Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry found LGBT representation to be his own private Kobayashi Maru, a no-win scenario. Ignoring gay culture betrayed the show’s progressive values, but after already pushing boundaries with American TV's first interracial kiss, he feared gay representations could get Trekkicked off the air. But 50 years later, it seems out director Bryan Fuller found a way to change the conditions of the test. Fuller may have stepped aside as showrunner for Star Trek: Discovery, which premieres in May, but he told The Hollywood Reporter the new CBS All Access show will cast an out male actor to play an openly gay character.
The show has fulfilled on this promise. CBS confirmed Tuesday that it had cast its first gay character to be played by an out actor, Anthony Rapp, on its new series. However, the universe has room for more than one queer person. Here are some other out actors CBS and all networks should consider for casting in other stellar roles.
1. Jim Parsons
The Big Bang Theory turned Jim Parsons into a household name. After 10 years on the air, rumors have swirled that sitcom may want to go out on top and finish up its run at the end of this season. What more natural follow-up could there be than to boldly go into deep nerd space and become an official part of Trek-dom? Obviously, this would require a lot of pieces to fall into place, including the Emmy-winning actor leaving a lucrative gig, but as CBS takes risks with the streaming game, bringing a built-in audience of Bang fans might be worth the buck.
2. Wilson Cruz
An actor who brought groundbreaking queer characters to high school dramas in the 1990s, Wilson Cruz has played every starlet’s gay best friend for long enough. Can he make the bridge to leading man on a starship bridge? He has some sci-fi background from films like Supernova.
3. Guillermo Diaz
If he’s willing to step away from Olivia Pope’s crisis team, Guillemo Diaz’s solider stature could fill out a Starfleet uniform nicely. To cast the macho Scandal vet in a groundbreaking Trek role would be the against-stereotype move that Roddenberry employed when seeking actors of color to play Nyota Uhura and Geordi La Forge.
4. TR Knight
A time travel vet from 11.22.63, could this former Grey’s Anatomy doc take over Trek’s newest sick bay? TR Knight always shined brightest on the small screen. While he did not play a gay doctor on Grey’s, his sexuality became a major news story thanks to a blow-up with Isaiah Washington, and his casting on Trek would grab some attention. Maybe some viewers who fondly remember his time on the once-beloved ABC show would follow him to the stars.
5. Conrad Ricamora
Too far down the cast list on How To Get Away With Murder, Conrad Ricamora has won accolades for his portrayal of an HIV-poz character on a network show, but he seems far from the limelight there. Could Trek offer the actor a chance to move into a command position?
6. Robert Gant
The Queer As Folk star knows how to play an alien, after portraying Supergirl’s father Zor-El in several episodes of that comic book-driven show. Robert Gant has long been a successful TV actor, from a stint on soap opera The Young and the Restless to a guest star role in Rick and Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in the World.
7. Cheyenne Jackson
Cheyenne Jackson is a familiar face to lovers of the anthology American Horror Story, but the format of that show holds no actor down in too committed a relationship. The gay actor boats a jawline that rivals Chris Pine and brings an action-star-ready six-pack. He played out 9/11 hero Mark Bingham in United 93so he has shown he can candle harrowing sequences in the sky.
8. George Takei
Star Trek has never shied away from recasting vet Trek actors in new roles, so why not bring in the franchise’s ultimate gay icon? George Takei played Sulu in the original cast for Star Trek 50 years ago, came out in 2005, and has since become a vocal LGBT activist. Takei actually lobbied Gene Roddenberry to put a gay storyline on TV back in the day but that never came to be. The actor voiced widely covered dissent regarding the decision to make the new timeline version of Sulu gay in the new Trek films. Maybe an appropriate smoothing over could occur by casting Takei as an out main character in the universe.
9. Ian McKellan
Dream-casting for sure, but few out actors boast so much nerd cred as Ian McKellan, the face of both Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings franchise and Magneto in the X-Men films. Plus, he’s best friends with Jean-Luc freakin’ Picard. Would he sign up for a series? That’s likely another story. But we can hope this wizard shows up precisely when he means to.
10. Telly Leung
This actor shared a stage with George Takei in the Star Trek legend’s Broadway play Allegiance. Most of Telly Leung’s notable work has been on the stage, but he did have a turn on Glee. He could also serve as homage to Gene Roddenberry’s efforts to put Asian-Americans on screen shortly after the end of World War II, while helping a new generation of Trek helmers bring another out man onto the bridge.
11. John Barrowman
John Barrowman became so beloved for his portrayal of “omnisexual” Captain Jack Harkness in Dr. Who that he got his own sci-fi spinoff, Torchwood. The out actor boasts a stage background reminiscent of Patrick Stewart and a built-in sci-fi fan base that any new Trek show will desire.
12. Dan Butler
A Trek type in the DeForest Kelly/Robert Picardo model, Dan Butler’s background as a working actor covers everything from drama to comedy to animation, providing a skillset perfect in the Trek-verse. He even appeared in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, 1998’s “Vis A Vis.”
13. Alex Newell
Best known for playing Glee’s first transgender character Unique Adams, the multi-talented Alex Newell could bring a personality type never seen on the bridge of the Enterprise. Could this make for a new Discovery in the Trek-verse?
14. Jussie Smollett
A sci-fi veteran who worked on Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant, Jussie Smollett remains best known for his work on the TV series Empire.But aybe it’s time for a new pursuit into the stars.
15. B.D. Wong
Starring in such nerdbait as Gotham, Mr. Robot and Jurassic World, B.D. Wong has represented LGBT people of color on screens large and small for years. The sci-fi veteran could finally help catch Star Trek’s 23rd century up to the 21st century.
16. Blake Fountain-Young
The dramatic actor starred alongside Zachary Quinto, the out actor playing Spock in the new Trek films, in I Am Michael. Blake Fountain-Young also boasts plenty of TV experience in series including The Mindy Project and Parenthood.
17. Luke Macfarlane
A constant presence on TV crime procedurals, Luke Macfarlane probably remains best known for his turn as Scotty Wandell in Brothers and Sisters. The out actor could bring some star power to a new space opera.
18. Bobby Quinn Rice
An actor widely seen in the weird world of fan-made productions, Bobby Quinn Rice actually already portrayed a gay Trek character of sorts, Peter Kirk. The nephew to James T. was imagined as gay in an episode of the never-made Star Trek Phase II series, and the writer eventually had the script produced. Now, he is portraying Buck Rogers in another licensed fan-made production, but could probably be lured to the official Trek series.
19. Tom Lenk
A genre vet with roles in Transformers and some nerd love for appearances on The Guild, the out star would bring Kirk-looks with Riker-scruff to the bridge. He is working right now on the upcoming series Kick.
20. Sean Maher
Space opera fans already have seen Sean Maher in action on Firefly. Since then, Maher also boasts appearances in Batman and the Justice League cartoons.