Meet the Cast of the LGBTQ+ Drama ‘Equal’ & Their Real-Life Counterparts

Equal Cole Doman Samira Wiley Anthony Rapp

The four-part docuseries Equal chronicles the fight for LGBTQ+ equality across the decades, blending archival footage with dramatic reenactments. The goal is to “honor the rebels of yesteryear” and “bring to life the gripping and true backstories of these leaders and unsung heroes,” HBO Max says in a press release.

Many of the stars of Equal are LGBTQ+ icons in their own right. Scroll through the gallery below to see the actors in character plus learn a bit about their real-life counterparts.

Equal, Series Premiere, October TBD, HBO Max

Equal Anthony Rapp Harry Hay

Anthony Rapp as Harry Hay

Rapp, best known for originating the role of Mark in the Broadway musical Rent and then reprising it in the 2005 film, currently stars in Star Trek: Discovery.

Equal Harry Hay
ONE Archives at the USC Libraries via HBO Max

Harry Hay

“Harry was the founder of The Mattachine Society,” HBO Max explains in a press release. “His manifesto, ‘The Call,’ written feverishly one night in 1948, called for the protection and improvement of the rights of homosexuals and was the foundation on which the group was built.”

Equal - Shannon Purser & Heather Matarazzo

Shannon Purser & Heather Matarazzo as Del Martin & Phyllis Lyon

Purser played Barb in Stranger Things before leading the cast of the Netflix rom-com Sierra Burgess Is a Loser and recurring as Ethel on Riverdale. Matarazzo starred in the 1999 CBS show Now and Again and played a supporting role in the Princess Diaries films.

Equal Phyllis Lyon Del Martin
Clem Albers/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Phyllis Lyon & Del Martin

“Del and Phyllis were a lesbian couple, together for 56 years until Martin’s death in 2008, who founded the Daughters of Bilitis in San Francisco in 1955, the first social and political organization for lesbians in the United States,” HBO Max says. “They also published The Ladder, the first nationally distributed lesbian publication in the U.S. Active in both gay and feminist politics their whole lives, they were the first same-sex couple to legally wed.”

Equal Jamie Clayton as Christine Jorgensen

Jamie Clayton as Christine Jorgensen

Clayton cohosted the VH1 reality show TRANSform Me alongside Laverne Cox, but her acting career kicked into high gear with her role as Nomi in the Netflix series Sense8. She has also recurred on The L Word: Generation Q and Roswell, New Mexico.

Equal Christine Jorgensen
Roger Jackson/Central Press/Getty Images

Christine Jorgensen

“Widely known as the world’s first transgender celebrity, Christine became an internationally known figure following the publicity surrounding her gender confirmation surgery in the early 1950s,” HBO Max’s release explains. “She became a popular nightclub entertainer, author, and lecturer and used her celebrity to advance the cause of transgender rights.”

Equal Samira Wiley as Lorraine Hansberry

Samira Wiley as Lorraine Hansberry

Wiley is best known for her role as Poussey in Orange Is the New Black, she also starred as Moira in The Handmaid’s Tale and appeared in the films Nerve and Detroit.

Equal Lorraine Hansberry
David Attie/Getty Images

Lorraine Hansberry

Per HBO Max: “Author of the landmark play A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry was the first African American female author to have a play performed on Broadway. She was a radical and forceful voice within the Civil Rights Movement, who died far too young at age 34 of pancreatic cancer. While closeted during her lifetime, she wrote extensively under a variety of pseudonyms—in plays, stories and letters that discussed her lesbianism and the oppression of homosexuals in society.”

Equal Keiynan Lonsdale as Bayard Rustin

Keiynan Lonsdale as Bayard Rustin

Lonsdale played Wally West a.k.a. Kid Flash in The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, Uriah in the Divergent film series, and Bram in the film Love, Simon and Hulu spinoff Love, Victor.

Equal Bayard Rustin
Walter Naegle via HBO Max

Bayard Rustin

According to the press release, Rustin was “an American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, nonviolence, and gay rights. He was a close mentor and advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and one of the chief architects of the March on Washington. Because of a 1953 arrest on sex charges, his sexuality was often weaponized against him and the movement, but he remained a tireless advocate for social justice his entire life—and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2013.”

Equal - Jai Rodriguez as José Sarria

Jai Rodriguez as José Sarria

Since breaking out as one of the Fab Five on Bravo’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Rodriguez has starred on the ABC sitcom Malibu Country and guest-starred on Grace and Frankie, Grey’s Anatomy, and The Magicians.

Equal José Sarria
Joe Castel-Emperor Norton Productions via HBO Max

José Sarria

“In 1961, José became the first openly gay candidate for public office in the United States, running for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors 16 years before Harvey Milk,” explains HBO Max. “He is also remembered as a beloved and inspiring drag performer at San Francisco’s Black Cat Bar, who raised the spirits and political consciousness of the bar’s gay male patrons with his rousing anthem ‘God Save Us Nelly Queens’! A lifelong advocate and activist, José founded the Imperial Court System, one of the oldest and largest LGBT organizations in the world.”

Equal Cole Doman as Mark Segal

Cole Doman as Mark Segal

Doman played the lead role in the 2015 indie film Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party before appearing in episodes of Modern Family and Sharp Objects. This year, he appears in the film Uncle Frank.

Equal Mark Cohen
Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Mark Segal (pictured in 2019)

“Mark is an American journalist and prominent gay rights activist. He participated in the Stonewall riots and was one of the original founders of the Gay Liberation Front where he created its Gay Youth program,” the press release says.

Equal Elizabeth Faith Ludlow as Stormé DeLarverie

Elizabeth Faith Ludlow as Stormé DeLarverie

Ludlow recurred as Arat on The Walking Dead and currently plays Cas in the Netflix series Another Life. On the big screen, she has appeared in the films Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

Equal Stormé DeLarverie
Scott Morgan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Stormé DeLarverie (pictured in 2009)

From HBO Max: “Stormé was a gay civil rights icon and entertainer whose scuffle with police was, according to many eyewitnesses, the spark that ignited the Stonewall riots, spurring the crowd to action. She worked for much of her life as an MC, singer, bouncer, bodyguard and volunteer street patrol worker, the ‘guardian of lesbians in the Village.’”