Set to air Jan. 15, "Stay-At-Home Dad" sees gay dads-to-be David (Bartha) and his partner Bryan (Andrew Rannells) taking turns with 9-year-old Shania (Bebe Wood) in an effort to live out their fantasy of being extremely hands-on parents. As evidenced by David's colorful, gender-bending appearance in the episode's promos, however, things don't go quite according to their plan.
"You'll get to see the juxtaposition between David and Bryan's styles of parenting and what they think they have in store for them," Bartha tells HuffPost Gay Voices exclusively. After describing David as "a confident man who is fairly put together and who happens to have a few preconceived notions of what it takes to be a good father," he adds with a laugh, "He's going to meet his maker this week."
To some fans, Bartha might not seem like the most obvious choice for the role of a mild-mannered, openly gay father-to-be. Unlike his co-star Rannells (who recently described himself as a "purebred gay"), Bartha is straight and perhaps best known for 2009's dude-centric blockbuster "The Hangover."
Though the fact that he's straight "gets brought up all the time," the 34-year-old actor describes the freshman comedy, which also stars Georgia King and Ellen Barkin, as being focused on "a cause that I really believe in. It was a great role...I think Ryan is an important voice in entertainment as he's doing things on TV that are very different."
The difference this time around, Bartha says, was Murphy's instance on portraying David and Bryan "in the most realistic way possible and not holding back. We wanted to get away with as much as we can on a network television series, and we wanted to do it in a way that doesn't dumb the characters down or put Vaseline on the lens, so to speak." As for the show's overriding message, he adds, "The pursuit of happiness is everyone's right. Just because someone has different beliefs, values or sexual preferences doesn't mean they shouldn't have the right to pursue happiness."
Nonetheless, that pro-equality stance has incensed its share of right-wing groups. Last July, One Million Moms urged members to boycott the "harmful" show, which it deemed "damaging to our culture" well before the series premiere had even been aired.
But Bartha says the views of that notorious anti-gay organization, which targeted JC Penney after Ellen DeGeneres was enlisted as the retail chain's spokeswoman last, aren't taken into much account on "The New Normal" set, even though Murphy incorporated a dig at the group into one of the show's earliest episodes.
"I think there are more organic ways to start conversations, of course, but everyone's point of view -- conservative, liberal or whatever -- is valid," Bartha notes. "You can't deny that type of bigotry exists in our world." As a counterpoint, he points to a recent moment he and Rannells shared on the set with Matt Bomer, the openly gay star of "White Collar" and "Magic Mike" who made a guest appearance on the Jan. 8 episode of "Normal."
"Matt just looked at Andrew and me and said, 'It's so amazing that we've gotten to a point where we can have a major TV show that's centered on an openly gay couple, and that I can take part in it,'" Bartha recalls. "It's moments like that which make me proud that we're able to add another drop in the bucket."
Keep laughing with "The New Normal," which airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. EST on NBC.
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Kurt and Blaine, "Glee"
Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer) and Blaine Anderson ((Darren Criss) were the epitome of high school sweethearts on Fox's "Glee" -- and the fan-favorite couple among most Gleeks. Klaine is kind of like a holy word in the "Glee" Bible. Not only were they each other's first boyfriends, but they lost their virginity to each other during the controversial Season 3 episode, "First Time." Blaine has also helped Kurt through some tough times, including standing up to Kurt's bully, Dave Karofsky, and taking a laced slushy to the eye to protect him. Though Kurt's move to New York led to some major problems for the couple, we still have faith that they'll end up together.
Michael and Ben, "Queer As Folk"
For the first two seasons of "Queer As Folk," we thought that Michael Novotny (Hal Sparks) would never get past his obsession with his best friend Brian Kinney (Gale Harold) -- but then he met writer and fellow comic book lover Ben Bruckner (Robert Gant) and his love life took a turn for the better. Together, Michael and Ben had to deal with Ben's steroid use and his HIV, but eventually the two celebrated their marriage in Canada, with Brian by Michael's side, and they eventually had two children. Sure, Ben might think they're "conformist homosexuals," but we're just happy Michael finally got the happy ending that he deserved. They may not have been the show's most popular couple, but they were the cutest. (Sorry, Brian and Justin fans!)
