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The Downtown Native

    Adam Carpenter 

Adam Carpenter

Portrayed By: Charlie Carver

A young man searching for clues about the mysterious disappearance of his roommate.


  • Amateur Sleuth: And an incredibly persistent one at that.
  • Camp Gay: A downplayed example; Adam is very soft and delicate, but these traits only serve to contrast him with his eventual boyfriend.
  • Love Redeems: He becomes a positive influence to Theo, and their budding romance even helps the photographer become a better person.
  • Nice Guy: Sets the plot in motion out of a genuine desire to find and save his friend from danger.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: With Dr. Wells, seeing as he's a gay man and she's a straight woman. The two have a close friendship, and she even decides to have him father her child. He's also clearly devastated when listening to her tapes after her death and looks just about ready to break down while looking over her apartment.
  • Sole Survivor: By the end of the season, Adam is the only main character to have successfully escaped Big Daddy.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Patrick and Gino take his place as the main characters after the first few episodes, with Adam mostly remaining on the background.

    Gino Barelli 

Gino Barelli

Portrayed By: Joe Mantello

An Italian-American reporter and editor-in-chief of The Downtown Native.


  • Age-Gap Romance: Gino is notably older than Patrick and it's implied to cause some strain in the relationship. Being the older one between them, he has been out far longer than Patrick has been and as such, is much more comfortable embracing his sexuality. Patrick, on the other hand, has only fairly recently realised he's gay and throughout the first half of the season, hides his sexuality from his coworkers. It's this inability for them to see eye to eye that contributes to the rifts in their relationships.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: In "Thank You For Your Service", Gino is kidnapped and tortured by the Mai Tai Killer, who shoves hot needles into his nailbeds.
  • Da Editor: A quintessential example, even Adam finds him particularly difficult to work with.
  • Going for the Big Scoop: Homophobic cops, serial killers and even the mafia mean absolutely nothing to him.
  • Good is Not Nice: Arguably the most overtly heroic and selfless of all the protagonists across all story arcs in the show, Gino can also be an enormous asshole.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Goes out of his way to involve himself in ongoing police investigations if it means getting material for his work.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Even with his massive Hair-Trigger Temper, Gino does more for the gay community of New York City than the entire police department.
  • Mentor in Sour Armor: Becomes one to Adam.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Even after being tortured and then nearly killed by the Mai Tai killer twice, he still gives some pity and understanding to the man post-mortem. In his article about the killer, he writes about how the injustice and crimes done against the gay community is part of what fueled his murder spree in a misguided attempt to call for justice to be done.
  • Unscrupulous Hero: Gino is unpleasant to almost everyone around him and he's not above manipulating his own boyfriend to get what he wants.

    Fran 

Fran

Portrayed By: Sandra Bernhard

A lesbian woman with curious theories concerning the AIDS epidemic.


  • Butch Lesbian: A bit aggressive and tomboyish.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Vehemently believes AIDS to be a bioweapon engineered by the government, among other things.
  • The Cuckoo Lander Was Right: All of her theories are implied to be right.
  • New Job as the Plot Demands: All of her previous work experiences contribute to the different plotlines, and she's even shown going through two of her jobs.
  • Workaholic: Fran is a lab assistant, a fortune teller and a reporter for The Downtown Native.

New York Police Department

    Patrick Read 

Patrick Read

Portrayed By: Russell Tovey

A closeted gay detective investigating the brutal murders of gay men around New York City.


  • Abusive Parents: For the brief time that we are shown his father, it's clear that the man was harsh and cruel to his son, essentially forcing Patrick to become a police officer. It's even shown that his father's cruelty contributed to some of his issues that have haunted him throughout his life and his treatment was so bad that Patrick has subconsciously blocked out the fact that the man made his ear bleed.
  • Amicable Exes: With Barbara, whom he still sees as a good friend.
  • Armoured Closet Gay: Patrick is gay, but has to cover it up because he's also a cop who's stuck in one of the most homophobic precincts in the city. This is a source of great tension between him and his boyfriend Gino, who's been out for years and wants Patrick to come out, too.
  • Byronic Hero: The penultimate episode of the season explores his flaws and how they shaped him.
  • By-the-Book Cop: He's the only cop in the entire police department who gives a damn about the gay community of the city.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Dealt with a harsh father who put him through abusive training to become a cop, grappling with his sexuality and keeping it a secret in his workplace, and accidentally killing a young man while having sex with him then having it covered up.
  • Defective Detective: He's a skilled cop but one who suffers from serious personality issues and visions of his dead ex-wife.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Patrick straight-up executes Whitely for his heinous crimes, having deemed him to be Beyond Redemption.
  • Military Brat: He's the son of a WW2 veteran and was raised to be a model police officer.
  • Sadist: A non-villainous example; Patrick secretly enjoys dominating and "punishing" other men, but only when it is consensual.

