Playing Gay

‘Fire Island’ Actor Conrad Ricamora Will Gladly Play Queer Characters for the Rest of His Life

Not many queer male actors are afforded the opportunity to play both straight and queer characters, but Fire Island actor Conrad Ricamora says he would proudly play queer characters for the rest of his career.

In an episode of Variety’s theater podcast Stagecraft, Ricomora dished on his latest role in the Broadway production of Here Lies Love. In the show, the 44-year-old portrays Ninoy Aquino, leader of the opposition towards the corrupt Marcos regime. The production allowed Ricamora to connect with his Filipino heritage and while the character is straight, the gay actor said he’s not afraid to play queer characters for the rest of his career.

“A lot of times I feel like when actors are starting out in their careers, they don’t want to come out, or don’t want to be thought of as a gay actor, because then they’re just going to get gay roles,” said Ricamora. “But gay people are so different, and there’s so much variety within the characters that exist with the LGBT community that if I played queer characters for the rest of my life, I would be so happy because I would still be able to play a variety of people.”

Ricamora’s acting portfolio is already brimming with gay roles. He’s most known for playing gay IT professional Oliver Hampton in Shonda Rhimes’ How to Get Away with Murder, alongside Oscar winner Viola Davis. The role gave Ricamora the first opportunity to portray a queer character on primetime TV. Additionally, as a character living with HIV, Ricamora’s Oliver became a trifecta for queer, Asian, and HIV-positive representation. 

“I was able to provide that [representation] for people that are like me—in a small town in rural Florida, feeling like I was the only Asian, gay person in the world,” said Ricamora in an interview for W Magazine. “All of the representation that I was able to provide just because my face was onscreen is something that was not there at all when I was growing up.”

He also played Will, love interest to Joel Kim Booster’s Noah, in the queer Pride and Prejudice-inspired film Fire Island, written by Booster. The story follows Noah and his friends, played by Bowen Yang, Matt Rogers, Margaret Cho, Tomás Matos, and Torian Miller, on their annual trip to New York’s gay paradise Fire Island and how they navigate romance, identity, classism, racism, and social expectations. As the main love interest, Ricamora understood how Fire Island and his portrayal of Will highlighted queer joy and the importance of telling LGBTQ+ stories with this in mind. 

“So much of our stories from the past have necessarily been telling the trauma that we’ve had to endure and still have had to endure—and it’s important to not forget their stories,” said Ricamora for W Magazine. “But it’s important to also celebrate the joy of being in the queer community, because there is so much joy, there is so much that is so beautiful and fabulous and exciting and sexy about it. In the midst of all of those stories being told, it’s important for us to celebrate as well. Otherwise, what are we fighting for?”

There’s a long-running misconception in Hollywood that there aren’t enough queer actors to play queer roles. But Kristen Stewart, Bridgerton’s Jonathan Bailey, Ariana DeBose, Jurassic World’s Justice Smith, and Janelle Monáe are just a few of the queer actors who continue to oscillate between playing queer and straight roles with ease. Ricamora seems to find his footing just fine doing the same, but if his subsequent characters were all about sharing queer joy for the rest of his career, he seems to relish the idea. 

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