Words: Thomas Stichbury; images: Charlie Gray & supplied
Omari Douglas says the stars aligned when it came to creating chemistry with Russell Tovey in their play, Constellations.
Shining bright in the West End revival of Nick Payne’s acclaimed romantic drama, which originally dazzled audiences in 2012, the pair are part of a revolving cast – that also includes Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who) and Anna Maxwell Martin (Line of Duty) – and portray the show’s first gay couple, Manuel (formerly Marianne) and Roland, a quantum physicist and beekeeper who meet at a party.
“When we read the script for the first time, we were surprised. We were like, yeah, we really don’t need to change anything [apart from my character’s name],” Omari explains. “I wouldn’t say that it’s the gay version, locked, signed, sealed. There are so many other gay versions that there could be… people will be surprised when they see how easily a different lens on life just slots into the show.”
Making his TV debut as Roscoe Babatunde in Russell T Davies’ powerful Aids drama It’s a Sin earlier this year, the 27-year-old actor adds that striking a spark with on-stage partner Russell was no struggle.
“We get along really well. People are like, ‘What do you do to try to create the chemistry and stuff?’ Sometimes you have to, because people don’t always go like that, gel that quickly, but we just get on, and it is so easy with him,” he shrugs.
“[We met] really briefly when I was filming It’s a Sin. Lydia [West, aka Jill] and Russell were at the RTSs [Royal Television Society Awards] or something for Years & Years… and Lyd was like, ‘Come and meet us!’ so I met Russell on a night out, essentially.”
Appearing in the Attitude September Style Issue, out now to download and to order globally, Omari also shares his thoughts on why queer stories are more impactful when queer people and performers tell them.
“When I first left drama school, my queerness was the thing I’d hide away when I was going into auditions, because – this crosses into a masculinity conversation as well, but the two go hand in hand, because how much of myself can I be in order to fit into this box you want me to fit in?” he begins.
“To constantly feel like – also, not feel like, but be told that you’re not ‘right’, because you might not necessarily present yourself in a way that is, in certain people’s eyes, believable. So, when the stories do come along that belong to those experiences, then of course we should be telling those stories. At least [for] now.”
“I don’t think it’s a hard and fast rule that for ever and ever and ever it should only be those people playing those roles, but we’re in a place where our community has been undervalued and underrepresented.”
Omari continues: “It’s that double standard of, you know, a straight person – if you look at history, straight people playing queer roles, it’s all the applause, and it’s like, for goodness sake, we get shut out of that so much anyway.”
Read the full interview in the Attitude September Style Issue, out now.