Who says LGBTQ+ actors can't be leading men and women?
At the 2021 Artios Awards, which is the casting equivalent of the Oscars, the Casting Society of America honored Ryan Bernard Tymensky for his work with Little Shop Of Horrors.
The 2019 production at the Pasadena Playhouse in the greater Los Angeles area was notable for its casting of Pose's Mj Rodriguez, who was the first transgender woman of color to portray Audrey, the female lead. She starred alongside George Salazar, a gay Broadway star known for Be More Chill, as the male lead, Seymour. The show also featured Amber Riley (Glee) as Audrey II.
In a celebratory Instagram post for his Artios win in the Los Angeles Theatre category, Tymensky, an L.A.-based casting director, said working on Little Shop of Horrors "reminded me of why I fell in love with casting and why I have no doubt I will be doing this for the rest of my life." He also noted the historic nature of the win.
"Little Shop of Horrors @pasadenaplayhouse is a prime example of how important and impactful thoughtful casting can be," he wrote. "I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to cast the first trans woman of color ever in the role of Audrey. And @mjrodriguez7 … what a GODDESS you are. Watching you in this role made me fall back in love with this character in ways I never thought imaginable. You are nothing short of a superstar and I cannot wait to see what this universe has in store for you."
Rodriguez herself was also elated. "Congratulations!!!!" the actress exclaimed in the comments.
Coincidentally, the 2019 New York City restaging, which initially starred gay actor Jonathan Groff as Seymour, also won an Artios Award in the New York Theatre – Musical category for casting director Jim Carnahan.
Little Shop of Horrors has queer roots. The cult classic show, based on a 1960 Roger Corman movie, was created by Alan Menken and the late gay lyricist Howard Ashman, who sparked the Disney Renaissance with hit songs in The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast.
The Artios win for Little Shop comes at a time of increased introspection in Hollywood over transgender casting. Historically, trans actors have rarely had the opportunity to even play trans roles, let alone cisgender parts, although actresses like Rodriguez are transcending outdated conventions.