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‘Grace and Frankie’ gets season five renewal, RuPaul to guest star

the new episodes are expected to stream in 2019

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Grace & Frankie, gay news, Washington Blade
Grace & Frankie, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo by Melissa Moseley; courtesy Netflix)

“Grace and Frankie” has been renewed for a fifth season with RuPaul on board for a guest starring role.

Deadline reports that RuPaul will play Benjamin Le Day,” a formidable and quick-witted adversary who faces off with Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin).”

Fonda, RuPaul and Tomlin confirmed the collaboration in a Twitter exchange on Wednesday.

“Hey @LilyTomlin @JaneFonda will there be a Season 5 of @GraceAndFrankie?,” RuPaul tweeted.

Fonda responded, “Yup, 2019. You want in??” to which RuPaul tweeted,  “Does @DollyParton sleep on her back? YES!”

Tomlin also confirmed the news tweeting, “Let’s do this.”

“Grace and Frankie” season five is expected to stream on Netflix in 2019.

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Photos

PHOTOS: Cupid’s Undie Run

Scantily-clad joggers face freezing temperatures for a cause

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Cupid's Undie Run was held at The Wharf DC on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Cupid’s Undie Run, an annual fundraiser for neurofibromatosis (NF) research, was held at Union Stage and at The Wharf DC on Saturday, Feb. 17.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Photos

PHOTOS: Queen of Hearts

Katie D. Lite was crowned the winner of 42nd annual drag pageant

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Katie D. Lite was crowned the Queen of Hearts. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The 42nd annual Queen of Hearts pageant was held at The Lodge in Boonsboro, Md. on Friday, Feb. 16. Eight contestants vied for the title. Katie D. Lite was crowned the winner.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Theater

Deaf, gay actor on gripping, funny ‘Private Jones’

Musical makes premiere at Signature with Obie winner Dickie Drew Hearts

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Dickie Drew Hearts (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

‘Private Jones’
Through March 10
Signature Theatre 
4200 Campbell Ave.
Arlington, Virginia 22206
$40-$99 
Sigtheatre.org

Set against the harsh vicissitudes of the Great War, “Private Jones” a new musical written and directed by Marshall Pailet, is currently making its world premiere at Signature Theatre in Arlington. 

Touted as gripping, unexpectedly funny, and purportedly true, it’s the story of Gomer Jones, a young Deaf Welshman who after wriggling his way into military service becomes a celebrated sniper only to learn there might be more to life. 

The production features a cast of hearing, Deaf, and hard-of-hearing actors including Dickie Drew Hearts, the Deaf, gay, and affable actor who recently won an Obie Award for “Dark Disabled Stories” at the Public in New York, and is probably best known for his performance of Mateo in Netflix’s “Tales of the City” (2019 miniseries).

Gathered around the end of a long conference table in the Sondheim Multipurpose Room at Signature Theatre, Hearts and I along with two top notch interpreters (one to sign my questions and another to voice the actor’s replies) dive into conversation. 

Hearts plays Henry, a Deaf munitions factory worker whose sister Gwenolyn (Leanne Antonio) becomes the love interest of Gomer (played by hard-of-hearing actor Johnny Link). It’s Henry who teaches Gomer sign language and essentially introduces him to Deaf culture, which isn’t unusual, says Hearts. It’s often through other Deaf people that the Deaf themselves get introduced to the Deaf community and signing world.

When the actors met in 2018, says Hearts, “Johnny [Link] was just learning sign language. I assured him that those who are hard-of-hearing are automatically very welcome members of the deaf community. Point blank. There are no qualifications.”

And now, six years later, Hearts is thrilled to be working with Link. “It’s amazing to see Johnny again, and to be having full conversations with him in sign language both on and off stage.” 

Not only is “Private Jones” a physically demanding show, but because it’s performed in spoken English as well as some American Sign Language (ASL) and British Sign Language (BSL) it presents some extra difficulties.

To play Henry, Hearts – a native ASL user since childhood – has had to learn BSL, tantamount to doing the show in an entirely new and different language. Hearts says, “I hope people recognize that. And signing along musically in BSL adds a layer of challenge beyond signing BSL dialogue.” 

Of course, he remains undaunted. It’s about the job and getting the character right. And for the thirtysomething actor that means going deep.  

“I would like to think Henry is a closeted gay man. Henry has ‘a roommate,’ is how I thought of his backstory.”

Hearts adds, “I know that queer people have always been here and I like to infuse that into the characters I play whether or not it’s stated. I look for those moments of where it might be hinting at sexuality, and ask what was it like at the time, was it safe to be out?”

Born Deaf in Queens, New York, into a hearing family who’d recently immigrated from formerly British Guyana in South America, Hearts grew up in Newport News, Va. 

A childhood spent watching captioned TV shows taught him both English and how to impersonate characters, an obsession that he took out into the neighborhood. “Eventually, somebody said there’s a thing for what I do. It’s called theater,” he signs with a grin. 

While attending Gallaudet University here in D.C., Hearts focused on film until his senior year when he randomly auditioned for the musical comedy “Urinetown” and landed the lead role of dashing Bobby Strong. A love for acting resurfaced and took hold. 

After graduating, Hearts came out and promptly moved to L.A. where he spent the next six years skirmishing over a dearth of Deaf parts. When a gig led him to New York in 2018, his luck changed. 

“Being a Deaf, gay, BIPOC actor was amazing for finding stage and film work in New York. But just when a lot of doors were opening for me, the pandemic hit and everything stopped.” 

Slowly things picked up. And in 2021 he became part of a new project. He was soon reporting to a nondescript high rise in midtown Manhattan workshopping what would become “Private Jones.” 

Now at Signature, Hearts is busy bringing Henry to life. “It’s been an amazing journey and I’m really fortunate to have witnessed its evolution from the beginning. It’s become grander, more elevated, and the characters more complex. It’s a wonderful thing” 

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