2015 was an important year for interracial couples on television. Interracial relationships have increased in America in the less-than-50 years since anti-miscegenation laws were struck down by the Supreme Court, but in 2010 census reported that around one in ten marriages identify as interracial. Among non-married couples, the numbers are even higher, and continue to increase.
Interracial couples, too, are becoming increasing present on television and in other media. In some ways, interracial couples are simply a side effect of diversity; as shows incorporate different people of different races and identities in order to tell more stories and represent more people, they also create the conditions that make interracial couples and families possible. The increase in interracial couples in 2015, then, does not necessarily come from a direct plan, but as a logical next step to diversity on television.
That being said, interracial relationships have their own stories to tell. While some shows opted to normalize interracial relationships by not openly discussing race, increasingly, interracial couples don’t simply appear on television, but their racial identities are taken into consideration. This informs and creates specific problems, challenges, and victories that are specific to interracial relationships, and more accurately portrays the realities of many interracial couples.
For the purposes of this list, some ethnic identities are included under the umbrella of “interracial.” While some prefer to use other terms, such as “multiethnic” or “multicultural” to describe these relationships, they are included on this list, because those relationships, too, are representations of diversity.
Of course, the representation that is seen today on television would not be possible without previous television shows leading the way and creating frameworks to inspire and build from. But 2015 was also standout year, because it put interracial relationships front-and-center, showed relationships that had not been seen before, and continued to add depth to relationships from previous years.
Here are the 14 Interracial Couples on TV that Broke Stereotypes in 2015.
14. Grey’s Anatomy (2005)
Executive producer Shonda Rhimes created Grey’s Anatomy (2005) over a decade ago, and despite its problems, the show has consistently featured a diverse cast and promoted interracial friendships and romances. Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), an Asian American character, dated both an African-American man, Preston Burke (Isaiah Washington), and a white man, Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd). Cristina and Owen married, but later divorced. Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) and Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw) also married and divorced over the course of the show. In the most recent season, Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams) and April Kepner (Sarah Drew) struggle to keep their relationship going – but such is the nature of the show.
The success of Grey’s Anatomy helped Shonda Rhimes to create other shows with diverse casts, including Scandal (2012) and How to Get Away With Murder (2014). Additionally, Private Practice (2007), the Rhimes-produced spin-off of Grey’s Anatomy, also included interracial relationships, such as Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh) and Sam Bennett (Taye Diggs).
13. Jay and Gloria from Modern Family (2009)
Jay (Ed O’Neill) and Gloria’s (Sofia Vergara) relationship could easily be seen as a negative stereotype in itself – a younger, beautiful woman marries an older man in order to get citizenship. However, the couple’s relationship to each other subverts these stereotypes by showing how they do genuinely support, understand, and care about each other. Race, multinational, and multiethnic identities are discussed on the show as Jay and Gloria co-parent Manny (Rico Rodriguez), her son from a previous marriage.
Jay and Gloria’s inclusion in the show illustrate a different sort of “modern family,” and shows their relationship within the larger context of a multiethnic extended family. Not only is Jay the stepfather, but Gloria and Jay’s adult children (and their families) also learn how to get along.
12. Glenn and Maggie from The Walking Dead (2010)
The Walking Dead (2010) has deviated quite a bit from its source material, but it has maintained Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) and Maggie Greene’s (Lauren Cohen) relationship as the heart of the show. While navigating the zombie-infested post-apocalypse, the two met, fell in love, and even chose to get married. The most recent season, which is currently airing, has created a great deal of uncertainty – from pregnancy to Glenn’s near-death experience – but it is clear that nothing short of death would drive them apart.
The show’s central romantic relationship was also cited by Aziz Ansari as one of the two times that he could think of an Asian man kissing anyone on television. In his show, Master of None (2015), Ansari’s character makes a similar reference.
11. Cece and Schmidt from New Girl (2011)
The most recent season of New Girl (2011) has focused on the wedding preparations for Jess Day’s (Zooey Deschanel) best friend, Cece (Hannah Simone), and roommate, Schmidt (Max Greenfield). Because she did not want to disappoint her parents, Cece was previously engaged to Shivrang (Satya Bhabha), but she eventually called off the traditional Indian wedding ceremony.
Now that Cece and Schmidt are preparing for a wedding of their own, they are having to negotiate what their interracial and multifaith ceremony will be. Additionally, Cece’s parents do not approve of the match, because Schmidt is a white, Jewish man. New Girl has used the wedding as an opportunity to explore some of the challenges that interracial couples can face, including stigma or rejection from family members.
10. Scandal (2012)
When Scandal (2012) premiered, it became the first network drama to star an African-American woman in almost 40 years. Kerry Washington stars as Olivia Pope, a political crisis manager, who has an on-off relationship with Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn). Fitz is a married man – oh, and he happens to be the President of the United States.
Olivia Pope is an educated and career-driven woman, and her complex relationship with Fitz is not merely a lustful fling or an abusive manipulative tactic. The show creates an opportunity to explore the intricacies of their relationship rather than oversimplifying their dynamic.
9. The Mindy Project (2012)
Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) is an OB-GYN who balances her professional and personal life on The Mindy Project (2012). Mindy Kaling has, both in the show and in other projects, promoted body positivity, including for those that fall outside of the conventional Hollywood beauty standards. Likewise, her character is confident with and about her body, and has had an active dating life over the course of the show.
Some critics “called out” Mindy Kaling because her character only seemed to have white male love interests, rather than dating any men of color. Her character now has had a child with and is engaged to long-time love interest Danny (Chris Messina), but their relationship still feels far from stable.
8. Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s cast of characters reflect the real-life diversity of Brooklyn’s inhabitants. Captain Ray Holt’s (Andre Braugher) husband, Kevin Cozner (Marc Evan Jackson), is a white man, and the two discuss how their homosexual, interracial relationship faced a double stigma because of their sexuality and race. Simultaneously, the show’s choice to treat Holt’s marriage like any other in this workplace comedy, rather than making it the central focus of his character’s story lines, contrasts it with many other comedies that default to stereotypes for laughs.
Holt’s marriage is not the only interracial relationship that the show depicts. Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz) dated Marcus (Nick Cannon), the nephew of Captain Holt, and Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) are currently dating on the show.
7. How to Get Away With Murder (2014)
How to Get Away With Murder (2014) is the most recent Shondaland production, and it continues producer Shonda Rhimes’ commitment to diversity on television. Viola Davis plays Annalise Keating, a law professor and defense attorney. Davis has been nominated for a Golden Globe and won an Emmy for her portrayal of Annalise. The show revolves around two murders, one of which is the murder of Annalise’s husband.
Before her marriage, however, Annalise had a romantic relationship with Eve Rothlow (Famke Janssen). When Eve returns to defend Annalise’s lover, who is on trial for the murder of Annalise’s husband, the two women’s lives intersect again.
Annalise’s relationship isn’t the only interracial romance on the show. One of Annalise’s interns, Wes Gibbons (Alfred Enoch) begins to date his neighbor, Rebecca Sutter (Katie Findlay), and another intern, Connor Walsh (Jack Falahee) and Oliver Hampton (Conrad Ricamora) have a tumultuous relationship as well.
6. Jane the Virgin (2014)
Jane the Virgin (2014) has included a number of interracial relationships that are central to the plot of the series, including Jane (Gina Rodriguez) and Michael (Brett Dier) along with Rafael (Justin Baldoni) and Petra (Yael Grobglas).
Given the show’s telenovela inspiration, it’s not that surprising that Rafael’s sister Luisa (Yara Martinez) and stepmother Rose (Bridget Regan) also were involved in a torrent affair. And as the show progresses, there will certainly be more amorous combinations. While these relationships rarely explicitly discuss the dynamic that race can play in a relationship, the show does take moments to examine how language, race, ethnic, and cultural identity can affect personal relationship dynamics.
5. Dong and Kimmy from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015) had mixed reactions to its treatment of race, but its central romantic relationship between Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) and Dong Nguyen (Ki Hong Lee) increased representation. Dong, an undocumented immigrant from Vietnam, is a classmate in Kimmy’s GED class, where the two develop feelings for each other. In some ways, Dong’s character has been criticized for playing into stereotypes, but the show uses humor and parody to subvert these stereotypes. For instance, before Kimmy even has a chance to comment on Dong’s name, he tells her that “Kimmy” is slang for “penis” in Vietnam.
The couple’s inclusion on the list shows an increase of representation of men of color in interracial relationships, which on the whole tends to be less common than women of color paired with white men. In season 2, however, their relationship will surely be complicated by Dong’s hasty green card marriage to another classmate while Kimmy was out of New York City.
4. Sense8 (2015)
Sense8 (2015) focuses on the lives of eight people from all over the world who discover that they are mysteriously mentally linked. One of these people is Nomi Marks (Jamie Clayton), a trans woman who lives in San Francisco with her African-American girlfriend, Amanita (Freema Agyeman). Their relationship is loving and sensual, but after Nomi is targeted for being a “sensate,” Amanita rushes to her aid.
Another key relationship is between two other “sensate,” who only meet each other after they are mentally connected. Though Kala Dandekar (Tina Desai) lives in India and Wolfgang Bogdanow (Max Riemelt) lives in Germany, they develop a romantic relationship while on other sides of the globe.
3. Quantico (2015)
Quantico (2015) focuses on FBI agents, including a pair of twin sisters, Raina and Nimah Amin (both played by Yasmine Al Massri). The twins pose as a single person, which means that they end up in a love triangle with Simon Asher (Tate Ellington).
By showing the romantic relationship(s) of a Muslim women, one of whom chooses to wear a hijab, Quantico combats negative stereotypes that try to confine the experiences of Middle Eastern woman. Raina and Nimah are both powerful and independent woman, and both pursue romance and happiness.
2. Master of None (2015)
Aziz Ansari’s Master of None (2015) actively addressed questions around race and gender, both inside and outside of his character’s romantic relationships. Dev, played by Ansari, has a fling with the married Nina (Claire Danes), goes on a terrible date with Alice (Nina Arianda), and eventually develops a relationship with Rachel (Noel Wells).
The show grapples with questions of modern love, and even openly discusses the effects of portrayals (or lack thereof) of people of color in media. A clear message that Master of None both shows and tells is a simple one: representation matters, and affects how real people see themselves in relation to the world.
1. Jessica Jones and Luke Cage from Jessica Jones (2015)
Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is a survivor of abuse at the hands of the manipulative Kilgrave (David Tennant), who struggles to form and maintain the relationships in her life. She does, however, form a special attachment to Luke Cage (Mike Colter), another super-powered resident of New York City. Luke Cage is also dealing with trauma of his own, surrounding the murder of his wife, and his relationship with Jessica Jones eventually becomes one of mutual healing.
Jessica Jones is not the only MCU show to feature interracial relationships, but instead joins Daredevil‘s (2015) Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) and Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (2013)’s Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) and Andrew Garner (Blair Underwood). The next MCU Netflix show, Luke Cage is set to come out in 2016, and Luke and Jessica’s developing relationship will almost certainly be explored further.
2015 saw a number of interracial relationships develop and grow on television, building and taking inspiration from the interracial couples on television before 2015.
Did we miss any interracial relationships that helped to highlight diversity on television in 2015? Tell us in the comments!