Council of Dads‘ J. August Richards on Black Homosexual Visibility’s Energy
From a vampire hunter on Angel to an excellent cyborg on Marvel’s Brokers of S.H.I.E.L.D., J. August Richards has portrayed various implausible roles on tv.
But it surely was the a part of Dr. Oliver Put up, a married Black homosexual man and father, on Council of Dads that lastly challenged Richards to take the ultimate leap out of the closet as homosexual final week. The 46-year-old actor did so in an Instagram Live dialog with Sarah Wayne Callies, his costar on the NBC drama.
“Truthfully, it required me to point out up totally in a method that I don’t at all times after I’m working,” Richards mentioned. “I knew that I couldn’t painting this homosexual man actually with out letting you all know that I’m a homosexual man myself.” He did so as a result of he knew that there have been others like him that “have to see that function mannequin” in media.
There were other factors that led to his coming out. In the interview with The Advocate below, Richards discussed how he felt being an out gay Black actor was not option in Hollywood in the ’90s and said the current shift toward acceptance required “updating my software.”
He updated with some help from Tony Phelan and Joan Rater, the Council of Dads co-creators who are also known for Doubt, the short-lived legal drama in which Laverne Cox made history as the primary transgender actress to play a trans collection common on community tv. Rater and Phelan are the dad and mom of a trans baby and prioritize LGBTQ inclusion of their tasks.
Council of Dads is an identical game-changing present for community TV. The story is sparked by the demise of the daddy of an interracial, blended household that features a transgender baby, JJ (Blue Chapman). Earlier than he dies, the dad requests that his three associates, together with Richards’s character, assist increase his youngsters and advocate for them. Within the pilot episode alone, one of many members of the newfound council defends JJ from his personal grandmother as she tries to make the boy put on a gown.
The variety of Council of Dads — in entrance of and behind the digicam — performed a hand in altering Richards’s views of Tinseltown. It additionally empowered him to advocate for his character and inject facets “affirming of who I’m and my expertise.”
The Advocate: Congratulations! How do you’re feeling?
J. August Richards: I used to be speaking to a buddy final evening and I simply randomly, in the midst of the dialog, mentioned, “I am so blissful.” That final little layer of, like, sharing it publicly was a query that I had been dwelling with for thus lengthy. And there have been occasions after I fooled myself into pondering that did not matter and that it was OK for me to exist how I used to be. It’s OK — if it is OK for you, it is OK. However for me, it was not. And so this present gave me the fitting alternative and the fitting timing and the fitting motive, as a result of the explanation was not nearly me. It was about others. I actually really feel just like the universe conspired to get me proper at that second the place I used to be with my castmate and I felt snug sufficient to share. I am so blissful, dude.
Pictured: Kevin Daniels as Peter Richards; J. August Richards as Dr. Oliver Put up
We’re so blissful that you simply got here out. What’s been the response like from followers, from the general public?
I may have by no means predicted the response that I received, which was a lot love and a lot assist. Sarah and I did the reside interview on Friday after which I reposted the clip on Monday, and after I reposted the clip, I turned my cellphone off, walked across the block, prayed, and meditated, and turned my cellphone again on. I believe I did it at 10 and it wasn’t even midday, and somebody who works on my workforce known as me was like, I believe the story goes past your web page, and I am like, “What do you imply?” She was like, “A few shops picked it up.” And I used to be like, “You understand what, I did not suppose this by way of. I did not anticipate that.” So the assist from the press, the followers, my household, my associates — my speedy household is aware of, clearly — people who I do not know all around the world, it was lovely.
What had been among the issues that prevented you from popping out sooner?
Once I first began within the enterprise, there have been simply so few alternatives for Black actors that I felt like if individuals knew that I used to be homosexual, I might be exing myself out of these only a few alternatives. That was the Hollywood that I arrived in. If there was a task on a present for an individual of coloration, it was just one function and it was a small function. I used to be having issue navigating the enterprise as a Black actor and I felt like including the homosexual half would have simply exed out of every part. And I am unable to even say that that concern was not actual. However that was an actual concern for me within the ’90s as a younger actor shifting to L.A. As I mentioned in one other interview, it was a matter of me updating my software program, if you’ll, as a result of the business that I began in isn’t the business of right this moment. And there are such a lot of extra alternatives for actors of coloration and LGBT actors. Previous to this, I form of had the concern of a 19-year-old right here in Hollywood, and I simply needed to notice that I am now 46. The world has modified. The business has modified. And, extra importantly, I’ve a chance with this function to make issues higher for another person. So it simply appeared like the right time and I am so glad that I took it.
What do you imagine is the facility of an out Black actor portraying a Black homosexual function on community tv?
It is so essential as a result of I believe that once we see ourselves represented with love and intimacy of information, it empowers us and makes us really feel seen. In order that’s why the function was so essential to me and that is why I made the selection to come back out to the producers, the writers, as a result of I wanted them to know that I used to be an authority on this character, on this life. It was essential to me that the nuances of the expertise of being a Black homosexual man had been represented on this present, as a result of in any other case, why am I even doing it?
