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New HBO miniseries ‘Gentleman Jack’ explores life of ‘first modern lesbian’

Compelling, finely wrought tale brought roaring to life with great acting, period detail



Timothy West, Suranne Jones and Kelvin Cantwell in ‘Gentleman Jack.’ (Photo by Matt Squire for

“Gentleman Jack,” now playing on HBO, is a fascinating portrait of Anne Lister, an English landowner often descried as “the first modern lesbian.” The splendid eight-part series, a co-production of HBO and BBC One, is a rollicking portrait of life in Regency England, a time of great social, political and economic upheaval.

Set in Halifax in 1832, the series opens when Anne Lister (the delightfully swaggering Suranna Jones) returns to the family manse after foreign travel and a collapsed affair with Vere Hobart (Jodhi May) who has decided to marry a man (something that has happened to Lister before).

Lister is a complex and captivating bundle of contradictions and Jones captures them all with rakish charm. Lister caries a walking stick and dresses all in black, with a voluminous skirt without petticoats, a corset and a fitted bodice, a long coat and a top hat. (The witty title sequence shows her getting dressed which is a great introduction to the character.)

She’s a shrewd businesswoman, personally collecting the rents from her tenant farmers and negotiating business deals directly. She’s fiercely protective of her tenants but also fiercely protective of her bottom line. She personally (and awkwardly) tends to a boy who is injured, but refuses to renew the lease of any farmer who’s not measuring up.

She’s confident in her sexuality, but discreet enough to avoid open scandal (even though the local gossips do warn that she’s “not to be trusted in the company of other women”).

But while she claims the right to run her own business and sexual affairs, she’s also rather reactionary. She’s upset when a tradesman dares to court her sister Marion (Gemma Whalen, who’s also playing Yara Greyjoy on HBO’s “Game of Thrones”) and she’s obsessed with restoring the faded ancestral home Shibden Hall to its former glory.

And that’s what sets the story in motion. Like any cash-poor landowner, Lister decides that she needs to find a rich wife. She sets her sights on Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle), a local heiress who’s been dazzled by Lister’s charisma for years.

Lister also discovers there’s coal on her property and enters into a nasty business rivalry with the brutal Christopher Rawson (Vincent Franklin).

Series creator and screenwriter Sally Wainwright introduces both of these plot lines with a light touch, delighting in Lister’s playful seduction of Walker and her tough negotiations with Rawson. But over the course of the five episodes available for review, Wainwright slowly ratchets up the tension. Rawson becomes violent when his ambitions are thwarted and Walker and Lister are caught in flagrante delicto by a nosy neighbor.

The acting is first rate. Jones is a marvel as Anne Lister, effortlessly capturing every contradictory facet of this remarkable character. Rundle is captivating as the heiress who has a few secrets of her own and Franklin makes a fine villain. Whalen turns in a full-bodied performance as Anne’s exasperated sister Marian; she makes the character warm and believable while providing some much-needed common sense and humor to the proceedings.

Veteran British actors Gemma Whalen and Timothy West turn in fine performances as Aunt Anne Lister and Jeremy Lister, aunt and father to Anne and Marian. Neither character is quite as befuddled as their young relatives think they are, and their finely tuned observations are often amusing and quite biting.

Wainwright’s script is solid, with dialogue that sounds natural yet quite appropriate for the period. The directing (by Wainwright, Sarah Harding and Jennifer Perrott) is generally assured and well paced, although it’s difficult to see how the final three episodes can keep increasing the tension while resolving the main plots and the many subplots. The cinematography is stunning, a virtual Valentine to the lush West Yorkshire countryside.

Wainwright and her talented colleagues also create a powerful sense of period, While there are some delightful modern flourishes (especially in the lively score by Murray Gold), the series has an authentic feel. Everything feels lived in and the period details underscore the fact that the past is indeed a foreign country, recognizable yet distinctly different. 

This is especially true of discussions of Lister’s sexuality and gender non-conformity. Her same-sex desires and her unconventional clothing choices are freely discussed, but the script avoids the temptation to use modern terminology. For example, when discussing her romantic relationships with her family, Lister refers to her “companions.”

