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Katy Keene (2020) / Nathan Lee Graham

FRANCOIS as portrayed by Nathan Lee Graham in Katy Keene (2020)

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A few days ago, I'd suggested that the canon of great American actors is incomplete because talented black gay folks have been looked over because they were unwilling or unable to confirm to play straight characters. I still think this is true. But it would be unfair and incorrect to suggest that there haven't been at least a few Black gay artists who have managed to cobble together meaningful careers playing Black gay characters. One example is Nathan Lee Graham who currently plays Francois on CW's Katy Keene. Nathan might not have marquee name recognition, but you have probably seen him in at least one film or TV show, like Zoolander, Hitch, Sweet Home Alabama, The Comeback and LA to Vegas. When I was talking to a friend about the curation of this list, he raised an interesting query -- were these characters written as Black, gay men or did Nathan get cast and thus they became Black, gay men? I don't have those answer, but I am indeed curious. At any rate, his career is strong casemaking for the idea that a Black gay man can show up authentically and work consistently. And still, with all the work he has done, I don't think we've yet seen the full expanse of his talents on screen. Many of the characters hover on the comedic and sidekick, but his gifts stretch beyond that. Hopefully, with more storytellers from Black experiences creating more and varied stories that explore the fullness of Black gay men we'll be able to see him in full flight along with a whole new flock of talented Black, gay actors bringing their A game -- and their whole selves -- to the screen.


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