'9-1-1: Lone Star': Ronen Rubinstein and Rafael Silva on T.K. and Carlos' Romance in Season 3 (Exclusive)
By Philiana Ng
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9-1-1: Lone Star's Ronen Rubinstein and Rafael Silva play fan-favorite couple, firefighter T.K. Strand and police officer Carlos Reyes, on Fox's first-responder drama. In celebration of Pride, the duo recently opened up to ET about the power of portraying a healthy gay relationship on primetime and how their own perspectives have changed after stepping into these characters' shoes for two seasons.
"My answer from Day 1 is definitely different than what it is today, I think simply because of how large the fandom has grown, how big the show has become, how many more people are able to watch the show and appreciate this couple and see themselves on screen," Rubinstein told ET's Denny Directo. "The appreciation and the honor of portraying this couple onscreen, it literally grows by the day because I talk to people almost every single day that are tuning in for the first time."
"I sort of forget that people are going to watch the show for the first time, like right now. And it's just the constant wave of new viewers, of new people that appreciate this, of people that really needed this. So it always evolves, luckily for the better," he continued. "A lot of people that want to talk about these relationships is so important because it only amplifies this couple and this story even more. And it amplifies what we're doing on the show, which I think is really important.
Silva, who is openly gay, echoed Rubinstein's sentiments, saying that it was important to him that they treat T.K. and Carlos with "as much humanity as possible."
"By having both Carlos and T.K. be a couple on network television, primetime television, in a Ryan Murphy show with a decent level of popularity and fandom, it's impossible not to gain traction. And that's something that I'm extremely grateful for. I think our purpose, my purpose at least, is to portray this couple with as much humanity as possible. So when people that don't encounter members of the LGBTQIA+ members very frequently, what they're able to see are not necessarily one-dimensional characters that are defined by their sexuality," Silva said. "These are people who are also first responders. They risk their lives for others, to save others, to be there for others. And they also happen to be gay and they also happen to be in a beautiful relationship."
"At the end of the day, if this allows conversations to take place at unpredictable settings with an unpredictable audience, and I think we do a rather fine job of portraying two very multi-layered multidimensional people, what they can see is that they can see people. They can see two human beings that happen to be all those things as well. So you definitely have to approach it with a certain level of responsibility because you want to get it right. You want to create a conversation."
In April, Rubinstein shared in a Varietyinterview that he identifies as bisexual. He credited 9-1-1: Lone Star and Silva, who was one of the first people he spoke to, for helping him reach a point where he felt open and comfortable to speak his truth. Rubinstein revealed he leaned on his co-star a lot for guidance throughout the process.
"We had a lot of private conversations at work and outside of work. And I felt that this year was finally the right time to do it," he said. "I spoke to him about a lot of things, about what is the effect of what happened, because I wanted to hear from his perspective. How was it with your family? How was it with your friends? I had a fear of what's going to happen with my family? What's going to happen with my friends? So I leaned very heavily on Rafael and hearing his perspective firsthand and hearing his experiences, I think it gave me a lot of confidence just to do it and be like, 'Whatever happens, happens. But I got your support, I got your love and I got your advice,' and it helped a lot. It was nice to have that little secret for two seasons with him so at least he sees me."
Silva praised Rubinstein for having the courage to go on this journey on his own timeline. "There's this beautiful thing that it doesn't matter what's happening. Well, I'm not going to say it doesn't matter, but regardless of what's happening socially, regardless of what's happening culturally, everyone has their own journey," Silva said. "It's very silly when people say, 'Oh, it's 2021. We should already be somewhere that we're not.' No, we're exactly where we are socially and culturally because we need to go through these things. We ourselves, there are Pride celebrations happening all over and it's this beautiful celebration of who you are, who you want to be, who you've been, but everyone is on their own journey. You can't rush."
"You could be a star of a television show in portraying this character and still be going through your own hurdles and letting go of misconceptions or letting go of ideas of who you are, but also allowing yourself to be other things, right? So I think it doesn't matter. We all have our own journey and I'm grateful that Ronen even decided to open up to me when we first started the conversation because it's very hard," he expressed. "It doesn't matter where you are. It's very hard. And you're constantly coming out. You're constantly coming out to people that you don't know and especially with all of these lights on you, all these cameras on you. It's not easy."
Though Rubinstein was initially nervous about coming out to his close friends and family, he says "not much" has changed since -- and that's a good thing. "That's sort of what I was hoping for," he admitted. "Maybe the biggest thing is I can have a different kind of conversation with my parents and my friends from back home. I was more confident and excited about being open with the fandom and the public more than my family and friends because I had a very good feeling that I'd have their complete support and love. And that's exactly what happened. I was more afraid of people of where I come from and luckily that's been a pleasant surprise as well. I've gotten paragraphs of text messages from my oldest friends who I didn't think I'd ever hear from. So that's sort of been the biggest change, them seeing me finally eye to eye."
As for what Rubinstein and Silva hope to see for T.K. and Carlos in season 3 of 9-1-1: Lone Star: longevity in their romance. Could that mean wedding bells in the couple's future?
"I want to see a lot more of Tarlos -- in terms of growing as partners, not just through heated arguments and then heated sex scenes," Silva said. "There's a certain type of grounding when you see two people just being themselves around each other, just doing what we call mundane things. Because I think it establishes a narrative where this is not out of the ordinary. It might be out of the ordinary for certain people who don't encounter many members of the LGBTQIA+ community, but for people who are within the community, who are coupled, who might be married, who might just be in a long-term relationship, there are certain situations they go through that are like everybody else. But then again, because they are a LGBTQIA+ couple, there are things that other people don't go through unless they're part of the community. I'd like to see them save people together, both Carlos and T.K. I also like to be surprised."
"For two seasons I'm like, 'So when's Tarlos getting married?'" Rubinstein quipped. "[Our showrunner Tim Minear] teased it publicly that it's very much in the future for them, so that's exciting. But I was told that there were some really intense storylines percolating, and I was like, 'You mean rescues?' And they're like, 'No, personal.' They're really diving deep, personal this year."