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01/08/2018 06:35 pm ET Updated Jan 09, 2018

Alan Cumming Will Play First Openly Gay Lead Character In A Network TV Drama

"Instinct" has extra significance in America's political climate, he said Saturday.

Alan Cumming, who has never shied away from exploring sexuality on stage and screen, will set a new precedent in March when he’ll play the first openly gay lead character in a network TV drama. 

The Emmy- and Tony-winning actor, 52, will return to television as the star of CBS’ “Instinct,” a show based on James Patterson’s 2017 book Murder Games. The series follows Dr. Dylan Reinhart (Cumming), a CIA spy-turned-college professor who is recruited by the NYPD to track down a serial killer on the run. (Catch a sneak peek of the series, which also stars John Mainieri and Bojana Novakovic, in the trailer below.)  

Much of the early buzz on “Instinct,” which debuts March 11, has focused on Cumming’s role and the milestone it represents. That fact isn’t lost on Cumming, who praised CBS executives for “having the courage” to broadcast the series. 

“I applaud everyone at CBS for having the courage to put that on, in the climate that might not be the best time to do it,”  Cumming said Jan. 6 while speaking at the show’s TCA winter press tour panel, Deadline reports. The show, he added, felt particularly relevant at a time when President Donald Trump “is actively condoning, by his silence, violence and persecution against the LGBT community.”

Cumming, who married his husband, Grant Shaffer, in 2012 and identifies as bisexual, is particularly pleased by the fact that his character’s sexuality is not the show’s central focus. 

“Most times we see a gay character on television, their gayness is their primary thing, and also it’s sort of a problem,” he said. 

Dr. Dylan Reinhart, he added, is portrayed as “a fuddy-duddy professor, a former spy,” as well as “a little on the spectrum [and] a child musical prodigy” who just so happens to be in a same-sex marriage. 

Noting that Reinhart’s sexuality is “the fourth or fifth most interesting thing about the character,” Cumming added, “There are so many different layers.” 

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