Tarlos is here -- and ready to take over.
Coined by fans of Fox's hit procedural drama 9-1-1: Lone Star, the affectionate "ship" name is a portmanteau of the show's queer main characters: firefighter-turned-paramedic Tyler Kennedy "T.K." Strand and Carlos Reyes, an Austin police officer. The LGBTQ-inclusive series centers on the lives of emergency responders and also boasts names like Rob Lowe, Liv Tyler, and transgender actor Brian Michael Smith.
Watching Lone Star, which opens a fourth season in early 2023, it's easy to see why fans love Tarlos. Their relationship -- which began in the pilot episode in an Austin honky-tonk and evolved into a roller coaster of casual hookups, breaking up, moving in together, and eventually getting engaged -- is a story LGBTQ+ fans could only dream about seeing on network television just a few years ago. Seeing these two characters -- with their movie-star good looks and boys-next-door appeal -- navigate life and love in relatable ways gives fans giddy feelings with every new episode (which is why discussions of Lone Star continually trend on Twitter during the television season).
Rafael AMIRI brown leather suit and polka dot button-down shirt, RAVEN FINE JEWELERS necklaces, earrings; Ronen VIGGO TAILORING green suit, RAVEN FINE JEWELERS necklaces, earrings, ring
Fortunately, out actors Ronen Rubinstein and Rafael Silva have the chemistry to bring these two Lone Star boys to life.
"I can't imagine doing this with somebody that (a) you don't like and (b) you don't mesh well with on set," Rubinstein says of Silva. Since they started this journey as Tarlos when Lone Star premiered in 2020, the two have grown close as both colleagues and friends. "I can't imagine doing that with somebody that you don't get along with and you don't respect and you don't love as a human being," he adds. "I can honestly say that's how I feel about Rafael."
"Ro and I are just so fucking different as people.... But it's this sort of yin and yang thing," says Silva. "Two of the same pieces of the same puzzle are not going to go together, they're just not. They have to be different in order to complement each other, and I think we do that very well as actors and as people."
One of the first scenes the two shot together was a sex scene, and like with any intimacy on camera, that required a lot of trust -- even if at the time, they had just recently met. But the two used their real-life newness with each other to their advantage, as it paralleled how T.K. and Carlos were also just getting to know each other, creating a realistic pairing that the stans simply can't get enough of.
"At that point, when you have a bunch of people just watching you make out and do that, you have to rely on your partner," Silva says. "It's like we only got each other right now, so let's just do whatever happens here, just go with the flow. Let's just go."
Rafael PALOMO SPAIN trench coat, RAVEN FINE JEWELERS necklace; Ronen BODE green and cream crochet vest; RAVEN FINE JEWELERS ring, DAVID YURMAN bracelet
Tarlos, with all their confidence and chemistry, is one of television's better examples of an LGBTQ+ couple just getting to live their messy but meaningful lives without extreme trauma keeping them apart. A couple like Tarlos was a portrayal Rubinstein and Silva didn't see a lot of growing up, and that helped motivate them to portray T.K. and Carlos in a way never before seen by generations of queer TV watchers.
Silva, who was born in Brazil and spent the early part of his childhood there, says he was raised in a very male-dominated, machismo-drenched culture with a stigma surrounding gay people. It wasn't until he was a young adult attending Pace University in New York City that he was exposed to queer culture, and he was able to "actively, fully be myself" as a gay man. And it wasn't until he saw Viola Davis's badass bisexual Annalise Keating on ABC's acclaimed How to Get Away With Murder that he felt like he saw something of himself represented on television.
Like Silva, Rubinstein, who spent his childhood in the U.S. but was born in Israel after his family left the Soviet Union following its collapse, had a similar experience growing up in a culture that taught folks being gay or queer was verboten. "It just wasn't a thing that was ever brought into my world," Rubinstein says.
That is, until he caught the acting bug. Going into Manhattan for auditions and exploring the West Village introduced Rubinstein to people and cultures that he had never experienced before, and that's when he started to realize he could truly be himself and like both men and women. (Rubinstein publicly came out as bisexual in April of 2021 while Lone Star's second season was airing.)
"I remember going there, just wandering around, and I was like, 'Oh, wow, this is amazing,'" he recalls. "I think that was probably the first time where I started looking at men differently. Especially growing up, [I don't remember] anybody talking about being bisexual. That wasn't even a term that I even knew existed. It was just gay or lesbian."
