Queer Newcomers: The Most Promising LGBTQ Actors in Film/TV 2021

by Frank J. Avella

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday September 21, 2021

Nathaniel Curtis, Jesse James Keitel and Jordan Alexander
Nathaniel Curtis, Jesse James Keitel and Jordan Alexander  

So much queer talent. And, finally, so many queer roles!

When compiling a list like this, things get a bit tricky because one does not want to make assumptions about a person's sexual identity or orientation and, honestly, it would be fabulous to live in a world where it mattered less and less and not at all. Alas, we do not live in that world. We don't even live in that country. So, I am not including actors whose sexual orientation is unknown or actors who remain cagey about it. (I'm talking to you, gay superhero dude!)

In addition, there is my own confusion about how to define "promising" and "newcomer." Certain actors on this list have been working for a long time, but finally caught a break in 2021 (or the 2020-2021 season), so do I dare include them?

Finally, the word "queer" appears to offend some people (what doesn't offend people lately?). Suffice to say that those artists below personally use the word to identify themselves. And I personally and proudly identify myself as Queer — to many of us it not a slur but a reclamation, as well as a way to allow for an identity/orientation that is not specifically covered by one particular term.

The following are publicly out members of the LGBTQ community who represent some of the most exciting new talent in film and television.

Emma Corrin
(Source: Netflix)

Emma Corrin

One of the most thrilling television performances this year came from a show that just keeps beguiling us, "The Crown." As Lady, soon to be Princess, Diana, Emma Corrin captivated by showing us the dazzling Diana we knew, coupled with the lonely and frustrated one we only assumed existed. She won the Golden Globe and was nominated for an Emmy for the role. She will be seen next in Michael Grandage's "My Policeman," written by Ron Nyswaner ("Philadelphia"), followed by "Lady Chatterly's Lover" for Netflix. The 25-year-old Corrin came out as queer in July.

Jonathan Bailey
(Source: Instagram)

Jonathan Bailey

He's been around for a bit, making small splashes in "Broadchurch," Phoebe Walker-Bridge's "Crashing," and onstage in a brilliant Olivier-winning performance in "Company" opposite Patti LuPone, but Jonathan Bailey exploded this past season in everyone's favorite new Netflix binge-series, "Bridgerton." And, unlike certain others, he will be back for season two. Bailey plays the eldest Bridgerton brother, a dashing womanizer who falls for an opera singer. Bailey is openly gay.

Jesse James Keitel

Jesse James Keitel

Jesse James Keitel was the very first nonbinary actor to play a nonbinary series regular on primetime TV on David E. Kelley's hit series "Big Sky." Keitel's character journeyed from victim to empowering survivor in a neat plot reversal that allowed the actor to show off their tremendous acting chops. Keitel's past credits include the film "Alex Strangelove" and the hit series "Younger." Keitel's Jerrie is returning for Season Two on the ABC suspense drama, and they will also be a "trans consultant." Keitel uses she/her and they/them pronouns.

Max Harwood
(Source: Fox Searchlight)

Max Harwood

Watching Max Harwood in "Everybody's Talking About Jamie," one is dumbstruck by the fact that this is his very first film. He is such a natural as Jamie, the unashamed queer high schooler who is who he is. Full stop. And that is one of the most refreshing things about Harwood's performance. It starts there. Jamie wants to be a drag queen, and he has some apprehension about that. That is where the journey begins. This is one of those astonishing film debuts we see once every few years. The openly gay actor is going places.

Cassandra James

Cassandra James

When Dr. Terry Randolph checked into ABC's "General Hospital" as Nurse Elizabeth Webber's childhood friend and oncology specialist, it looked like it was going to be a glorified cameo. But, thanks to the terrific magnetism of Cassandra James, this year it's turned into a lead gig, as Terry now shares Chief of Staff duties with Dr. Britt ("The Britch") Westbourne. ABC broke ground, introducing the first transgender character ever on a soap opera. Let's hope James is given a juicy storyline soon.

Jeremy Pope

Jeremy Pope

I know I'm cheating slightly with Jeremy Pope. Ryan Murphy's annoyingly revisionist "Hollywood," which Pope was spectacular in, was last season, but Pope's superb turn opposite Mj Rodriguez in "Pose" just solidifies him a true star on the rise. Pope was a Broadway sensation in "Choir Boy" and "Ain't Too Proud" before Regina King cast him as Jackie Wilson in "One Night in Miami." He is openly gay.

Hannah Einbinder
(Source: HBO Max)

Hannah Einbinder

The HBO Max breakout comedy "Hacks" is the perfect vehicle for the gifted Jean Smart. No surprise. The real revelation is how her co-star, Hannah Einbinder, manages to go toe to toe with her and not only stay afloat, but actually establish herself as a formidable comic partner. Nominated for a Supporting Actress Emmy, Einbinder's character, Ava, is bisexual, as is the actor herself.

Jordan Alexander
(Source: HBO Max)

Jordan Alexander

One of the best things about HBO Max's uneven "Gossip Girl" reboot is the entrancing Jordan Alexander as Junior Queen Julien Calloway, the Insta-celeb with minions who do her dirty work. Alexander underplays her role to perfection. Alexander is a Canadian singer and activist with quite an Instagram following of her own. The 27-year-old is openly queer.

And a trio from Russell T. Davies' awesome miniseries "It's a Sin," where gay actors actually played gay roles. All three actors made their TV/Screen debuts.

Callum Scott Howells
(Source: HBO Max)

Callum Scott Howells

How could you not fall in love with sweet, lovely Colin? And that has everything to do with sweet, lovely Callum Scott Howells! In every interview with the 21-year-old actor you can see just how nice he is. But it's also apparent how craft-conscious the thesp is, as well. He is "It's a Sin's" MVP. Howells identifies as queer.

Nathaniel Curtis
(Source: HBO Max)

Nathaniel Curtis

Super-sexy Nathaniel Curtis played Ash, a British Indian man, who had quite a journey in the series from carefree hedonist to staunch activist. Curtis handles it like a seasoned pro, which is no surprise as he got his start on the stage. Curtis identifies as queer.

Omari Douglas
(Source: HBO Max)

Omari Douglas

Omari Douglas magnificently portrayed the bold and brash Roscoe, someone brimming with joy, but with a subtext of pain just under the surface. Douglas embodied the character fully. The actor identifies as gay.

On a final note, I find it sad that one of the better and most popular queer shows currently streaming, "Love, Victor," has no out actors in the ensemble. Do better.

Frank J. Avella is a film and theatre journalist and is thrilled to be writing for EDGE. He also contributes to Awards Daily and is the GALECA East Coast Rep. Frank is a recipient of a 2019 International Writers Retreat Residency at Arte Studio Ginestrelle (Assisi, Italy), a 2018 Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship, a 2016 Helene Wurlitzer Residency Grant and a 2015 NJ State Arts Council Fellowship Award. He is an award-winning screenwriter and playwright (CONSENT, LURED, SCREW THE COW, FIG JAM, VATICAN FALLS) and a proud member of the Dramatists Guild. https://filmfreeway.com/FrankAvella https://muckrack.com/fjaklute