Out, Out and Away! Russell Tovey on Playing a Gay Superhero

Out, Out and Away! Russell Tovey on Playing a Gay Superhero


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Russell Tovey, who provides the voice for the Ray in a new CW Seed series. “So many people have been so supportive of seeing two superheroes who are gay played by two actors who are out,” he said.

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Steve Forrest for The New York Times

“Freedom Fighters: The Ray,” a new animated series with the actor Russell Tovey providing the voice of the main character, is to debut Friday. The series is about a band of DC Comics heroes who live on Earth X, a parallel world in which Germany won World War II. Six episodes will be available on CW Seed, the CW network’s digital content site.

Fans of the DC TV universe were introduced to this version of the Ray in live action and played by Mr. Tovey during the two-day, four-part “Crisis on Earth X” crossover last week, which included episodes of “Supergirl,” “Arrow,” “Flash” and “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.” (The Ray was originally introduced in Smash Comics No. 14, published in 1940.)

Amid fighting Nazis — and evil versions of the title heroes — the story made time for quiet moments, two weddings and some gay, lesbian and bisexual representation. White Canary (Caity Lotz) had a dalliance with Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), the sister of Supergirl, but the biggest surprise was the reveal of the relationship between the Ray and Citizen Cold (Wentworth Miller), which included an onscreen kiss. Mr. Tovey answered some questions about the episode and the future of the Ray by phone on Wednesday. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

Are you a big superhero fan?

Growing up, I always wanted to be a superhero. That’s always been something I astral projected. So when this came up, it was an easy yes — especially for what the character stood for. It magnified my excitement in portraying him. Most of my acting mates — everyone wants to play a superhero. It’s definitely one of the boxes you want to tick. It feels wonderful to be ticking that box in a big way and with a big, pink triangle.

The depiction of the relationship between two of the gay heroes, the Ray and Citizen Cold, stood out during the “Crisis on Earth X” story line.

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From left, Black Condor, Phantom Lady, the Ray, Doll Man and Red Tornado are the Freedom Fighters, a group of DC Comics heroes who live on a parallel world where Germany won World War II.

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CW Seed

It made me very happy. Wentworth is just one of the nicest guys I’ve worked with. He’s so supremely Zen and open. We had the best time and we hung out outside of filming and he’s become a friend. I said, “People are liking us; the Ray and Cold together.” He was thrilled. It’s kind of crazy that in 2017 that’s still seen as the unseen. Someone tweeted me or Instagrammed me a message. They are gay parents. Their son was watching the show and ran in to them and said, “There are two superheroes who do what you do,” when they kissed each other. He was so happy about it. So many people have been so supportive of seeing two superheroes who are gay played by two actors who are out. It seems like it became a bit of a moment. I couldn’t be prouder to be one half of that moment.

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