Rafael PALOMO SPAIN trench coat, RAVEN FINE JEWELERS necklace; OSCAR X FRANK sunglasses; Ronen BODE green and cream crochet vest and white pants; RAVEN FINE JEWELERS ring, DAVID YURMAN bracelet, OSCAR X FRANK sunglasses
Though they didn't have much representation growing up, Silva and Rubinstein are elated by how many people are touched by Tarlos. "It's really all over the world right now, it's unbelievable," Rubinstein reflects. "I'd be lying to you if I said, 'Yeah, of course I knew it would be like this,' or 'Yeah, I expected it.' First of all, just for this storyline to even be birthed, it is so risky. Especially for a network like Fox. If it wasn't for [creators] Ryan Murphy and Tim Minear, it wouldn't be possible, and it's still shocking me to this day."
What was also shocking for Silva and Rubinstein (in a good way) was getting to see just how much love fans were ready to give in real life, as the two got to meet Tarlos stans over the summer at the Dream It Not at Home convention in Paris.
"We met a lot of people saying, 'I've been saving money to come here, I've been working overtime,' so all I could hear was, 'I've been putting in effort in order to see you,'" Silva says of the experience. "When you hear that, you feel the responsibility to also take them in."
And they're not taking any of that love and support lightly. With season 4 of Lone Star on the horizon, and with more Tarlos promised to viewers after a breathtaking proposal scene at the end of season 3, Silva and Rubinstein are more committed than ever to nailing their parts as authentically as possible. And they can't wait for fans to see what season 4 has in store.
"I've definitely been shocked and surprised already within the first couple episodes. There's definitely been some storylines where I'm like, 'What?'" Rubinstein says. "It's hard to predict what's going to happen on the show, especially with us, so that's been really cool. It keeps you on your toes, and when I get a script, I'm literally flipping through the pages as fast as I can because at any moment, there could be a bombshell -- and we're definitely going to have a couple this season."
"Right off from episode 1, we're going to find out some things that are funny, but it propels on to several beautiful episodes after the first one, and it's going to be intense," Silva says. "It's going to be fun to watch and fun to do. Like what Ronen said, you can't really expect much because things change a lot. Whatever you think is going to happen, Tim always brings something better than what your imagination can perceive. I think the fun part is just waiting to find out what actually happens."
"The biggest thing is all paths lead to the wedding," Rubinstein adds.
Rafael AMIRI brown leather suit and polka dot button-down shirt, RAVEN FINE JEWELERS necklaces, earrings; Ronen VIGGO TAILORING green suit, RAVEN FINE JEWELERS necklaces, earrings, ring, DAVID YURMAN bracelet
As the actors reflect on the future of their careers beyond Lone Star, both remain optimistic that LGBTQ+ representation is only going to improve, and they both want to work on projects that push boundaries and are more inclusive of historically marginalized identities. For Rubinstein, that means seeing more projects with bisexual male leads, and for Silva, that means adding Latinx representation to mainstream American media.
"I would love to do movies and work with some of my heroes, whether it's Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christian Bale. I've been putting that out since I've started this journey, so hopefully it happens," Rubinstein says. "I think, selfishly, I would like to see more male characters who are bisexual, especially in leading roles. It's strange that it's not happening more often. Maybe it's going to take me to produce something or be the one that does it, but I'd love to see more of that. I think there's a lot of stories to be told, but especially in the LGBTQ+ community."
"If I'm going to dream, I want to do things that challenge me, that make me scared, but where I can also have fun and also, I'm going to say selfishly, where I can achieve a certain level in my career where I won't feel like I have to explain myself," Silva says.
talent RAFAEL SILVA & RONEN RUBINSTEIN @actuallyrafa@ronenrubinstein
photographer COYOTE PARK for GOOGLE PIXEL 7coyotepark.format.com@coyotepark
executive producer & senior director TIM SNOW@snowmgz
creative director RAINE BASCOS
1st assistant MASON ROSEmasonrose.photography @masonrose__
light tech EVADNE GONZALEZ@evadnegonzalez
digitech MERLIN VIETHEN
video AUSTIN NUNES austinunes.com@austinunes
producer STEVIE WILLIAMSx2production.com@beingstevie of X2 Production
set designer ORRIN WHALENorrinwhalen.com@orrinwhalen
art assistant BRANDON LOYD @ohmylord
stylist EDWIN ORTEGA email@example.com
styling assistant BROOKE MUNFORD @brookesquad
hair/groomer ABRAHAM ESPARZAabrahamjesparza.com@thisisbabe
manicurist RILEY MIRANDA@rileymiranda.nails
RAFAEL in PALOMO SPAIN trench coat and RONEN in BODE green and cream crochet vest, both in RAVEN FINE JEWELERS
This article is part of Out's November/December 2022 issue, out on newsstands November 8. Support queer media and subscribe -- or download the issue through Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.