David and Keith, "Six Feet Under"
There was just something that felt authentic and real about David (Michael C. Hall) and Keith's (Mathew St. Patrick) relationship on "Six Feet Under." Keith supported David as he came to terms with his sexuality, came out to his family and struggled to recover from a traumatic kidnapping. They had their struggles, but eventually settled down together, adopted two kids and, as the series finale's flashforward showed, lived a nice long life and eventually got legally married in the state of California. (Yep, creator Alan Ball predicted the Prop 8 ruling way back in 2005!)
Cam & Mitchell, "Modern Family"
Arguably the most popular gay couple on television at the moment, Cam (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) are the perfect complement to one another. Mitchell's serious and more introverted, and Cam is a jovial clown (occasionally even literally -- we love Fizbo!). Always a blast to watch, the couple's antics are both heartwarming and hilarious. Even if we don't get to see them be affectionate with each other nearly often enough, we love seeing them raise their adopted daughter Lily together. "Modern Family" writers, now it's time to get these two properly (and legally) hitched!
Jack McPhee & Doug Witter, "Dawson's Creek"
There were many hearts broken in the "Creek," but it was most difficult to watch Jack (Kerr Smith) struggle with each of his relationships after he came out of the closet. When he finally hooked up with Pacey's brother Doug (Dylan Neal), we couldn't help but cheer, and Doug's hesitation to come out at work made Jack finally step up as a confident and proud gay man. Their story wrapped on a bittersweet note in the series finale, as they agreed to raise dying Jen's (Michelle Williams) daughter Amy together in Capeside.
Callie and Arizona, "Grey's Anatomy"
Callie (Sara Ramirez) tried being married to a man (R.I.P. George O'Malley) before realizing she had feelings for women. Her first try at having a girlfriend (Erica Hahn, played by Brooke Smith) didn't end well, but her rebound relationship with Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) made her embrace her sexuality, even if her religious father couldn't. Their relationship has survived quite a bit -- including the loss of Arizona's leg (as a result of Callie's decision) -- but the two vowed to stay together since getting married in front of all their friends, with Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) officiating. Even with the madness at Seattle Grace, they're still holding on.
Willow and Tara, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
You can just call Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara (Amber Benson) the Wiccans that stole our hearts. From their budding romance that grew along with their powers to the tragic end, Willow and Tara were the couple we loved to love. If Tara was under Willow's spell (yes, we're referencing Tara's song in "Once More With Feeling" and the fact that Willow really did cast spells on Tara, grrr), then we were under theirs.
Barca and Pietros, "Spartacus: Blood and Sand"
Two of this show's most winning qualities are the fact that that it depicts a whole range of sexuality with clear-eyed thoughtfulness and that gay relationships aren't treated any differently than heterosexual ones. Barca (Antonio Te Maioho) was one of the fiercest gladiators in "Spartacus: Blood and Sand," and at the end of a long day in the arena, this tough warrior found comfort in the arms of a young man named Pietros (Eka Darville). The couple had their share of ups and downs, but Barca's intimacy with Pietros gave dimension and depth to the character. Terrible things tend to happen to the "Sparatacus" gladiators, who are slaves after all, but at least we got to see the sweet sides of two men who didn't often have occasion to let down their guards.
Bette and Tina, "The L Word"
For six seasons, fans of Showtime's groundbreaking lesbian-centric series "The L Word" followed the highs and lows of Bette (Jennifer Beals) and Tina's (Laurel Holloman) complicated relationship. There was adultery and pregnancy struggles and tons of emotion that all culminated in that very absurd murder in the series finale. Still, we'd like to think that Tibette stayed together ... even in the Jenny Schecter aftermath.
Kevin and Scotty, "Brothers and Sisters"
Kevin (Matthew Rhys) and Scotty (Luke Macfarlane) had their rough patches, but Scotty was the only man who could put up with Kevin's neuroses and the Walker family drama. Their commitment ceremony in Season 2 -- the first same-sex TV marriage ever to involve main characters -- didn't make life a total fairytale, but they did weather quite a few more storms (cheating and a failed surrogacy among them) before adopting daughter Olivia.
Emily and Maya, "Pretty Little Liars"
It was hardly an easy road for formerly closeted lesbian Emily (Shay Mitchell) on ABC Family's "Pretty Little Liars." But when she met Maya (Bianca Lawson), the new girl living in her missing BFF's house (yep, you read that right), she was smitten. Though Emily's mom tried to keep them apart and Maya's parents sent her to boot camp, the two finally found their way back to each other. Maya even made a grand gesture and professed her love to Emily. Sadly, Maya was murdered and Emily, in turn, murdered her killer. Not that we'd condone that but still ... it's sweet as far was "Pretty Little Liars" goes.