Bridgerton has done an incredible job of paving the road for future romance adaptations and reevaluating the importance of both inclusivity and happy endings. Romance is not and should have never been a taboo where entertainment media is concerned. Fangirls who ship, read fan fiction, create art, fan videos aren’t doing anything wrong—they’re celebrating love.
But that’s just it. It’s not just fangirls. Men should be allowed to enjoy and praise romance too. Whatever the genre is, the inclusion of romance does not equate to cheapening the story or worse, somehow dwindling it down to something only women can enjoy. (And that’s a whole thesis in and of itself.) As if that very thought alone isn’t the essence that perpetuates toxic masculinity and continues to put barriers around fiction. If this dark and dreary time in the world has taught us anything, it’s that people need companionship. Romance and friendships even, aren’t a weakness, they’re just human stories. People need other people.
There is enough sadness in the real world to feel ashamed about the happiness we so desperately seek with the fiction we consume. That said, romance and ships aren’t clichés, they’ve never been a negative thing, and they should never be something to be ashamed of when they’re a reflection of real, human stories.
And ultimately, seldom do male actors talk about ships with vehemence and passion, nor do their performances showcase that they care deeply. That said, we’ve decided to highlight a few who have in celebration of the fact that vulnerability is a strength and toxic masculinity isn’t welcomed here. Also because we’re grateful for the male actors who’ve contributed to making the relationships as beautiful as they are.
Hale Appleman and Jason Ralph as Eliot Waugh and Quentin Coldwater
When it comes to actors understanding the assignment look no farther than the two halves of Queliot. Jason Ralph is Quentin Coldwater just as much as Hale Appleman is Eliot Waugh. There’s no one else that could have portrayed those two characters with as much as love and devotion as the two of them did. We know from multiple interviews that they were both big fans of the books and wanted to respect the characters Lev Grossman created. While at the same time bringing them a step forward. Jason Ralph took his books to set and underlined passages he thought would help. He fought for Quentin every step of the way knowing how important he was to queer and mentally ill fans. Hale Appleman has also spoken at length about Eliot and how it was the sort of character he was imagined portraying. They celebrated their characters connection and made it so that even if the characters weren’t the focus of the scene you could always see them as best friends (and later more) as they were both extremely aware of the other whenever they were in the room.
No one else could have injected so much love, softness and this feeling of a soulmate connection as they did. Neither Quentin nor Eliot would have been the same without them.
Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton
Jonathan Bailey has been adamant about showcasing the innermost thoughts and emotions within Anthony Bridgerton that both dismantle the toxic masculinity of 19th-century, but reveal that he’s a man driven by adoration. His story might not be front and center until season two, but the thrill and excitement Bailey has tirelessly shown through interviews tells us that not only does he understand the importance of the romance genre, but he fully grasps just how beautifully it has the power to heal people. Anthony Bridgerton is anxious, jaded, traumatized, and unkind at times, but because of what Bailey has shown in season one by digging deep into the character, we know that the Anthony’s happy ending matters to him. It matters in what it will exhibit by revealing that romance can break barriers and healthy companionship could inspire the very best of characters to shine through. And we have mad respect for Bailey consistently pointing out just how much he himself adores Anthony as a character.
Freddy Carter as Kaz Brekker
The first season of Shadow and Bone doesn’t focus as intently on the partnership between Kaz Brekker and Inej Ghafa, but through Freddy Carter’s performances and simultaneously, almost every interview he is a part of, the understanding is made clear that this is it—this is the story that’s being told and it’s the story of healing. Carter even called it a “magnetic pull,” in an Instagram live, which strengthens the detail of love that much more gorgeously by giving it a unique definition. The story of Kaz and Inej is that between a jaded, broken man with darkness and trauma lingering in every corner wanting to become a better person in order to deserve the woman who’s inspired him. There is incredible beauty here and great admiration towards Carter who’s actual job it’s been to show the audience just how much heart is within Kaz even while he says nothing and hasn’t grappled with his feelings yet. Plus, he and Amita Suman both wanted to do right by the characters in the books and that’s always admirable.
Tom Ellis as Lucifer Morningstar
Tom Ellis is Lucifer Morningstar. Lucifer is a character that with less talented writers and a less talented actor could pretty much be a walking stereotype. He’s a bisexual party guy who never wanted the party to end. There’s a lot of those in television. But from the pilot episode Ellis gives you a hint of the vulnerability underneath all the layers. Yes he is the devil, a celestial who has lived for eons but he’s also an extremely human man. He’s a man who just wants to be loved and wants acceptance. No one hates him as much as he hates himself. As time goes on we see him grow. We see the raw vulnerability and the childlike wonder as he discovers new things and new emotions. The fear that comes with falling in love with Chloe and realizing that loving means giving a piece of yourself to the other person. Tom Ellis has not only loved Lucifer as much as the fans have but fully understood him. He fought for him when the show got cancelled and looks delighted when he won the bisexual character award twice in a row. Just like the fans he wants nothing more than for Lucifer to get his happy ending.
Brett Goldstein as Roy Kent
We have actual confirmation here at Marvelous Geeks to point out just how much Brett Goldstein cares about his characters happiness, the relationship between Roy and Keeley, along with what it does for Roy’s character’s development. As the actor has more than once read our scene breakdowns covering the showcase of vulnerability, it’s rather obvious that this is a conscious decision made to ensure the series really tackles authentic, real stories. And through Goldstein’s impeccable performances to layer the character, we can see just how significant this story is within Ted Lasso and what it stands for in a show that’s all about breaking down the chains of toxic masculinity through its male characters. The countless exhibitions of sincerity that’s on display throughout reveal just how much Goldstein wants to do right by Roy to reveal that adoration can be a form of strength. This show is special for a number of reasons, but at the top of the list is how it deals with its male characters and their arcs. There’s a reason we’re all rooting for Roy and Keeley’s happiness. Because it’s what they both deserve as characters.
