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Animal instinct

Rising star Sebastian Stan brings depth to gay role on Sigourney Weaver-helmed political family series

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T.J. Hammond, played by Sebastian Stan, raises a glass to his family of ‘Political Animals’ in the new USA Network series. (Photo courtesy USA Network)

Being the first openly gay child of the “First Family,” would be pressure enough, but “Political Animals’” T.J. Hammond still can’t find peace now that his mother is the Secretary of State, and divorcing his father, the former President of the United States.

“I don’t know this personally, but one of the things I’ve tried to research is the idea of how do you exist in the world as an individual when your parents’ persona is constantly an umbrella over your identity,” says Sebastian Stan, who plays T.J. in the new USA network political drama which premiered this week about a former First Family coping with change in the years after the White House (It airs Sunday nights at 10).

While many young LGBT people T.J.’s age face pressure and depression, and may experiment with drugs and alcohol like the character, most don’t do so under the microscope of the media, with a mother — former First Lady Elaine Barrish played by Sigourney Weaver, whom Stan calls a “sweet soul” — in the cabinet of the incoming President.

T.J. copes with the pressure by acting out and pushing the envelope, much like another set of first kids, the Bush twins, whom Stan says T.J. may be able to relate to.

“Its like someone handing you the same plate of breakfast every day,” Stan tells the Blade, saying he doesn’t know personally what it would be like to be under such a microscope, but has tried to research extensively this complicated character. “’Well this is now my life, and this is what I gotta do.’ And you get bored. Its like, ‘Why? I want more? I want something else. I don’t want to be pigeonholed.’ And I think that maybe … you want to branch out, you want to be different, you want to do your thing, you don’t want to constantly have to live in the shadow of your parents, which is unfortunately what these characters are living under.”

Stan says that the show from acclaimed producers Greg Berlanti and Laurence Mark, which also stars Ellen Burstyn and James Wolk who plays T.J.’s twin brother, attempts to pull back a curtain on the private lives of these very public people.

“When these people go home, and they sit down at dinner, what do they talk about?” Stan says. “How are they with themselves?”

The character differs greatly from another gay character he played in a political family on NBC’s “Kings,” because, while the young prince Jack Benjamin was strong-willed, driven and knew what he wants, T.J., Stan says, is much more fragile and lost and feels that he’s been pigeonholed in a way that does not fit him, and he’s searching for escape.

“Someone says to you, ‘Guess what? You’re going to live in this box.’ And how do you deal with that?” Stan says, saying T.J. and his straight twin Douglass deal with the pressure in vastly different ways. “T.J. deals with it by numbing, as an alcoholic and a drug addict.”

Though T.J. has strong allies in the family like his grandmother Margaret, played by Burstyn, and his powerful mother, unlike the “Kings” character, T.J. has little control over his life, and Stan, who’s straight, wonders what the young son raised in the spotlight might do with the freedom that a life of anonymity might lend.

“Ultimately he’s just a character that’s trying to find himself and trying to be heard that’s desperately wanting to be loved … Does he have a choice, and if he had a choice, what would he do with it.”

Stan says working with veteran actress Sigourney Weaver is “phenomenal,” and that he’s grateful to share a set with the “Alien” star.

“She’s an incredibly generous person, as well as an actress,” he says. “A powerhouse … The level of etiquette and discipline and commanding the set that she brought on was absolutely awesome. Made everyone feel very special … You always knew when she was going to walk in. You felt her presence.”

 

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Photos

PHOTOS: Baltimore Pride Parade

Thousands attend annual LGBTQ march and block party

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A scene from the 2024 Baltimore Pride Parade. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Baltimore Pride Parade and Block Party was held on Charles Street in Baltimore, Md. on Saturday, June 15. 

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Sports

Washington Mystics to hold annual Pride game

Team to play Dallas Wings on Saturday

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Mystics will be having their upcoming Pride game on Saturday against the Dallas Wings.

The Mystics Pride game is one of the team’s theme nights they host every year, with Pride night being a recurring event. The team faced off against the Phoenix Mercury last June. Brittney Griner, who Russia released from a penal colony in December 2022 after a court convicted her of importing illegal drugs after customs officials at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport found vape canisters with cannabis oil in her luggage, attended the game. 

