Vampire Academy’s resident queer couple explains simple reason TV needs more LGBTQ+ characters

Rhian Blundell and Mia McKenna-Bruce in Vampire Academy.

Vampire Academy stars Rhian Blundell and Mia McKenna-Bruce didn’t have access to TV shows that put queerness front and centre when they were growing up.

That’s why they’re so proud to be bringing LGBTQ+ representation to the next generation with their new series.

Vampire Academy, based on the novels by Richelle Mead, follows a group of teenage vampires studying at a boarding school called St Vladimir’s Academy.

Rhian and Mia play a couple in the series, and it shows just how much things have changed in the industry – nowadays, kids can see queerness reflected back at them from the comfort of their own homes.

The significance of that shift wasn’t lost on Rhian and Mia.

“I feel so grateful that we get to be in this show now,” Mia tells PinkNews. “I wish I had that show to watch when I was in my teen years, and as far as I know I don’t think it was there.”

Rhian echoes that – she says there’s “so much joy” in Vampire Academy. Both actors hope it can help to “normalise” queerness for a younger generation and show them that love doesn’t have to be defined by gender.

“I just wish that I was able to watch this when I was younger,” Mia says. “[The] relationship isn’t about them being queer, it’s about two people that just meet and have this connection and fall in love and that’s all there is to it.”

Rhian points out that there are so many big conversations society needs to have about how we can improve life for LGBTQ+ people – “we have a long way to go,” she says – but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for queer joy too.

“What’s been glorious about this show is to have that respite of not having to have those conversations in this world and just getting to see these two humans grow and exist and fall for each other without having to necessarily keep in mind a lot of the issues that we have to deal with in real life,” she says.

Vampire Academy comes as other shows centring queer women have gotten the axe

Vampire Academy‘s arrival comes at a vital moment. LGBTQ+ representation has generally improved on television over the last decade, but queer women have watched as some shows and films that platform lesbians, bi women and trans women have either been cancelled or axed before they could see the light of day.

There was much controversy recently when First Kill, the supernatural teen drama series from Netflix, was cancelled after just one season. News that the Batgirl film wouldn’t even get released – despite it featuring a history-making trans character – was met with a similar groan of discontent.

Things might be improving across the board, but shows that centre queer women seem to end up on the chopping block all too often.

“I think where progress has been made unfortunately we are also seeing regression, and I think that’s as a whole, not [just] for queer women,” Rhian says.

While it’s disappointing to see some LGBTQ+ centric shows getting the axe, Rhian says it’s “inspiring” to see that “the train hasn’t stopped” – that creators and studios are working on bringing other queer shows to the fore.

Javier Ramos as Dean Barnes, Rhian Blundell as Meredith, Sisi Stringer as Rose Hathaway, Blake Patrick Anderson as Eddie Castile in Vampire Academy.

Javier Ramos as Dean Barnes, Rhian Blundell as Meredith, Sisi Stringer as Rose Hathaway, Blake Patrick Anderson as Eddie Castile. (Jose Haro/Peacock)

“There are still people pushing – there are still people in this industry who care incredibly deeply about this community,” Rhian says.

“We’re part of this community… and I think it’s not necessarily that it’s a fight, but the job isn’t done. We’re still doing it, we’re still pushing for it.”

She’s keen to show young people that they’re not alone – that there are people pushing for better representation in Hollywood.

“Obviously I was devastated when First Kill was cancelled, that was a wonderful thing for me to see. Yes these things are happening, but you are not alone. We’re here and we’re all pushing as much as we can.”

Mia echoes that. “There is that fight, and we’ve got a way to go, but for me personally I have luckily been working in this industry for pushing 15 years now and this is the first time I’ve gotten to play a queer character. So these stories are starting to be told more.”

Rhian Blundell and Mia McKenna-Bruce had the ‘freedom’ to explore

The relative dearth of queer female characters means that shows like Vampire Academy often develop ardent LGBTQ+ fanbases – especially those where the chemistry is palpable. Rhian and Mia are lucky – they naturally became friends behind the scenes, which helped them craft their on-screen relationship.

“It was a really organic thing. Me and Mia, if you can’t tell, we like each other,” Rhian laughs.

Because they’re close in real life too, Rhian and Mia felt like they had permission to explore and push the boundaries while filming their scenes.

“It’s just throwing things out there, seeing what works,” Mia explains. “We had the freedom to do that, we felt like we had that input and that say.”

If all the queerness isn’t enough to rope you in, then hey, at least there are vampires – and let’s be honest, queer people love vampires.

“I just love vampires,” Mia laughs. “I always have done… what more could you ask for?”

Rhian has a compelling theory that explains why LGBTQ+ people love vampires so much – and she might just be on to something.

“Do you know what it is, I think it’s that whole thing of living in the dark, but by God you have fun doing it,” she says.

The first four episodes of Vampire Academy will be available 16 September on Peacock on Sky and NOW.