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Actor J. August Richards, 46, has revealed that he is gay via an Instagram live video. Richards starred in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer spinoff, Angel, and more recently played the role of Mike Peterson in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
He is currently appearing in the new NBC show, Council of Dads. He plays Dr. Oliver Prost, who is married to another man. The couple have a daughter.
In an interview with co-star Sarah Wayne Callies, Richards talks about the reasons why he decided to discuss his sexuality, explaining he thought it important to come out to his fellow cast members before taking on the role.
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Callies says Richard’s current role is a first for network TV: A married, professional, black gay couple raising a child. She asks him if he felt any pressure or responsibility over his portrayal.
Richards replies that he did, but that’s one of the reasons he got into acting.
“If I think about why I even got involved in this industry, it was really to combat oppression.
“I knew how I was affected by the people of color I saw on television, or that I didn’t see on television, so this being a married, gay man, with a family… on television I don’t take anything I do lightly, and you have an opportunity to put an image into millions of homes. And I wanted that image to be honest and I wanted to be correct.
“So honestly, it required me to show up fully in a way that I don’t always when I’m working.
“I knew that I could not portray this gay man honestly without letting you all know that I am a gay man myself. I’ve never done that with the people that I’ve worked with.
“So that responsibility carried me to do that because I knew how important it is to other people out there like me, who would need to see that role model, so I took that responsibility very seriously.”
Callies posted a comment beneath the video saying: “Sharing this moment with you was one of the most meaningful things in my life. Love you, friend.”
Many others also posted messages of support.
“I’ve been a fan of yours for literally 20 years,” said one follower. “You’ll always be Gunn [from Angel] to me because that’s who I grew up with and I still revisit the show every single year. You are an inspiration. Gunn fought for the downtrodden, the people that couldn’t fight for themselves, and I truly believe what you’ve done here is provided a voice for those who don’t have one.”
J. August Richards was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in the Maryland suburb of Bladensburg. Besides his leading role in Angel (from 2000-2004) and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (2013-2018), he has appeared in numerous other TV shows, including Conviction, Raising the Bar, Grey’s Anatomy, Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, and Kevin (Probably) Saves the World.
In an Instagram message posted last month, Richards revealed that before landing his current role, he almost quit his career.
“The day I auditioned for #CouncilOfDads was the day I almost quit acting. I probably wouldn’t have gone through with it but as I mounted the stairs to enter Building 9128 on the Universal lot, I was struck with panic — the kind of debilitating panic that means only one thing: you’re gonna blow it!
“As I entered the building, I began plotting my escape: ‘I’ll sell my house and teach. I love teaching and my mother was a teacher so I’ll do that!’ Because after 25 years, you would think it’d get easier and I just couldn’t imagine doing this to myself any longer.
“I got up to the waiting room and fortunately there were a few people in front of me so I began talking myself down… ‘OK. This script is about one thing — LOVE. And all you have to do is love the person you’re reading with. And if you can just do that, it won’t matter what comes out of your mouth… They will feel it’.”
He ended by saying, “With everything going on in the world right now, if I didn’t believe that the message of the show had tremendous relevance and value to us all right now, I would just keep quiet and let the chips fall where they may. But the thing that calmed my anxiety and fear and got me through that first audition, is what I hope you feel when you watch the show tonight… LOVE!”