wolves. Still, her strength shines through, and that’s thanks to Hewson’s great performance.
But for the real Hewson, life this year was a lot bigger than a TV role. They also overcame their shame around letting people see the real them and got top surgery this year. “I had been thinking about it for a decade — it’s the longest I’ve ever thought about doing anything,” they say. “I won’t ever wait that long again, I think. It’s changed everything in the best possible way. I used to take for granted that I’d be physically miserable, that there was no other way for me to feel. That’s not true, of course. I wish I had realized that earlier. I am more comfortable than I ever believed was possible for me. I stand up straight now.”
Next up for Hewson is more. “More work, more people, more experience, more life,” and that includes a new season of Yellowjackets, where we’ll get to meet the grown-up version of Van, played by Six Feet Under star Lauren Ambrose. Other than that, the actor will be standing up straight wherever they go. @liv.hewson
Broadway actor and dancer T. Oliver Reid started performing as soon as he could walk and talk, and since then, he’s never stopped. From performing in the musical Shenandoah in his hometown of Gastonia, N.C., as a child to his recent run as Hermes in Hadestown on Broadway, Reid has had a prolific career.
A graduate of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Reid’s Broadway credits include Chicago, Mary Poppins, Kiss Me Kate, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and the 25th Anniversary concert of Dreamgirls. Reid is also a professor at Rider University and New York University, where he works with undergraduate musical theater actors and graduate acting students, respectively.
This year has been particularly busy for Reid, both in the world of theater and beyond. He is currently the associate movement director on the upcoming Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman, which starts its 17-week run in October. He also was an associate choreographer for the upcoming Netflix film White Noise, and the choreographer for Billy Eichner’s Bros, which is the first gay rom-com to be released in theaters by a major Hollywood studio.
Reid is also involved in the nonprofit world. In September 2019, he cofounded the Black Theatre Coalition, an organization that seeks to dismantle the systemically racist and biased ideology in the theatrical job space. Thanks to his work as the organization’s artistic director, in the past year, the organization has placed more than 40 fellows and apprentices in every area of the theater industry.
In the future, Reid wants to continue moving the world through art. He sees his greater purpose as changing the world, “maybe in the arts, in the world, and maybe something larger.”
“I want to lead the National Endowment for the Arts someday,” Reid says. “I’m learning every day exactly how the universe, God wants to use me.” @toliverreid
Heavy is the head that wears the crown — but someone’s gotta do it! For two seasons, Netflix’s period hit Bridgerton has been enticing audiences with its swoonworthy romance, its sweat-induing sex scenes, its piping-hot gossip, and its can’t-keep-your-eyes-away drama. And one of the anchors of the whole series is none other than the all-mighty Queen Charlotte, played by lesbian actress Golda Rosheuvel.
While LGBTQ+ fans are still waiting for the beloved show to offer a full-fledged out character to follow along and root for, like with Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) in season 1 and Anthony Bridgerton (gay actor Jonathan Bailey) in season 2, we don’t need Lady Whistledown’s society papers to declare that having an out-and-proud lesbian actress play a key role on one of the biggest streaming services in the world is a major step towards industry visibility, especially with queer stars not always getting the same opportunities as their straight peers. And with a prequel series in the works that focuses on the early years of Queen Charlotte, we can’t wait to see more of Rosheuvel in the ever-expanding Bridgerton universe. And she’s proud of her role in it.
“There are many ways to describe the work of an actor, I think that’s the beautiful world we live in and create in, it’s ever-changing,” Rosheuvel says. “We interpret the work of the writer, expressing many emotions, deep diving into the characters we advocate for. Creating the space for imagination, a space to connect with audiences.”
“I live in the truth of the characters I play,” she continues. “They are part of me and I am part of them. No matter who or what I’m playing, we walk hand in hand.” @goldarosheuvel