Greg Berlanti has been in the television business since the early ’00s, and his production company, Berlanti Productions, has a record-breaking number of shows currently in production, three of which are set to premiere this year. And that’s independent of his feature film writing and directing efforts!
Best of all, though, Greg Berlanti populates his productions with a diverse array of LGBTQ characters, demonstrating a solid effort to grow queer visibility on television. He has singlehandedly improved the findings of GLAAD’s “Where We Are on TV” report.
For some of you, this queer representation is all fine and good and just how things should be. Those of you a bit more seasoned may remember a time when only one or two major network television shows had a peripheral gay character at best — one steeped in eyeroll-inducing stereotypes, never properly developed or given a storyline.
For queer chatacters with a bit more depth, you’d have to scan fringe networks for offerings like The Real World or Queer as Folk, but the findings were still painfully white and rather washed down.
So join us as we honor Greg Berlanti by taking a look at eight of his most exciting, diverse LGBTQ characters, each of which enriches our cozy evenings on the couch.
Here are 8 of our favorite LGBTQ TV characters, courtesy of Greg Berlanti:
1. Peach Salinger (You)
You is a sinister story: Boy meets girl. Boy is immediately obsessed with girl. Boy uses social media maliciously to rid himself of the competition and make the girl fall in love with him.
The beautiful Shay Mitchell appears as Peach Salinger, distant cousin of author J.D. Salinger and best friend of the object of boy’s obsession. Quickly suspicious of Joe, Peach exhibits fierce protectiveness, devotion and just a little bit of sexual desire towards her best friend, Guinevere Beck.
Who among us has not been a little overprotective of our best friend, encouraged by just a dash of sexual attraction? The wild story isn’t over, and you won’t have to tune in weekly on Lifetime when Season 2 drops, as You is now a Netflix series.
2. Toni Topaz (Riverdale)
The diverse casting of Riverdale has taken Archie canon on a joyride into the 21st century.
When we first meet Toni Topaz, she’s a student at South Side High, a rough and tough Serpent and a cause of tension between Betty, Jughead and legions of “Bughead” fans. As the series progresses, Toni forgets all about Jughead and falls in love with another female student who comic readers once knew to be straight.
In the comics, Cheryl Blossom was the buxom redhead who came to town to shake things up for the resident blonde and brunette apples of Archie’s eye. In this new universe, Cheryl has set her sights on Toni. Their exciting romance has already found them saving each others’ lives and moving in together.
3. Ambrose Spellman (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
October’s highly anticipated Netflix release about half-mortal/half-witch Sabrina Spellman expanded the Archie Comics Universe inhabited by the teens and parents of Riverdale.
Filled with witches, warlocks, demons and humans, one of the show’s most charismatic characters is Sabrina’s cousin Ambrose — beautifully pansexual, ethnically ambiguous, delightful AF.
Being sentenced to house arrest and confined to Spellman Mortuary certainly doesn’t prevent him from connecting with the handsome and mysterious Luke during the funeral of a suspected warlock named Connor. There’s definitely something fish about Luke, but who among us is perfect?
4. Grace Choi (Black Lightning)
Black Lightning just keeps delivering. This electric series brought us television’s first strong and gorgeous lesbian superhero of color, Anissa Pierce, who kicks major ass under the moniker of Thunder.
And this season, Thunder scored a thunder buddy. We briefly met Grace Choi in Season 1 when she hosted a cosplay party that encouraged Anissa to suit up for the first time. But Choi has her own rich canon backstory that is currently unfolding before our eyes.
We’ve seen that when Grace gets upset, her skin and tattoos start to shift and move, developing stripes with an animal-like quality. We don’t know what this all means, but in the comics Grace is an Asian-American hero later revealed to be half-Amazon. She possesses strength, durability, speed, stamina and incredible healing powers. Yes, girl!
5. Coop (All American)
All American, a series billed as The CW’s answer to Friday Night Lights, premiered in October. The drama is based on the real-life experiences of former NFL player Spencer Paysinger and centers on a high school football player from South Central L.A. who transfers to a school in Beverly Hills.
Catching our attention is Tiana “Coop” Cooper, Spencer’s best friend. Portrayed by Bre-Z, who last graced our screens in Fox’s Empire, Coop is the realest black, high school-aged lesbian we’ve ever seen on television.
6. John Constantine (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow)
Things didn’t fare well for NBC’s Constantine, a 2014 series about a man haunted by the sins of his past who is suddenly thrust into defending humanity from the gathering forces of darkness. That series, based on a character created by DC Comics in 1984, only survived for one 13-episode season.
Amazingly, its star Matt Ryan would go on to reprise his role as John Constantine in guest appearances in Arrow and then Legends of Tomorrow, set within Berlanti’s Arrowverse. Now a series regular this season of Legends, his appearances began last season in an episode that strongly identified him as a mystically empowered, chain-smoking warlock — who is also bisexual.
Upon meeting the Legends, Constantine immediately flirts with Leo (Wentworth Miller), who says he’s flattered but already taken. Later in the episode, he gets entagled with Sara (Caity Lotz). Constantine’s bisexuality has been clearly referenced in the comics since the early ’90s but was ignored in NBC’s offering (and the poorly received 2005 film starring Keanu Reeves).
But ignoring the character’s sexual history wasn’t a choice Berlanti or executive producer Phil Klemmer intended to repeat. Constantine is now fully settled aboard the Waverider as part of the team, though he seems to have ulterior motives. Someone — or some thing — is hunting him, creating a mysterious big bad at the focus of the season. Joining the Legends provides a protection that Constantine seems to need, and he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. We can’t wait to see what else, and who else, the season has in store for him.
7. Ali (God Friended Me)
It was daring to produce a series with religion, spirituality and doubt at its center, but many are finding God Friended Me — and star Brandon Michael Hall — to be charming. And the diversity among the show’s cast is almost unheard of.
Javicia Leslie portrays Miles’ sister, Ali, a lesbian. Their father, portrayed by Joe Morton, is a priest. Uniquely, the drama that played out at the season’s start was not about a priest coming to terms with his daughter being a lesbian but rather that she and her girlfriend are moving in together.
At times the series is hokey, but it explores themes in a new way, encouraging critical thought from viewers of all kinds. Admittedly, we came for the charming Brandon Michael Hall, but we’re staying for Ali.
8. Nia Nal (Supergirl)
This year saw Supergirl introduce us to TV’s first trans superhero. Trans actress and activist Nicole Maines portrays Nia Nal, a new reporter at CatCo.
Kara, James, Brainy, and the rest of the team quickly take Nia into the fold as she begins discovering her heroic destiny as “Dreamer.” She’s a brilliantly reimagined version of the comic book character “Nura Nal/Dream Girl,” a member of the Legion of Superheroes with the ability to forecast future events based upon visions in her dreams.
And Greg Berlanti has more LGBTQ TV characters on the way
We can’t wait to see who Greg Berlanti introduces us to this year. We know that Batwoman is still in development, featuring Ruby Rose’s lesbian Kate Kane.
And there are already rumors regarding Titans, Berlanti’s offering on the DC Universe streaming network, where Season 2 may introduce Bunker, a superhero with the ability to create purple energy constructs with his mind. Miguel Jose Barragan is a flamboyant, openly gay teen when he discovers his superpowers. He seeks out Robin and the other Teen Titans to join the fight against evil. Welcome aboard, Miguel! We can’t wait to meet you.