GLAAD Nominee Spotlight: Best Drama Series

'Empire's' Jussie Smollett was at the New York GLAAD Media Awards last year. (Getty)

This year’s  GLAAD Media Awards is fast approaching with the LA awards on April 2nd (NY’s awards is May 14th) and I’m turning the spotlight on some of the key categories up for an award this year.

As I’ve said before, the competition isn’t as heated as other awards since just being nominated is a positive sign that your show or film is on the right track with promoting LGBT characters and stories.

This week, we take a look at the Best Drama Series nominees. Some of the titles are familiar since we tend to see them here every year but there are also some pleasant surprises, too. Let's take a look.

Arrow“: The CW series has found a way to incorporate LGBT characters and relationships into the heightened reality of the comic book world. Unfortunately, Oliver Queen (hunky Stephen Amell) isn’t among those gay characters but the show featured the romance between bisexual Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) and lesbian Nyssa al Ghul (Katrina Law) as well as, last fall, added Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum) and also gave him a husband! The show doesn’t dwell on the characters’ sexuality across the board and keeps them well in line with the other storylines and relationships. With out producer Greg Berlanti among the creative force, it’s no wonder the show knows what its doing with gay characters.

Toby Stephens as Captain James Flint on 'Black Sails' (Starz)

Black Sails”: The show, currently in season 3, knows what it’s doing with fluid sexuality across many of its characters in a world where sexuality isn’t judged or shamed. While the sexy romance between Max (Jessica Parker Kennedy) and Anne Bonny (Clara Paget) was a big part of the third season, the flashbacks of Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) in younger days revealed he was in love with another man (Rupert Penry-Jones) and the tragic end to their relationship is what made him the pirate he is in present day. The story was told with tenderness and maturity without it coming off as a mere one-time gay romp.

Empire“: With a super fun first season followed by a troublesome second season, the show is still a force to be reckoned with in its portrayal of a gay son (Jussie Smollett) coming into his own by coming out and, while his father (Terrence Howard) may still not love the fact that his son is gay, they have managed to forge a relationship. While I question the writers’ choice to have Jamal sleep with a woman (played by guest star Alicia Keys) the fact that it happened off camera is proof that even the powers that be on the show knew it was something questionable. If the character had been established as bisexual (we know Jamal has had sex with women in earlier days), it would’ve made sense but so much was made in the first season about him being gay that it felt like a huge misstep and sent a confusing message to people who think the right woman can turn any gay man straight.

Last year, Kerry Washington received the Vanguard Award. Here is her amazing speech:

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The Fosters“: I mean, does any show do it better than the Freeform drama? From having a family led by a married lesbian couple (Sherri Saum and Teri Polo) to a young teen boy (Hayden Byerly) experience his first love (and TV’s first gay teen kiss), the show always finds the right balance between sending a positive LGBT message and just showing that we’re all the same in more ways than we’re not.

Grey’s Anatomy“: Truth be told, I phased out of the ABC drama a few seasons back but I check in now and again and see that Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) are still in the mix as well as other LGBT characters either by way of guest stars or other characters. It may not be as hot as Shonda’s other shows (one of which is also in this category) but the audience that watches accepted that relationship (whether they’re together or not) long ago.

Jack Falahee (l) and Conrad Ricamora (r) on ABC's "How To Get Away With Murder." (ABC)

How To Get Away With Murder”: While it felt fresh and exciting to have a gay character (played with the right amount of arrogance/humanity by Jack Falahee) who wasn’t ashamed of his sexuality and even using sex to get what he wanted (and enjoying it), seeing Connor fall in love with Oliver (Conrad Ricamora) was sweet but also important since, in the first season finale, it was revealed that it wasn’t the promiscuous Connor who was HIV positive but Oliver. Conversations about PrEP and showing a couple still moving forward with a positive diagnosis ending everything was groundbreaking.

Nashville“: Yes, country star Will Lexington (Chris Carmack) finally (FINALLY!) came out of the closet and even found a healthy relationship in Kyle Dean Massey for a little while (it’s “Nashville” so whomever thought the guys would live happily ever after obviously didn’t know the show’s soap opera roots). Now, if the writers could just give Will a storyline that had zero to do with him being gay (Carmack is not only a great performer on stage but he’s also proven to be one hell of an actor), then I’d be giving this show an award.

Orphan Black“: Cosima. Delphine. Felix. The sci-fi-ish series about a group of clones is a wonder to watch because of star Tatiana Maslany’s fabulous work no matter which clone she’s playing (seeing multiple clones in one scene is still a trip especially since you forget that Maslany is playing them ALL). However, the show also has one of the most endearing relationships in Cosima (the scientist clone) and Delphine (Evelyne Brochu). We don’t know how much longer they are going to survive since life threatening danger is always around the corner but we can hope they get a happy ending. And then there’s Felix (Jordan Gavaris), who brings some sass and flare but also gets his moments of showing his own loneliness and how, deep down, he’d probably be happy in the right relationship. Let’s hope Felix finds one sooner or later.

Tatiana Maslany as Rachel and Jordan Gavaris as Felix. (BBC America)

“Sense8”: The trippy sci-fi series had a group of eight people from different walks of life and in different parts of the world, who realized they could communicate mentally. While there’s the prerequisite danger to the story, there is also a lovely relationship between trans Nomi (trans actress Jamie Clayton) and her girlfriend, Amanita (Freema Agyeman) and I’ll give an award to the scene mid-season where all the characters have group sex while not even being in the same room. Hot. Hot. Hot. The show is also created by the Wachowskis, one of which, Lana, is transgender.

Shameless“: Last season, the Showtime dramedy spent a lot of time dealing with the bi-polar diagnosis of Ian (Cameron Monaghan) and how it affected his life but also his life with boyfriend Mickey (Noel Fisher). It’s a good thing with a show like this that there is just as much drama and craziness happening for the gay characters as much as the straight characters and “Shameless” never fails in this regard.

For more on the NY and LA GLAAD Media Awards, visit the website.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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