There’s also the delightful exchange where a young boy askes Lister, “Are you a man?” Flustered, Lister responds, “Well, that’s a question. So no, I am not a man. I’m a lady — woman. I’m a lady—woman. I’m a woman.”

The remarkable authenticity and detail of “Gentleman Jack” comes from Wainwright’s intimate knowledge of Lister’s diaries. Over the course of her life, Lister kept a four-million-word diary that recorded her daily life in astonishing detail. Much of the diary was written in a secret code that used algebraic symbols and letters of the Greek alphabet. Wainwright was granted extensive access to the diaries and learned how to decipher the code and more fully understand Lister’s rich inner life. Since then, Wainwright funded the restoration and digitization of  the diary; excerpts can be found at

“Gentleman Jack” is a rare and genuine treat. It’s a full-blooded, full-bodied period piece with and vibrant and authentic inner life that is fully relatable yet true to its own time. Led by creator Sally Wainwright and the vivacious Suranna Jones, the series is a rousing tale that is also a rich contribution to our understanding of how same-sex desire and gender nonconformity are expressed in different times and places.

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Ellen signs off after 19 seasons

In her final monologue DeGeneres reflected on the journey across the years then took a moment to dance through the audience with Twitch




BURBANK – The lights went dark forever at the Warner Brothers Stage 1 complex on the lot at Warner Brothers Studio, home to the Ellen show, as comedian Ellen DeGeneres ended her daytime talk show after a 19 season run Thursday.

In a highly charged emotional hour, DeGeneres paid tribute to her staff, executive producers and a global audience of loyal viewers. Highlighting the end run of the show DeGeneres brought on guest Jennifer Aniston, the actress having been the comedian’s very first guest on the first show.

In her final monologue DeGeneres reflected on the journey across the years and she then took a moment to dance through the audience with her ‘DJ’ Twitch. During the course of the hour she discussed the progress that had been made since the series premiered in 2003, noting that she “couldn’t say ‘gay’ on the show” when it started or make a reference to her wife, Portia de Rossi, because same-sex marriage wasn’t legal.

“Now I say ‘wife’ all the time,” she said.  Noting that there was resistance to the show and that few gave it a chance of surviving, DeGeneres promised that she wouldn’t be gone for long. “Today is not the end of a relationship, it’s more of a little break,” she said. “You can see other talk shows now.”

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Celebrity News

Crown Prosecution Service UK charges Kevin Spacey with sexual assault

The CPS told the BBC it could not confirm or deny whether or not Spacey will need to be extradited to the UK



Screenshot/Sky News UK

LONDON – The Crown Prosecution Service announced Thursday that actor Kevin Spacey has been charged with five counts including three complaints relating to sexual abuse, which is alleged to have taken place in London, and one in Gloucestershire during the time period between 2005 and 2013.

Crown prosecutors told media outlets that the decision to move forward was based on a lengthy investigation by the Metropolitan Police Specialist Crime Directorate at Scotland Yard. The Directorate is a national police agency which handles specialist crime investigations such as e-crime, sex crimes (paedophile unit) or kidnappings.

In its reporting Thursday, the BBC outlined the cases against the actor.

The first two charges relate to alleged sexual assaults on a man, now in his 40s, in London in March 2005, while a second alleged victim, a man now in his 30s, is claimed to have been assaulted in London in August 2008.

The serious sexual offence charge – causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent – also relates to the second alleged victim.

The third complainant relates to an alleged assault on a man who is now in his 30s in Gloucestershire in April 2013.

Rosemary Ainslie, head of the CPS Special Crime Division, told the BBC that following the Met’s review of evidence the CPS had “authorised criminal charges against Kevin Spacey, 62, for four counts of sexual assault against three men”.

She added: “The Crown Prosecution Service reminds all concerned that criminal proceedings against Mr Spacey are active and that he has the right to a fair trial.”

The CPS told the BBC it could not confirm or deny whether or not Spacey will need to be extradited to the UK.

Spacey’s alleged sexual assaults occurred while he was living in London and employed as the renowned Old Vic Theatre’s artistic director in London between 2004 and 2015.

