Film Forward

With One Role, Alan Cumming Is Breaking Barriers For LGBT Representation On Broadcast TV

Here's why the timing of this is so important.

The ways we watch TV and movies have evolved, and it's time for the talent in front of and behind the camera to do the same. Film Forward speaks on the initiatives to diversify the film industry and the stories it tells. New articles premiere every second Thursday of — and throughout — the month.

This March, Alan Cumming will be making history on CBS with Instinct and breaking barriers for the LGBTQ representation in the process. Cumming will have the distinction of playing what is believed to be the first gay leading character — who also happens to be married — on an hourlong broadcast drama.

"It was one of the reasons I wanted to do the show," Cumming — who is also an executive producer on the show — said during the Television Critics Association's winter press tour, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Speaking to the press, he noted that the achievement both "an incredible thing and a terrible thing at the same time."

Instinct — which premieres this Sunday, March 11 — is based on a James Patterson book of the same name, though previously published as Murder Games. On the show, Cumming plays former CIA operative who, after becoming a professor and author, gets pulled back into the business to help catch a serial killer.

The After Louie star said the timing of this project is important both socially and politically. Cumming notes how gay people are being persecuted, having their rights removed, and that our president, Donald Trump, is "condoning the persecution against gay people by his silence."

It's because of this fact that Cumming believes it's important for audiences to see a "healthy same-sex marriage on TV" and he gave CBS credit for tackling this type of storytelling. Even showrunner Michael Rauch said he took liberties to change some of the male characters in the source material to female in order to "subvert traditional dynamics." Cumming's multi-layered character, whose gayness is only a part of who he is, was why he was attracted to the role.

"Most times when we see gay characters on American TV, their gayness is the prime thing. Their gayness is sometimes the problem," Cumming — who starred on The Good Wife on CBS — added. "What's refreshing about this is there's a successful relationship and they're supportive of each other. And [being gay] is also the fourth or fifth most interesting thing about this character."

Cover image via Jonathan Wenk / CBS

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