He’s played a demon hunter on Angel, and a cyborg on Agents of Shield, shows that defined much of sci-fi pop culture in the past two decades. But it’s his current role on NBC’s Council of Dads that could be J. August Richards’ most impactful one yet.

WHERE HAVE I SEEN HIM BEFORE?

Angel - J August Richards and Amy Acker

J. August Richards has been a working actor since 1988 playing bit roles in shows like The Cosby Show, Clueless, The West Wing, Moesha, Chicago Hope, and the list goes on. 90s kids will also remember him from the tv film, The Temptations, and the feature film Good Burger. However, it wouldn’t be until the year 2000, when Richards would score his first series regular role on the Buffy, The Vampire Slayer spinoff, Angel.

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Although his introduction in the show as Charles Gunn perpetrated black stereotypes, he quickly became a character of depth, and the heart of the team. His arc from being the muscle guy of the group, to doing decent detective work himself, to battling morality within himself when he grabs at chance to become book smart at the cost of an unknown, but devastating sacrifice goes down as one of the best character arcs in the Buffy/Angel fandom.

You would be hard pressed to find decent representation on a major television network in the 90s and into the 2000s, so to see a young black man playing a hero role as a supporting player on one of the most popular television series of that time was significant.

LANDING ANOTHER GROUNDBREAKING ROLE

After Angel, J. August Richards landed more steady gigs. He played a young Richard Webber in two episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, the role of an ADA in Conviction, an 11-episode stint on ABC’s Agents of Shield which was spearheaded by Angel creator Joss Whedon, and two more series regular roles before landing one of the leads in NBC’s Council of Dads. The show sees him playing Dr. Oliver Post, a married gay man with a daughter who takes part in a ‘council of dads’ with his friendship group, and Richards said that taking the role made him want to open up about his own experiences.

In a recent Instagram live with his co-star Sarah Wayne Callies (The Walking Dead) he wanted to open up in a way that he never had to his co-workers.

“I knew that I could not portray this gay man honestly without letting you all know that I am a gay man myself. I knew how I was affected by the people of color that I saw on television – or didn’t see on television. So, this being a married gay man with a family… You know, you have an opportunity to put an image into millions of homes. I wanted that image to be honest and I wanted it to be correct, you know?”

After more than 30 years in the business, as well as being involved in heterosexual relationships both personally and on screen, this was something that took a lot of courage and thought on J. August Richards’ part to do. Thankfully, an overwhelming amount of love and support was thrown the actor’s way on social media. He tweeted his thoughts below:

Nothing but love and peace for our favorite demon hunter at The Illuminerdi. When public figures, especially men of color, come out publicly, they could be inadvertently be saving a life. As twitter user William Yu always drills into the twittersphere: Representation Matters Today.