Unlike the NBA, where there are currently no openly LGBTQ players, there are multiple WNBA players who are out. Mystics players Emily Englster, Brittney Sykes, and Stefanie Dolson are all queer.

The Mystics on June 1 acknowledged Pride Month in a post to its X account.

“Celebrating Pride this month and every month,” reads the message.

The game is on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Entertainment and Sports Arena (1100 Oak Drive, S.E.). Fans can purchase special Pride tickets that come with exclusive Mystics Pride-themed jerseys. 

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Theater

Queers win big at 77th annual Tony Awards

‘Merrily We Roll Along’ among winners

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(Photo courtesy of the Tony Awards' Facebook page)

It was a banner night for queer theater artists at the 77th annual Tony Awards, honoring the best in Broadway theater at the Lincoln Center in New York on Sunday. Some of the biggest honors of the night went to the revival of the Stephen Sondheim musical “Merrily We Roll Along” and the dance-musical based on Sufjan Stephens’ album “Illinoise.

“Merrily We Roll Along,” which follows three friends as their lives change over the course of 20 years, told in reverse chronological order, picked up the awards for Best Revival of a Musical and Best Orchestrations. 

Out actor Jonathan Groff picked up his first Tony Award for his leading role as Franklin Shepard in the show, while his costar Daniel Radcliffe earned his first Tony Award for featured performance as Charley Kringas. 

Groff gave a heartfelt and teary acceptance speech about how he used to watch the Tony Awards as a child in Lancaster County, Pa.

“Thank you for letting me dress up like Mary Poppins when I was three,” he said to his parents in the audience. “Even if they didn’t understand me, my family knew the life-saving power of fanning the flame of a young person’s passions without judgment.”

Groff also thanked the everyone in the production of “Spring Awakening,” where he made his Broadway debut in 2006, for inspiring him to come out at the age of 23.

“To actually be able to be a part of making theatre in this city, and just as much to be able to watch the work of this incredible community has been the greatest pleasure of my life,” he said. 

This was Groff’s third Tony nomination, having been previously nominated for his leading role in “Spring Awakening” and for his featured performance as King George III in “Hamilton.” 

Radcliffe, who is best known for starring in the “Harry Potter” series of movies, has long been an ally of the LGBTQ community, and has recently been known to spar with “Harry Potter” creator JK Rowling over her extreme opposition to trans rights on social media and in interviews. It was Radcliffe’s first Tony nomination and win.

Lesbian icon Sarah Paulson won her first Tony Award for her starring role in the play “Appropriate,” about a family coming to terms with the legacy of their slave-owning ancestors as they attempt to sell their late father’s estate. It was her first nomination and win.

In her acceptance speech, she thanked her partner Holland Taylor “for loving me.” Along with Paulson’s Emmy win for “American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson,” she is halfway to EGOT status.

The Sufjan Stephens dance-musical “Illinoise,” based on his album of the same name, took home the award for Best Choreography for choreographer Justin Peck. It was his second win.

During the ceremony, the cast of “Illinoise” performed “The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out to Get Us!”, a moving dance number about a queer romance.

A big winner of the night was the adaptation of the S.E. Hinton novel “The Outsiders,” which dominated the musical categories, earning Best Director, Sound Design, Lighting Design, and Best Musical, which earned LGBTQ ally Angelina Jolie her first Tony Award.

Also a big winner was “Stereophonic,” which dominated the play categories, winning the awards for Best Play, Featured Actor, Director, Sound Design, and Scenic Design.

“Suffs,” a musical about the fight for women’s suffrage in the U.S., which acknowledges the lesbian relationship that suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt had in song called “If We Were Married,” took home awards for Best Book of a Musical and Best Score, both for creator Shaina Taub. 

Had “Suffs” also won for Best Musical, producers Hilary Clinton and Malala Yousafzai would have won their first Tony Awards. 

Other winners include Maleah Joi Moon for her lead role and Kecia Lewis for her featured role in the Alicia Keys musical “Hell’s Kitchen,” Jeremy Strong for his lead role in An Enemy of the People, and Kara Young for her featured role in “Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch.”

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