Matthew Goode as Matthew Clairmont
A Discovery of Witches is a love story and the adoration between Matthew and Diana is crucial to solidifying the series’ mythology to a believable place. Matthew Goode’s constant showcase of the character’s heart, loyalty, and consistent growth in loving Diana has not only made his character better, but it’s made him less of a vampire cliché. It’s made the series stand out from other genres, and it’s contributed to bringing forth the detail that these stories can feel more grounded in reality when the actors in the role care about the depths of their character. It’s also what makes it stand out from other series in the fantasy genre by revealing the fact that love is the very essence of making both characters better and stronger.
Dan Levy and Noah Reid as David Rose and Patrick Brewer
As executive producer and co-creator of Schitt’s Creek Dan Levy always wanted to ensure that the representation of queer romance was met with respect and ardent care. After a time on television where so few actually get the happy endings they deserved, Levy and Noah Reid did a brilliant job of not only embodying David and Patrick but honoring the romance between the characters, and the detail that it’s made each of them better. Schitt’s Creek’s beauty as a series came from the fact that it never shied away from showcasing flaws as something that can be gorgeous and used as steppingstones for growth. Friendships mattered. Romance mattered. And at the end of the day, the series emphasized the fact that happy endings make for more wholesome content that’ll be remembered for years to come while serving as examples for how they should look when actors care about their characters.
Luke Thompson and Luke Newton as Benedict and Colin Bridgerton
Much like Jonathan Bailey, while Luke Thompson and Luke Newton aren’t digging into their characters’ love stories quite yet, they’ve both done an incredible job of layering the characters further this season while continuing to vocalize how eager they are to explore their respective love stories when the time comes. They’ve taken the time to understand the genre they are part, spoken highly of it, and have made it clear that the happy endings matter and serve to advance their character development.
Regé-Jean Page as Simon Basset
Regé-Jean Page has single handedly taken the least memorable of the Bridgerton spouses in the books and has made him exponentially better. He’s taken the time to understand the character, shape him, and speak so proudly of Simon Basset through the course of season one press. Simon Basset is now one of the most memorable characters in romance because Page has layered him masterfully while ensuring that Simon’s adoration for Daphne consistently shines through in every scene they’re in. He might not be returning for the rest of the series’ duration, but Page has spoken incredibly highly of the character and the love stories within. If this weren’t an anthology focusing on different stories every season, we’re certain Page would stick around to show more growth. He’s done his job beautifully and shown just what it means to be an on-screen romance hero.
Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings
While The Americans was a spy drama, at its core, it’s always been a story about marriage. And from the very beginning Matthew Rhys layered Philip Jennings with the understanding that this was a crucial part of the character’s journey. Philip looked to Elizabeth for strength. He looked to her for guidance. She was his partner through and through even when she wasn’t. A large part of the character’s arc focused heavily on strengthening the marriage and understanding that they work better together than they do apart. Rhys layered Philip’s exterior with tremendous heart through everything and revealed time and time again that the marriage was valuable to making the story better. The series would not have been the success that it is without this crucial establishment that they are the heart of it.
Calahan Skogman as Matthias Helvar
Matthias Helvar and Nina Zenik’s story might not be front and center on Shadow and Bone yet but from the bits we’ve gotten Skogman has shown just how much he cares about layering the Fjerdan’s tough experior with sincerity and vulnerability. Matthias grows and willingly chooses to better himself, and their love for each other is a turning point with two characters learning to discover the best versions of themselves. Their love is one of the pivotal parts of the Six of Crows plot, and with everything we’ve seen in the show’s freshman season, we can’t wait to see what’s in store when there’s further growth and development. While press coverage for them has been a bit more scarce than with the rest of the cast, in the interviews we’ve gotten so far, Skogman clearly cares about Matthias’ arc, and the changes the character goes through because of his admiration for Nina.
Aaron Stanford as James Cole
12 Monkeys is another phenomenal series centered around a specific plot that gave its characters the opportunity to really ground the series in a place that felt real and honest. Aaron Stanford as James Cole has often stood out as well because the admiration towards Cassie and the understanding that this love mattered for the sake of both characters’ development, solidified the detail that once again, partnerships equate to stronger outcomes. People are not designed to be alone. People shouldn’t be alone when their lives are dark and gruesome. Their love story was a huge part of the series thus making it that much more memorable as a whole.
Steven Strait as James Holden
The Expanse isn’t a romance, but the relationship between James Holden and Naomi Nagata is one of the best parts of the series because their partnership has proven to make each of the characters better. Steven Strait’s care and admiration for the righteous captain and all that he stands for could be seen gorgeously in every scene he’s in with Dominique Tipper’s Naomi. The attentive care towards layering the character and understanding that the relationship doesn’t tarnish the story, but strengthens it continues to be one of the reasons why we’re tirelessly in awe. Strait cares about Holden tremendously, he could’ve been such a one dimensional figure, but instead, he has made sure that he’s grounded in real human emotions. He relies on his crew. He needs people. He understands the importance of agency and it’s made the character that much more realistic.
Old and new, these are some of our favorites? Who are yours? What were the ships? Tell us in the comments below.
nice piece and i agree about Jonathan Bailey-he’s a super actor who puts his all into his parts
this blog piece explains exactly how much Richard Armitage put into playing Mr Thornton from North and South and boy did he deliver: https://richardarmitageonline.com/north-and-south/north-south-thornton1.html