Seeing examples of love depicted in television shows and Hollywood films can inspire the act in real life. Maybe that’s why so many of us spend countless hours in front of a screen getting emotionally attached to a pair of people lucky enough to have found each other, even if that romance only lasts for a three-episode arc.
That feeling becomes especially heartfelt when those getting all the good lovin’ actually look like us from a cultural perspective. In short, representation matters on all levels of life.
The late Michael K. Williams played a handful of diverse characters while he was alive, but none stood out quite like his breakout role on HBO’s universally beloved drama series, The Wire. He played the street-smart street soldier Omar Little, who not only was feared by everyone on the block in Baltimore but also was an openly proud gay Black man that each season had a different right-hand boyfriend.
It was recently revealed that Williams actually wanted to showcase more intimate scenes with his male costar, Michael Kevin Darnall, who during Season 1 plays Omar’s first boyfriend, Brandon. In his posthumous memoir, Scenes From My Life, the late actor wrote, “In regards to Omar and his lover Brandon (played by Michael Kevin Darnall), it seemed like everyone was dancing around their intimacy issue,” going on to add, “There was lots of touching hair and rubbing lips and things like that. I felt like if we were going to do this, we should go all in. I think the directors were scared, and I said to one of them, ‘You know gay people f—, right?'”
More below from Michael K. Williams’ memoir in regards to depicting an honest reflection of gay relationships on The Wire, via an excerpt published on Vulture:
“At some point, the issue boiled over for me so I went to talk to Michael before we shot a scene. ‘Yo, Michael,’ I said. ‘It’s time to step it up with Omar and Brandon.’
‘What do you mean?’ he asked.
‘I’m thinking in this scene we should kiss.’
‘Okay. But — that’s not in the script, though.’
‘But it feels right,’ I said. ‘Don’t it?’
‘Maybe let’s run it by the director and see what he has to say?’ he suggested.
‘Naw,’ I said. ‘I don’t think we should ask anyone. I think we should just do it.’
He was game. ‘Okay, but don’t tell me when you’re going to do it. Make it spontaneous so it looks natural. Just go for it.’ They called us for rehearsal and the crew was still putting the set together, getting the lights and camera up while we ran through it. When I went in and kissed Michael on the lips, everyone stopped what they were doing and went slack-jawed. Twenty years ago, men — especially men of color — were not kissing on television. I don’t mean it was rare; I mean it did not happen.”
Williams goes on to explain in his book that director Clark Johnson was so intrigued by their boldness that he made them shoot the kiss scene again, in the process calling the two actors, “some brave motherf*ckers.” Williams’ courageous move to highlight an unexplored narrative of romantic relationships between men of color inspired us to look at 7 other couples in film and TV history that did the same on some level.
Keep scrolling for a look at fictional couples of color in TV & film that expressed their love by blending races and breaking free from social norms:
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1. Prince & Apollonia, ‘Purple Rain’ (1984)
Although both appear very racially ambiguous, Prince and Apollonia showed us how beautiful the love between Black and Mexican people can look together.
2. Denzel Washington & Sarita Choudhury, ‘Mississippi Masala’ (1991)
The film itself tackles how similarities and cultural differences between African Americans and Indian Americans play out when love is concerned, with Denzel and Sarita giving stellar performances that show how true feelings can’t be separated by color barriers.
3. Brandy & Paolo Montalbán, ‘Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella’ (1997)
Inspiring in all aspects of its interracial cast, this iteration of Cinderella threw out all notions of race and put the focus on family and believing in soulmates regardless of ethnicity.
4. Aaliyah & Jet Li, ‘Romeo Must Die’ (2000)
Statistics have shown that Black women and Asian men are the two demographics that have the most trouble finding a mate, which made this pair-up between a martial arts movie star and the eternal Princess Of R&B such a cultural reset.
5. Sonja Sohn & Melanie Nicholls-King, ‘The Wire’ (2002 – 2008)
Lesbians have been depicted in various ways on film, either unfairly hypersexualized as “girl-on-girl” action or made to appear like they want to pass as men. The Wire did an amazing job at not only showing a Black lesbian couple, but also what happens when it doesn’t work out and a kid is involved. Kima and Cheryl’s co-parenting journey is raw and very real in how it’s presented overall.
6. Ashton Sanders & Jharrel Jerome, ‘Moonlight’ (2016)
Similar to what Michael K. Williams said of his character Omar, the young stars of Moonlight held a strong place in history for visually depicting teenage love between two Black boys. No wonder their game-changing lip lock won for “Best Kiss” at the 2017 MTV Movie Awards.
7. Yvonne Orji & Alexander Hodge, ‘Insecure’ (2016 – 2021)
Giving a more modern example of love coming in all creeds and colors, the story of Molly and Andrew is a great study on dating outside your race in this new generation. While racial hangups don’t play a part in physical attraction, it’s the learned cultural behavior that proves to be the biggest lesson you can take from these two.