Are you able to give an instance of how you’ve got modified the character from the way it was initially written?
Simply sure issues that I added to it. For instance, we go dwelling with Oliver quite a bit. And so I had conferences with the prop division, set ornament, and artwork course. I mentioned, once we come into Oliver’s dwelling, we have now to really feel like we’re in a really particular house that these two Black males who reside right here. My expertise of being a Black homosexual man is that I’ve typically put issues on my partitions and in my world that affirm me as a result of the surface world does not affirm me that always. So in my dwelling, there are issues which might be simply very affirming of who I’m and my expertise. So I used to be like, I want that represented visually.
Then additionally, the way in which that we work together. My husband and I on the present had been collectively for 15 years. And I wished that feeling of what Michael O’Neill calls “outdated love.” There’s new love, once you’re throughout one another. However then there’s that outdated love that’s simply lived in and sat in, and I wished to really feel that. I form of modeled it after two Black homosexual males that I do know who’re married, and their relationship is simply cozy like an outdated sofa. I wished to deliver that to the character.
Pictured: J. August Richards as Dr. Oliver Put up; Sarah Wayne Callies as Robin Perry
Tony Phelan and Joan Rater, the present’s creators, are enormous LGBTQ advocates. They’ve a trans baby. What’s it like working with them? Did they impression the way you noticed Hollywood?
Completely. They go to date out of their strategy to create an inclusive and collaborative surroundings. They welcome my enter, my voice to the dialog. However extra importantly, they’re very conscious of who they rent and that it is a various surroundings the place everybody feels empowered. It’s totally laborious. I’ve discovered that once you’re the one one in no matter surroundings it’s, it is nonetheless a bit disempowering since you’re the one one. However they create an surroundings the place there are a number of of everybody. I’ve by no means labored with so many feminine division heads. I’ve by no means labored with so many administrators of coloration in my life. I believe by the point we received to episode 5, I had labored with extra Black administrators than I had in any season of tv. Truly, I am sorry — in my whole profession. By the point we received to episode 5, I might labored with 4 black administrators in a single season of tv, and that’s remarkable for me. In order that they actually exit of their strategy to create an inclusive and various surroundings. The writers’ room, very various as properly.
It actually shines by way of. The present additionally options the character of JJ, who’s a transgender 7-year-old boy. There’s this actually lovely scene within the premiere the place one of many council members explains to the grandmother why JJ should not put on a gown, which I assumed was so shifting. What’s it like being part of a present that’s on the vanguard of illustration for trans younger individuals, significantly in a time after they’re being attacked politically?
Oh, so essential. Joan, Tony, and I had been on a panel as soon as and Joan expressed how essential it was to her to point out a guardian loving their trans baby on tv, not arguing with them, not preventing with them, not attempting to vary them, however simply that easy act of loving and accepting their trans baby. That was so essential to them and so essential to all of us. I actually imagine that simply having that picture on this planet, hopefully, it actually conjures up individuals to open their hearts and alter.
The present can also be about nontraditional households, discovered households. I am curious if that resonated with you. Did you ever have a discovered household in your life?
My household is from Panama. And the factor about being from Panama is that folks moved there from all around the world to construct the Panama Canal. And so plenty of Jamaicans and folks from Barbados moved to Panama as staff on the Panama Canal. All my life, I grew up with a very large household and it wasn’t till I received into my 20s that I began to understand that among the people who I used to be calling aunts and uncles and among the people who I used to be calling cousins, truly I wasn’t associated to them in any respect. As a result of in an expertise like that, the place lots of people are immigrating to a rustic, they create households. They needed to. And so I’ve a really large household, and a household that’s not sure by genetics. That is the place I come from. So the idea of embracing others into your loved ones and making a bigger household, I imply, that is how I got here into the world.
Pictured: The forged of Council of Dads
The present is arriving at an attention-grabbing second, to say the least. However the present can also be about well being care; it is about how sickness impacts a household. How do you hope the world receives its message now that we’re all impacted by a well being disaster?
I hope that it impacts the world in the way in which of inspiring neighborhood. That’s what I’m experiencing. As part of this pandemic and a part of the disaster, my neighborhood joined this app known as Nextdoor, and it retains us knowledgeable about what is going on on with our neighbors. If there’s somebody who’s aged and want one thing from the grocery retailer or if one thing is happening within the neighborhood that impacts our quarantine. Actually, I hope that that is what individuals take from the present is simply exhibiting up for different individuals in your life in an actual method. I see that taking place now. I take into consideration my buddy teams and the way we do Zoom blissful hours and, oh, you possibly can’t discover onions on the grocery retailer? I am going to get you onions there at mine. I am going to go away them on the entrance door for you. That sense of exhibiting up for one another. I hope that that is what individuals take from the present and I hope that we hold that as part of our society.
And what’s subsequent for you?
Man, who is aware of! … Life is on maintain proper now. So what’s subsequent for me is I am about to go for a stroll, and I am about to make some lunch and have slightly exercise within the yard, and that is as far forward as I am pondering.
Council of Dads airs Thursdays at eight p.m. Jap on NBC. Watch the trailer beneath.