Jonathan Bailey credits his leading role on Netflix hit series Bridgerton with helping him to shine a spotlight on LGBTQ+ issues.
The openly gay actor had been working long before Shona Rhimes and Chris Van Dusen decided to make a TV adaption of the historical fiction-romance book series by Julia Quinn, but when he was cast as Anthony, the eldest Bridgerton son, he was launched headfirst into the mainstream.
Bailey made waves with the help of his co-star Simone Ashley, who played Anthony Bridgerton’s enemies-to-lovers partner in the steamy second season.
Jonathan Bailey has used his Bridgerton fame to shine a spotlight on LGBTQ+ issues. (Getty)
Since then, the actor has been able to be a little more choosy with the roles he plays. So far, that’s included the upcoming film adaption of hit Broadway musical Wicked, alongside Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande, and period mini-series Fellow Travelers, alongside Matt Bomer.
“Someone asked me after Bridgerton, ‘What do you want to do next?’ and that is an amazing position to be in, having worked for so long to suddenly have real choice in what you do,” Bailey told GayTimes.
“I knew that I wanted to do a sweeping gay love story because I hadn’t seen it, especially one that’s detailed over eight hours.”
Thus his role in Fellow Travelers came to fruition.
The five-episode series, based on the 2007 novel by Thomas Mallon tells the story of a decades-long romance between two men, spanning from the McCarthy era of the 1950s to the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.
Jonathan Bailey stars alongside Matt Bomer in Fellow Travelers. (Paramount+/Showtime)
It marked, not only a dream role for Bailey but a chance to tell a story that so many have been aching to hear.
Bailey explained that, although he doesn’t reply to Instagram DMs from fans, he has seen some “extraordinary” messages from fans who felt seen after watching him in Fellow Travelers.
“People have messaged saying, ‘I’m closeted but watching this is helping me in a way that you might not understand.’ Someone else said it made them come out, and these are people in their 40s and 50s,” he said.
“There’s these lost generations that Fellow Travelers is highlighting, people who are more scared than ever to feel invalidated if they were to finally come out and speak their truth.
Jonathan Bailey gets DMs from viewers who tell him how moved they were by Fellow Travelers. (Showtime)
“I’m mindful of the fact that there are people of every age who are striving to live authentically.”
As well as telling more LGBTQ+-focused stories, Bailey has been able to use his A-list status to promote causes close to his heart – for example, his new partnership with LGBTQ+ young people’s charity Just Like Us.
“My God, I’m thrilled that I can use my platform to raise the volume on so many other people’s brilliant policies,” said Bailey of the partnership.
The actor noted that it wouldn’t have been possible without Bridgerton.
“You get a fanbase and it’s almost like a conga line, where you can then lead those people to other stories which feel really important to you,” he said.“To be able to go from that to Fellow Travelers and Just Like Us is something I’ll be proud of for the rest of my life.”