Alasdair Duncan: Best supporting queer
Villains, heroes, side kicks, flunkies – some of most memorable queer characters on TV in recent times have been those that have played a supporting role. Alastair Duncan casts an eye over the best of the best.
A couple of months back, I wrote a piece about the lack of truly interesting and original gay characters on TV, citing Glee’s Kurt as a key example. That piece looked at leading roles, so to balance things out, I’m revisiting the topic, but this time, looking at supporting characters instead. What follows is a list of some of the best that TV has had to offer over the last several years. [Spoiler alerts apply, especially if Mad Men is still sitting in your ‘To Watch’ pile].
Adam Reed as Ray Gillette in Archer
‘60s spy agency spoof Archer is without a doubt the funniest animated show on TV right now. Conspicuously-gay agent Ray Gillette spends most of his time trading vicious barbs with ISIS boss Malory Archer, and in the field, thinks nothing of charging private jets and rent boys to the company credit card. As of the most recent episodes, Ray is wheelchair-bound with an eye-patch and a seething sense of resentment; all he needs is a white cat to stroke and he’ll be the perfect villain for season three.
Bryan Batt as Sal Romano in Mad Men
Sal Romano’s storyline was one of the more sad and poignant in the early seasons of Mad Men. A gay man forced to keep his true feelings secret to fit in with the boys’ club of the advertising world in the ‘60s, he nurses an unrequited crush on Sterling Cooper golden boy Ken Cosgrove, and furtively hooks up with other men while on business trips. Sal’s exit from the show is one of its more tragic moments – he is unceremoniously fired after rejecting the advances of an important client, who threatens to leave the agency unless he’s dealt with.
Eve Best as Dr Eleanor O’Hara in Nurse Jackie
The whip-smart, sarcastic and seemingly-unflappable Dr O’Hara is the perfect foil for Edie Falco’s Nurse Jackie in this dark comedy. As a rich bitch and a working class gal, she and Jackie seemingly occupy opposite poles, but their regular lunches form the basis of an enduring friendship, and they are almost always there to cover for one-another’s affairs and indiscretions.
Olivia Wilde as Alex Kelly in The O.C.
Olivia Wilde’s Alex was one of The O.C.’s most memorable characters, arriving in season two as the manager of live music venue The Bait Shop. After a brief flirtation with handsome geek Seth, she set her sights on girl-next-door Marissa. It was a bold plotline for a popular teen soap opera to take on, and it worked, largely thanks to Wilde’s performance, taking her streetwise-yet-vulnerable character in a surprisingly mature direction.
Brian Posehn and Steve Agee as Brian and Steve in The Sarah Silverman Program
Brian and Steve are one of TV’s most lovable gay couples. This scruffy, slovenly pair sit on the couch all day, smoking pot and playing video games, and occasionally helping their neighbour Sarah out on her deranged adventures. They sometimes fight – most notably when a Dungeons & Dragons game gets in the way of a planned date night – but always make things right in the end, with a loving ‘I’m so gay for you dude’.
Oscar Nuñez as Oscar Martinez in The Office
The US Office doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves for its ensemble cast of comedians, or the quietly-moving stories it often tells. With his dry wit, Oscar frequently functions as the sole voice of reason in the office, so it was sweet to see him temporarily lose his head during a fling with a cute warehouse guy. Steve Carell’s Michael Scott even amended his trademark catch phrase ‘that’s what she said’, adding an ‘... or he said’, in honour of Oscar’s coming out. Aww.
Archie Panjabi as Kalinda Sharma in The Good Wife
The Good Wife’s Kalinda Sharma is an absolute, unquestionable badass. An in-house private investigator with a mysterious past, she plays both sides of the law, while playing for both teams. In the space of a single episode, Kalinda enjoyed one of the more flirtatious dinners in TV history with FBI agent Lana Delaney, then in the very next scene, seduced and stripped a rival P.I., then beat him with a baseball bat. She’s a woman of contrasts, okay? AXN