When fans settled in to watch the 13th episode of Arrow’s second season almost a year ago, they had no idea the show based on DC Comics’ Emerald Archer was about to make television history.
As Sara Lance — the show’s first incarnation of martial arts master Black Canary — passionately kissed Nyssa Raatko, we learned this Canary was a far cry from the character that first appeared during the Golden Age of comics in 1947. Instead, she was a kick-ass bisexual who'd had past romantic relationships with both the Arrow/Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and the daughter of supervillain Ra’s al Ghul.
TV’s first mainstream LGBT superhero had officially arrived.
Since then, Arrow’s spinoff series, The Flash, has continued to superspeed ahead with the inclusion of gay characters. First when Central City Police Department director David Singh (Patrick Sabonguil) subtly mentioned his “boyfriend” during the two-episode crossover event between the two shows in December, and once again in Tuesday’s episode, “The Sound and the Fury,” where the gay sonic weapon–wielding member of the Scarlett Speedster’s rogues gallery, Hartley Rathaway/Pied Piper (Andy Mientus), made his TV debut.
It was another first for LGBT inclusion in the genre, but out cocreator and producer Greg Berlanti (pictured above) promises it won’t be the last.
“The next step is to add a regular character, not just a recurring one, who is openly gay on the next round of these shows, because I think that’s important and I’d like to do that in the next year,” he says, recalling the impact seeing such characters had on him during his youth. “I can remember when there were storylines with gay characters on shows like Family and Dynasty and thinking, I have something in common with that person. This was way before the internet and all the visibility that has brought with it. But back then, you really felt alone and when I saw those characters on TV, I knew I wasn’t alone.”
While Berlanti has made it his mission to break down barriers for LGBT inclusiveness in the small-screen adventures of DC’s superheroes, pushing for greater visibility is familiar territory for the 42-year-old TV veteran. The man who once battled with network executives to put the first passionate kiss between two men on a prime-time TV series during his early days as a writer and producer on Dawson’s Creek, has since helped craft several more inclusive moments through shows such as Jack & Bobby, Everwood, Brothers & Sisters, and the 2012 miniseries Political Animals.
“There are people doing it even better now and I salute them,” he says. “But I’m proud to play my role and foster stories. It’s a landscape that’s changed a lot in the last 15 years since I started doing this stuff, and it’s exciting to have been a part of that [evolution].”
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