Spacey has been embroiled publicly and later in court over sexual assault allegations since October of 2017 when Out actor Anthony Rapp told the world that the Oscar-winning actor had tried to “seduced” him when Rapp was 14 years old. 

Rumours about Spacey’s behaviour had circulated in film and theatre circles for a considerable length of time previous to Rapp’s allegation.

Spacey’s response was immediate. He apologized and came out. “I’m beyond horrified to hear his story. I honestly do not remember the encounter, it would have been over 30 years ago. But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior, and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years,” Spacey wrote on Twitter.

“This story has encouraged me to address other things about my life. I know that there are stories out there about me, and that some have been fueled by the fact that I have been so protective of my own privacy,” Spacey said, adding “I now chose to live as a gay man.”

In July of 2019, Cape and Island District Attorney Michael O’Keefe announced that a charge against Spacey which accused the actor of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old boy in a Nantucket, Mass. bar had been dropped.

In court documents, Cape and Island District Attorney Michael O’Keefe said the charge was dropped “due to an unavailability of the complaining witness.”

News anchor Heather Unruh accused Spacey of getting her son, William Little, drunk at the Club Car, a bar in Nantucket, Mass., and groping him in July 2016 when Little was 18 years old.

In October of 2019, the office of then Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced that prosecutors have declined to move forward in a sexual battery case against the actor because the accuser had died.

That case, one of several involving accusations of sexual misconduct and assault by the Oscar winning actor, allegedly occurred after an October 2016 incident. A masseur had claimed that Spacey had inappropriately touched him in a sexual manor at a private home in Malibu as he was giving Spacey a massage.

A statement released by the LADA’s office notes that the masseur’s allegations against could not be proven without his participation in court proceedings. The alleged victim had also civil suit pending in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles against Spacey for the same incident.

Kevin Spacey charged with sexual assault:

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Equality Florida’s Nadine Smith named to Time’s Top 100 list for 2022

“In the fight for equality in Florida, there has perhaps been no greater advocate for LGBTQ people than Nadine Smith”



Courtesy of Equality Florida

ST. PETERSBURG, FL. – Time magazine released its annual 100 most influential people list and this year one of the honorees was Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith. In the biographical sketch accompanying Smith’s listing, Time writer Kristen Arnett noted “in the fight for equality in Florida, there has perhaps been no greater advocate for LGBTQ people than Nadine Smith.”

“I am deeply honored to be included in the TIME100,” said Smith, a Black, queer woman. “This recognizes decades of work not only by me, but by the dedicated team of volunteers, staff and supporters I’ve had the privilege to work with at Equality Florida.  Our work is far from done as Florida, once again, stands at the center of the fight against extremism and hate.  We are bearing the brunt of a governor willing to sacrifice the safety of children and destroy our most basic liberties in his desperate bid to be President. But this is not simply Florida’s fight. The wave of anti-LGBTQ, racist, freedom-destroying bills sweeping the country calls each of us to fight for our rights and, indeed, our democracy.”

The list, now in its nineteenth year, recognizes the impact, innovation and achievement of the world’s most influential individuals. 

Smith comes from a long line of activists and barrier breakers. Her grandparents helped form the Southern Tenant Farmers Union to fight for the rights of sharecroppers. While in college, Smith co-founded IGLYO, the world’s largest LGBTQ youth and student organization. She co-chaired the 1993 March on Washington that drew a million marchers and she was part of the first Oval Office meeting between a sitting President and LGBTQ leaders. In the aftermath of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, Smith and her team coordinated a national response including raising millions in direct resources for survivors and families of the 49 killed. 

Smith’s recognition comes as Florida has taken center stage in the right wing, anti-freedom agenda aimed at erasing LGBTQ people from classrooms, propagandizing curriculum, censoring history, banning books, and putting politicians in control of personal medical decisions.

“Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ presidential ambitions have fueled bills like Don’t Say Gay, the Stop WOKE Act, a 15-week abortion ban, and dangerous national rhetoric that seeks to dehumanize LGBTQ people in service to the most extreme segment of his base,” Equality Florida stated in a press release Monday.

The 2022 TIME100, and its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, with related tributes appear in the June 6/June 13 double issue of TIME, available on newsstands on Friday, May 27, and online now at

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