Before becoming a queer icon, Holland Taylor was hiding in plain sight for 50 years

Taylor (left) with Charlie Sheen in ‘Two and a Half Men’

It doesn’t get classier than Holland Taylor. The blue-eyed, poised, and very talented actress picked up some street cred in 2015 when the world learned that she was dating actress Sarah Paulson. But what so many of her newfound LGBTQ fans didn’t know was that, prior to becoming part of a Hollywood power couple, Taylor had a long, prolific, prestigious career that encompasses more than 100 movies and TV shows. So, in honor of Pride season—and of Ms. Taylor—we’ve assembled this look back at five of the greatest career moments that make us so glad to have her as part of our queer family.

Her stage show about Ann Richards

Taylor scored a Tony Award nomination for her one-woman show Ann about Ann Richards, the first female governor of Texas. Besides carrying the whole of the two-act drama by herself, Taylor also penned the script to the show which recounted Richards’ trailblazing life and career. Most important of all, though, Taylor captured Richards’ intelligence, humor, and charm—the qualities that made her an effective politician, not to mention a woman to emulate.

Her Emmy win for The Practice

Few legal dramas in the 1990s cast a shadow as long as The Practice, David E. Kelley’s chronicle of the moral questions facing a legal firm. In 1998, Taylor joined the cast of the show for a one-off appearance as Judge Roberta Kittleson, a sexually voracious woman on the bench. The character proved so popular Taylor joined the cast in a recurring role, scoring an Emmy Award for her performance in 1999. For Taylor, the win further gilded an already thriving television career that had seen her appear on popular shows including All My Children, Bosom Buddies, and The Powers that Be. Also, she gave an amazing Emmy speech.

Her appearance in Hollywood

Taylor scored another Emmy nomination last year for her work on the Ryan Murphy-produced fantasy Hollywood. In the series, Taylor played Ellen Kincaid, a high-powered casting director that conspires with a group of Hollywood outcasts—women, gay men, and people of color—to diversify movie making. The nod marked Taylor’s eighth–yes, eighth!–nomination after earning additional nods for her work on The Lot and Two and a Half Men.

Her AIDS activism

In addition to a prolific acting career, Taylor has found time to honor her community through HIV/AIDS activism. Since its inception in 1997, she has supported the Los Angeles-based charity Aid for AIDS, serving as a celebrity judge at the group’s annual fundraiser, “Best in Drag Show.” The group has also named her an honorary board member for her longtime contribution.

Her appearance in Bill & Ted

OK, we can’t let a tribute to Holland Taylor pass without highlighting her sense of adventure… or humor. 2020 saw the actress land a leading role in the much-anticipated Bill & Ted Face the Music, opposite stars Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves. In the movie, Taylor plays The Great Leader, the classy, brilliant moral center of a future society based around the music of Bill and Ted. The role required a rare level of gravitas to help anchor the film’s otherwise silly premise. Much like Marlon Brando in Superman or Alec Guinness in Star Wars, Taylor proved herself worthy of the challenge, and added a whole new layer of class to the proceedings. We would expect nothing less.

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Pride50Welcome to Queerty’s Pride50. We’re celebrating the members from our community who are responsible for some of the most inspiring and extraordinary moments for LGBTQ people over the last year. See all the honorees