Gay characters have come a long way since Steven Carrington (Al Corley) kept sleeping with women on the OG version of Dynasty. Case in point: 9-1-1: Lone Star celebrated same-sex couple Tyler “TK” Strand (Ronen Rubenstein) and Carlos Reyes (Rafael Silva) getting engaged when the paramedic proposed to the policeman in the Season 3 finale. Needless to say, fans can’t wait for the action drama to return midseason 2023 on Fox.
TV Insider recently caught up with Silva and Rubenstein at the second annual queer television festival The OutFronts in Hollywood to chat with the actors about Tarlos’ engagement and when viewers can expect to hear literal wedding bells.
For starters, Rubenstein says the whole reason “Tarlos” even exists is because of series creator Ryan Murphy. “He had a major transgender story on Nip/Tuck nearly 20 years ago,” the actor says, referring to Famke Janssen’s trans character Ava Moore. “He’s the truest trailblazer for all of this.”
Both Rubenstein and Silva are aware of the responsibility that comes with telling a same-sex love story on network television. “I can only be grateful to be a part of it and to represent it honestly,” Silva shares.
“The most common thing I hear from people is ‘thank you,’” says Rubenstein. “People thank me for what I do on and offscreen. They’ve thanked me for helping save their life, which is a lot to hear and it’s beautiful. We understand the responsibility of playing these characters — it’s so much more than playing a role on TV. So much more. I make sure I go into work every single day reminding myself of that.”
Tarlos fans dissected the proposal scene and immediately noticed that at one point Carlos referred to TK as “Tyler,” his birth name, which was pretty much used only by his late mother Gwyn (Lisa Edelstein). “I don’t even know if I realized [Rafael did that] to be honest,” Rubenstein shares. “It wasn’t until later when people started bringing it up that I did. If anyone has ‘earned’ the right to call TK ‘Tyler’ it’s his mom, his dad [Owen Strand, played by Rob Lowe], and Carlos.”
Having someone special in your life who calls you something very few do is “tiny,” Rubenstein says, hastening to add, “but it’s huge.”
Silva says that calling TK ‘Tyler’ wasn’t scripted. “I chose to say it,” he reveals. “There are very few people who know TK as ‘Tyler.’ Carlos is one of those people. I wanted Carlos to be the closest person to TK. Making that choice was very intentional.”
Silva adds that the script supervisor is both a good friend of his and was on top of her job by pointing out to the actor during filming that the printed word was “TK.” But after episode director Bradley Buecker confabbed with showrunner Tim Minear, the decision was made to keep ‘Tyler.’ “It’s my job to know my character and add to the script if needed,” Silva says.
The actors believe the show won’t return to production until the fall so it’s anybody’s guess as to when the wedding will take place. “I’m sure the fans would love to have it in Episode 1, Season 4,” Rubenstein says with a smile. “I think the wedding will come at a good time. We’ll have to see when we ‘earn’ the wedding. I’d like to see the journey of Tarlos as an engaged couple instead of rushing [into] marriage, which I don’t think they will. They’ve given us a beautiful storyline with room to breathe.”
Rubenstein’s TV fiancé agrees. “The preparation to get married is a whole journey,” Silva points out. “Preparing the wedding ceremony [is] a big thing. Emotionally and mentally, these two are choosing to devote themselves to each other as their individual selves, giving up things that they may not want to in order to become a good partner.”
While fans who idolize couples sometimes want to see them existing in a problem-free world, conflict is, of course, the essence of drama. “All relationships are complicated,” Rubenstein says. “I’m glad we’re keeping it based in reality. I don’t think it’d be as interesting if it were smooth sailing all the time but I always say, ‘Tarlos is endgame.’”
9-1-1: Lone Star, Season 4 Premiere, 2023, Fox