Mark your calendar, because the incomparable Alan Cumming has a new show that's making history. The beloved actor is the star and executive producer of Instinct (set costumer: Caroline Horton), an upcoming program based on James Patterson's Murder Games. Slated to premiere in March, the CBS series Instinct will feature the first gay lead character in a network drama, according to The Hollywood Reporter. This is undoubtedly exciting, but it's also understandably frustrating that it took until 2018 for this to happen.
Still, this show does sound awesome. (Some might even say it's as awesome as a pair of Crocs on the Emmys red carpet.) Instinct follows Dr. Dylan Reinhart a former CIA operative who has stepped away from the spy life to be a professor and author. However, when a serial killer seems to be using Dr. Reinhart's book as a guide, Dr. Reinhart agrees to come out of retirement and help the NYPD track down the murderer — much to his husband's chagrin. Cumming stars alongside Bojana Novakovic (Shameless), Naveen Andrews (Lost), and Whoopi Goldberg. As Deadline reported back in January 2017, CBS ordered the pilot last year.
Per THR, when Cumming addressed the series at TCA on Saturday, he said portraying the first openly gay lead in a U.S. network drama "was one of the reasons" he was interested in doing the show. He continued,
"To be the first ever network drama [with a gay lead] on U.S. television, it's an incredible thing and a terrible thing at the same time. It's another layer to the character. Socially and politically, especially at a time in America where gay people are being persecuted and our rights are being removed and the president is condoning the persecution against gay people by his silence, it was all the more important to have a character with a healthy same-sex marriage on TV."
He also said he applauds the network for “having the courage to put that on right now in a climate where that may not be the best time to do that. But I think it's the perfect time to do that.” Of course, it's never too late for progress, but the "perfect time" could've been a long time ago.
Nevertheless, Cumming added that the portrayal of his character's relationship and sexuality is "refreshing." The award-winning actor explained,
“I'm married to a man so I brought that to the table. Most times, when we see gay characters on American television, their gayness is the prime thing. Their gayness is sometimes the problem. What's refreshing about this is there's a successful relationship and they're supportive of each other. And [being gay] is also the fourth or fifth most interesting thing about this character."
While Dr. Reinhart's sexual orientation is the "fourth or fifth most interesting thing" about him, this role is still a major moment for television. LGBTQ representation in media is important, and a primetime drama featuring a gay lead is a necessary and overdue step forward. It's worth noting, however, that Viola Davis' role on How to Get Away with Murder, Annalise Keating, is bisexual, and that's important representation in itself. And it definitely shouldn't be overlooked.
In the 2017 Where We Are on TV report, GLAAD pointed out why Instinct is a progressive addition to not just the primetime lineup, but to the procedural genre as well. The report stated,
"One new program that GLAAD is looking forward to this year is the CBS series Instinct, starring out bisexual actor Alan Cumming as Dylan, a gay former CIA operative who gets pulled back into his old life when the NYPD needs help tracking a serial killer. Legal dramas and police procedurals have a spotty past with LGBTQ inclusion, often only casting queer and trans characters as villains or victims, so this is a welcome change. Instinct is also one of very few series that counts an LGBTQ lead character."
This groundbreaking series is set to premiere on March 11 on CBS. If you're fired up about Instinct, your gut instinct doesn't need to be recalibrated.