NEW YORK – For raising much needed awareness on HIV/AIDS awareness by playing the role of Oliver Hampton, an HIV-positive I.T. guy in the hit TV series “How to Get Away with Murder,” Fil-Am actor Conrad Ricamora received the community catalyst award from the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) over the weekend.
“It means the world to me,” said Ricamora. “I mean the work that they do, bringing acceptance and promoting equality and justice for Asian Americans of all types is just really important.”
Born in Santa Maria, Calif. and raised in Niceville, Fla., Ricamora is known for playing popular lead roles in Broadway musicals such as Ninoy Aquino in “Here Lies Love” and Luntha in “The King and I.”
Ricamora says growing up gay and Asian in a predominantly white community in the south was not easy – a far cry from his current New York City home – which is diverse and gay-friendly.
“Being considered a second-class citizen was just normal to me growing up,” he said. “I didn’t realize how much it affected my confidence and my sense of self-worth until I went away to undergrad and saw there was a much bigger world.”
Like many young gay Asians, Ricamora says he lost a few great friends after he was accidentally outed gay in high school.
“A lot of them said you can’t come over to the house anymore, my parents heard that you might be gay,” he said. “It’s just funny that I’m having gay sex on national TV now.”
Ricamora’s Oliver and Jack Falahee’s Connor are now one of the hottest gay couples on TV, thanks to its creator Shonda Rhimes.
“I want to tell any kid who is not living in New York City, that is not living in a diverse community,” he said. “But maybe out in a small town somewhere that feels ashamed of the shape of their eyes or the color of their skin, or who they feel attracted to naturally, that you are loved. It does get better.”
To date, Ricamora has played Oliver in 22 episodes including Thursday night’s season finale, and he will be back next season with possibly an even bigger role in the hit series.