Dylan Brady on why new crime drama The Diplomat breaks the mould for queer representation

Dylan Brady

The star of Alibi’s new crime drama, The Diplomat, on subverting the crime genre and shaking up LGBTQ+ representation on the small screen.

It’s not often you come across a dark, gritty thriller that takes place in the heat of the Mediterranean sunshine. Then again, there’s nothing ordinary about Alibi’s new thriller The Diplomat – least of all its unapologetic LGBTQ+ representation.

Best known for his role as Danny Tomlinson in ITV’s Coronation Street, much-loved soap star Dylan Brady takes on a very different role in the six-part series, which traces various complex cases that unfold within the British Consulate in Barcelona.

The show follows British diplomat Laura Simmonds (played by Sophie Rundle), who works with other members of her team to help distressed UK nationals abroad. Brady plays the bright Carl Hyndley, who has risen through the ranks to the position of vice-consul against the odds, and helps fight to protect Britons in their hour of need.

While most people would agree that jetting off to “sunny, sexy Barcelona” for a work assignment sounds like reason alone to get involved, Brady says he was also excited by the way The Diplomat shakes up the crime genre. Alongside Dylan, the show stars Gentleman Jack’s Sophie Rundle as Laura and Serena Manteghi as her colleague and friend Alba Ortiz, who Brady says bring “young, fun” energy to a genre usually dominated by “old white men”.

Dylan Brady and Sophie Rundle in The Diplomat. (UKTV/Alibi)
Dylan Brady and Sophie Rundle in The Diplomat. (UKTV/Alibi)

“To see a queer character among that ensemble is so refreshing and nice,” Brady tells PinkNews.

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“They can often feel tacked on to the end and not really addressed. But Ben [Richards, the show’s writer and creator] manages to find a way to talk about Carl’s queerness in relation to his job, in quite a nuanced way.”

Brady points to a scene in episode five where Carl is confronted by his own prejudices, and has to “sit in the discomfort that comes from looking after somebody who doesn’t share your beliefs”. It’s a poignant moment that goes beyond tokenistic representation as it interrogates the complexities of LGBTQ+ identity.

Though The Diplomat is not an “inherently queer” show, Brady hopes it will boost LGBTQ+ representation on the small screen.

“As an industry, I think we are seeing more queer detectives leading crime shows,” he says. From the early 2010 debate on whether BBC’s Sherlock was queerbaiting to the recent ITV detective show The Long Call, featuring Ben Aldridge as an explicitly gay detective, the genre has certainly come a long way. 

“Often the teams putting together these shows are not from the LGBTQ+ community,” he continues. “You might have a queer relationship on screen that feels superficial, or a character’s gender identity or sexuality that is not woven into the fabric of the show.

“As a gay man, I don’t wake up every day and think about the fact that I am a gay man. But when working as a consul in Barcelona, people are going to come in all shapes and sizes. You might come across some people [who] have preconceptions and prejudices. 

“It asks how you reconcile your professional life and your identity. And that’s what [Richards] has managed to do so brilliantly. The story isn’t happening because of Carl’s sexuality, but it is intrinsic to it.”

Dylan Brady as Carl in The Diplomat. (UKTV/Alibi)

Brady is certainly familiar with the concept of authentic storytelling. As part of Coronation Street – a show with LGBTQ+ characters that were at times controversial – he has seen first hand how the industry is evolving, especially when it comes to the ongoing debate around whether LGBTQ+ roles should be played exclusively by LGBTQ+ actors.

“I think the move towards authenticity in storytelling about marginalised characters is an important and necessary one,” he says. 

“It’s all well and good casting a gay man in a gay role but if the entire team who have assembled the show is cis het there’s only so much the actor can bring. 

“Also, when we say only gay, lesbian, bisexual people can play those roles, we are actually saying only people who are out can do it. We’ve all gotten so used to putting a whole opinion in 240 characters online that we’ve forgotten the art of conversation a little bit.”

There’s perhaps no better recent example of the lack of nuance around this discourse than when Heartstopper star Kit Connor was “forced” to come out as bisexual after fans accused him of queer-baiting, which Brady says made him “so angry”.

“We are complex human beings. Like Harry Styles wearing a dress, isn’t that the whole point LGBTQ+ people are fighting for? That Harry Styles should be able to wear a dress whether he announces himself queer or not?”

It’s a question relevant to his co-star, Rundle, who has been heralded as a gay icon for her role in Gentlemen Jack. 

“I’ve admired her work for quite a long time,” Brady says, describing her as full of “grace, silliness and playfulness”. That being said, he notes, “she’s also bloody good”.

The Diplomat airs on 28 February at 9pm on Alibi

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