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Russell Tovey wants to be a ‘possibility model’ for young LGBTQ people

The recipient of the Attitude Culture Award believes in the power of stories.

By Will Stroude

“Attitude magazine was a kind of life-line when I was very young, growing up in Essex, realising I was gay”, recalls Russell Tovey as he receives his Attitude Culture Award at the 2020 Virgin Atlantic Attitude Awards, powered by Jaguar.

“It’s been a constant for me, so to be recognised now as a figure of culture – well, I feel very, very humbled.”

Tovey, who over the last decade and a half has proved himself to be a multi-layered star of the stage and screen, whose passion for the arts extends beyond his lauded career in front of the camera, adds: “I just think it’s really important that everyone have an opportunity to tell their story, wherever they’re from.”

The Attitude Awards issue is available from 1 December to download and to order globally (Photography: Lee Malone)

Tovey, 39, first came to prominence in the Royal National Theatre’s production of The History Boys and its subsequent film adaptation, but his CV is as diverse and busy as you’d expect from one of the UK’s most successful male actors.

From comedy in Gavin & Stacey to playing a werewolf in Being Human, Tovey has also featured in popular franchises Dr Who and Sherlock, and thriller Quantico on the ABC network in the USA.

Refreshingly uninhibited about his sexuality, Tovey played gay characters in cult HBO series, Looking, and in Russell T Davies’ dystopian drama Years & Years, and returned to the stage with the Royal National Theatre in its revival of Angels in America in 2017.

“People need mentors and people need to know there’s someone else in the world who’s like them so it’s less scary and they have ‘possibility models’,” Russell tells Attitude.

Photography: Markus Bidaux

“I think Laverne Cox coined that phrase; that she didn’t want to be a role model, she wanted to be a possibility model. That, for me, is something that’s really stuck.

“If we can all see people and go ‘Ah, yeah, that’s a possibility, I didn’t realise that before’. Just to have people like that in the world is so important.”

Besides his screen career, Tovey is a keen collector and dedicated champion of art, and is involved in several non-profit organisations, such as the Camden Arts Centre and Studio Voltaire, while his podcast
series, Talk Art, with gallerist Robert Diament, has generated 1.7 million downloads since it launched in 2018.

Acknowledging his credentials, Margate’s burgeoning art community invited Tovey to guest-curate the Margate Now festival in 2019, the Tom of Finland Foundation had him judge its Emerging Artist 2020 competition, and next year he joins the
panel for the 2021 Turner Prize.

This year’s Attitude Culture Award has found itself a fitting home on Russell Tovey’s mantlepiece.

Watch the 2020 Virgin Atlantic Attitude Awards, powered by Jaguar on YouTube now.

The Attitude Awards issue featuring all 14 winners is available from 1 December to download and to order globally.

Subscribe in print and get your first three issues for just £3, or digitally for just £1.54 per issue.