Hacks' Carl Clemons-Hopkins on the 'Blessing' of Playing Marcus, and Showing Fans a Better World 'Is Possible'
Voices for Change is PEOPLE's editorial series committed to elevating and amplifying the stories of celebrities and everyday people alike who are dedicated to making change and uplifting others in the fight for racial justice, gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights, climate action and more
Carl Clemons-Hopkins gained national recognition with their breakout role as Marcus, the hyper-competent chief operating officer for a popular Las Vegas comedian, on HBO Max's Hacks. Originally from Atlanta, Clemons-Hopkins has worked in theaters nationwide including Off-Broadway, and the Chicago production of Hamilton. They can next be seen in Jordan Peele's Candyman, as well as season two of Hacks. As part of PEOPLE's Voices for Change series, which is focusing on the LGBTQIA+ community during Pride in June, Clemons-Hopkins wrote an essay about their experience playing Marcus and fully embracing their identity. These are their words, as written for PEOPLE.
In the summer of 2020, I was presented with the challenge of storytelling in a world that was not afflicted with the atrocities that plagued my present existence. An alternate universe where none of my adjectives were someone else's justification for putting my life in danger. A world that was brilliantly written, and simultaneously beautiful and hilarious. The opportunity to work with the incredible creators and cast of Hacks is one that I will be eternally grateful for, because it allows audiences to see proof that such a world is possible.
Furthermore, the opportunity to play Marcus, a hard-working, dedicated individual who is just embarking on a journey of self-discovery, has been the most beautiful blessing I didn't know I needed.
It's truly wonderful to hear how people have identified with him, and have very, very, very strong feelings about his decision-making. This response has given me plenty of joy and encouragement, which was so necessary as those are two things my life was desperately lacking at the beginning of this process.
Connecting the dots of the past in order to understand the blessings of the present is a daily task for me. I am only recently in the mental and spiritual space where I can accept certain events as my truth and my own places to heal and grow from.
The experience of Hacks and the embrace of the character Marcus has been incredibly helpful for me to continue in this space, especially given the fact that Black Queer artists are so frequently discounted for what we are not, and so seldom find the necessary nourishment for the gifts we possess.
These gifts — this complete human experience outside of the white supremacist illusion that we have all been subjected to in this and every industry for far too long — are the very gifts that will not only liberate us, but all who surround us.
What empowers me to continue on the path of personal liberation is the knowledge that I am not alone. Brilliant and necessary artists such as Angelica Ross, Donja Love, James Ijames, R. Eric Thomas, Michael R. Jackson, Lee Edward Colston II, Forrest McClendon and more in our community continue to fortify and restore my spirit from a past filled with the sting of hateful religions, false gods, and feeling the need to cut parts of myself from myself in order to belong.
The fact that I can exist in completion —that my skin, sexuality, and personhood does not need to be divided — is one of the greatest blessings of my life. And the fact that I can use that blessing to inform the characters I play is truly a joy.
My prayer is that every enchanted soul finds the family they need in order to receive the nourishment they deserve. I hasten the day where we no longer need to examine the experiences of one's adjectives in order to prove their humanity to other humans. And I hope that day is seen within our lifetime, by any means necessary.
Voices for Change is PEOPLE's editorial series committed to elevating and amplifying the stories of celebrities and everyday people alike who are dedicated to making change and uplifting others in the fight for racial justice, gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights, climate action and more.