AfterEllen has spent the last three weeks at the Television Critics Association Press Tour where networks presented some new and returning shows to the TV writers of the world. Of the hundreds of new series coming to television, there are (sadly) only a handful of new major lesbian/bi female characters, and a few coming to new seasons of shows already on air.
The current trend seems to be casting of black lesbian characters, which is fantastic, on one hand, but problematic on the other. While visibility for women of color is always encouraged, the difficulty is in the consistent creating of the “other” on a show; the token minority. This is not always the case, but when the only person of color is also the only queer one (and sometimes the only other woman outside of a major love interest for a male lead), it’s more often than not diversity for diversity’s sake and not thought through enough to create a three-dimensional character. Hopefully this will not befall the actors in the below roles, and that the writers of each respective show are more interested in writing honest depictions of queer women and not caricatures that up their “diversity” statistics.
This fall and winter, at least 15 new queer female characters will be introduced on network, cable and streaming TV. Half of them are major characters while the others will appear in only one or a select few episodes. Three of them are androgynous presenting and seven are women of color (six black and one Asian).
Lena Waithe as Denise, Master of None (November 6, 2015)
The 10-episode comedy series is co-created by and starring Aziz Ansari (along with Parks and Recreation‘s Mike Schur and Alan Yang). Aziz stars as Dev, “a 30-year-old actor who has trouble deciding what he wants to eat, much less the pathway for the rest of his life.” One of Dev’s friends is a lesbian character played by and based on stand-up comic, actress and writer Lena Waithe.
“A lot of the characters in the early going in the show were designed to be like, ‘Let’s design a basic character for Dev’s friend group and then find the right actor.’ That’s what we did for Parks & Rec a little bit, especially with the guest cast,” Mike Shur said. “And she came in and originally, I think the way it was written for the sake of additions, I was going to say the character was straight but I don’t think it even mentioned straight or gay. And then she auditioned and then just hanging around before the test and before the auditions, she was just telling us—she’s so interesting. She’s the most interesting person in the world. She’s the female equivalent of whatever that beer ad guy is. She told us all these stories about her life and what she’s really like. And after a while, Aziz and Alan were just like ‘Why shouldn’t she just be gay?’ These characters are all versions of who we really are in real life. So it was like a no brainer. We just switched it.”
“Denise is one of my friends and we really wrote that character for Lena, whose so awesome and funny. I haven’t seen a character like her on TV. After we cast Lena, we really tailored the character towards her. We really tried to spend a lot of time with [her] and write to [her],” Aziz said.
Carrie Anne Moss as Harper, Jessica Jones (December 2015)
Executive Producer Melissa Rosenberg said she wanted to keep Harper’s storyline and character a secret. “I will say she’s an extraordinary actress; so grounded and you’ve never seen her like this,” Melissa said. But she promises that we’ll “want to cover it,” and based on the set photos of Harper locking lips with another lady on set, we definitely will be.
Carrie Anne Moss