    Mac Marzara 

Mac Marzara

Portrayed By: Kal Penn

A NYPD captain and Patrick's superior.


  • Da Chief: Of the 6th precinct.
  • Dirty Cop: He's not afraid to use Police Brutality when it suits him, especially against gay men.
  • Murder by Inaction: For years, Marzara has consciously ignored cases related to gay men, and he even urges Patrick to do the same.

    Mulcahey 

Mulcahey

Portrayed By: Brian Ray Norris

Patrick's partner in the NYPD.


  • Dirty Coward: He makes homophobic jokes about Patrick but only behind his back.
  • Hate Sink: Moreso than Marzara himself; his only role in the story is to remind us that the NYPD hates the gay community.
  • Speak Ill of the Dead: Enjoys doing this to gay murder victims, much to Patrick's discomfort. Sadly, it's implied he goes further than that on Patrick's funeral, as his corpse has makeup on it to insult and demean him even in death.

Artists

    Theo Graves 

Theo Graves

Portrayed By: Isaac Cole Powell

A young and eccentric photographer fascinated by the morbid aspects of humanity.


  • Attention Whore: Has a reputation for liking to "make a splash".
  • Love Redeems: His growing closeness to Adam that eventually evolves into a romance brings out his better side.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: According to Theo himself, he finds charm in decadence and perversion in beauty.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: His decision to make amends with Sam ultimately costs him his life.
  • Psychic Powers: Claims to have inherited these from his Haitian grandmother, it's never really elaborated upon.
  • Spirit Advisor: His spirit serves as one to Sam during the latter's final moments, teaching him a few lessons about his life choices and guiding him through his personal purgatory.
  • Straight Gay: In contrast to his boyfriend, Adam.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Theo gradually becomes a better person thanks to the influence of Adam.

    Sam 

Sam

Portrayed By: Zachary Quinto

Theo's agent and a wealthy socialite with dark impulses.


  • Depraved Homosexual: He's a rich Sadist who rapes other men.
  • Drunk with Power: Theo reveals that Sam was not always a sadistic asshole, money just gave him more and more opportunities to hurt people.
  • The Hedonist: He regularly abuses drugs and people to satisfy a pathological need to feel pleasure.
  • Mad Artist: He genuinely sees pain and the suffering of others as a beautiful form of art.
  • Sadist: Of the sexual variant.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: How he manages to get away with his crimes.
  • Serial Rapist: He lures naive men into his apartment and imprisons them in a sex dungeon, where he rapes and tortures them for days.
  • The Sociopath: And a pretty realistic depiction of one, everyone around him is either a useful tool or a disposable sex toy.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Surprisingly, he's not one of the serial killers of the season but an "ally" of the good guys... Despite being a nasty predator in his own right.
  • Villain Protagonist: Sam's a sadistic Jerkass, a Serial Rapist and a rich asshole. Yet, he's one of our protagonists...

    Kathy Pizazz 

Kathy Pizazz

Portrayed By: Patti LuPone

An aging singer of Sicilian descent.


  • Only Sane Woman: She's one of the few people who notice that something terribly wrong is happening in the city.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: Kathy is smart enough to foresee the misery that the AIDS epidemic will bring to New York and decides leave the city for her own safety.

Killers

    Big Daddy 

Big Daddy

Portrayed By: Matthew William Bishop

A hulking masked assailant preying on the gay community of New York City.


  • Ambiguous Situation: Is he the malevolent ghost of the real Big Daddy or a supernatural entity who stole his identity? We may never know.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Of the AIDS epidemic and homophobic hate crimes.
  • Big Bad: He's the main threat that Adam and his allies have to face over the course of the season.
  • Bondage Is Bad: His appearance is based on the leather subculture.
  • Dead All Along: Big Daddy died a few years prior to the beginning of the show.
  • Evil Is Bigger: Big Daddy is, as his name suggests, an enormous man.
  • Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: When Sam finally unmasks him, what he sees is an angelic blond man.
  • The Grim Reaper: The season finale reveals that Big Daddy is effectively this to all of those who suffer from AIDS.
  • Invincible Villain: Big Daddy behaves much like a slasher villain, being an unstoppable masked killer who's immune to bullets and reaches his victims by teleporting to their location.
    • Justified in the sense that Big Daddy is not a person, but the living embodiment of an idea.
  • Serial Killer: Initially appears to be a random maniac prowling the streets of New York City, the true extent of his villainy is far, far worse...

    Mai Tai Killer 

Mr. Whitely

Portrayed By: Jeff Hiller

A more mundane serial murderer operating at the same time as Big Daddy.


  • Disc-One Final Boss: Mr. Whitely is the direct antagonist for most of the season until he's finally shot in the head by Patrick in "The Sentinel".
  • Heel–Face Turn: His spirit is seen comforting Gino and trying to give him hope during the Darkest Hour.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: His obsession with guts and gore is also sexual, looking aroused at seeing beautiful people gutted open.
  • