Wilson Cruz and 'Visible' Team on the Importance of LGBTQ Representation in 2020: "There Is a Lot More Work to Be Done"

The talent behind the Apple TV+ docuseries participated in a conversation for Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter's Pride Summit, during which they spoke about the triumphs and setbacks of queer storytelling on screen.

Actor Wilson Cruz, producer Jessica Hargrave and director Ryan White participated in Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter's Pride Summit on Saturday. During a live-streamed panel — titled "Apple TV+ Presents: Visibility" — the team behind Apple TV+'s docuseries Visible: Out on Television discussed the importance of LGBTQ representation in a time of unprecedented divisiveness.

According to Cruz — an executive producer on the project — uplifting marginalized voices feels particularly meaningful as Pride marches are beginning to overlap with protests for the Black Lives Matter movement, reignited by the killing of George Floyd and unceasing police brutality against Black people.  

"I think this moment, given everything that we are experiencing globally — not just here in the States — in terms of the [novel coronavirus pandemic] and in terms of the uprising is that, what it means to me is that it gives us an opportunity as a community to live up to the expectation of community," said Cruz. "We stand up for each other. We take care of each other."

Cruz went on to note that systemic racism exists within in the LGBTQ community, providing an opportunity for substantial reflection and reform. "How can we finally, within our own community, acknowledge that we have some work to do within our own community about how we navigate race?" he said. "How we really question our own biases and how we truly take care of each other through this moment. African American, Black and Brown people, people of color have been trying to have this conversation about race in our community for decades."

One way to empower people of color within the LGBTQ community is through authentic representation and inclusivity — both in front of and behind the camera — which Cruz, Hargrave and White felt was imperative for the success of Visible, which debuted in February. 

"We had to be sure that we had as much diversity as possible because we wanted to be sure that in all of those meetings — which we had so many of with Wilson, with our other EP Wanda Sykes, and with our team of editors," said Hargrave. "We wanted to hear from everyone, how you feel about this, what this makes you feel, what you think should be important. What do you think is important that we should include? We really had to whittle it down and we couldn't include everything, but that was part of my job, to make sure that we included as many voices as we could."

Visible is a five-part series that takes viewers inside the strides and struggles of the LGBTQ community through the lens of the small screen. From the landmark Stonewall Riots to the AIDS crisis to FX's ballroom drama Pose, the series takes a comprehensive look at the parallels between movements in society and the evolution of queer representation on TV. Though progress has been made, White was quick to point out that the fight is far from over.

"[Visible] is a love letter to many heroes from television," said White, pointing to Cruz's own groundbreaking portrayal of gay teen Enrique "Rickie" Vasquez on the '90s TV show My So-Called Life. "But we didn't ever want it to be only a love letter. In fact, we wanted it to be a call to action in a lot of ways to not celebrate television and pat it on the back and say, 'You've reached the finish line.' But to say there is a lot more work to be done."

Seemingly referring to the anti-gay rhetoric of President Donald Trump and his administration's multiple attacks on LGBTQ rights —  including the recent removal of Obama-era nondiscrimination healthcare protections — White added, "And so I hope the series is a reminder that no matter how much progress we make, that can always be torn away. And we still aren't there yet."

Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter's second annual Pride Prom and Summit supports The Trevor Project, the world's largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people.

More planned events include discussions between Work in Progress' Lilly Wachowski and Abby McEnany; Boy George and Billboard's Taylor Mims; Lena Waithe and Jonica T. Gibbs; and Todrick Hall and Pose co-creator Steven Canals; plus performances by Kiran Ghandi and Trixie Mattel.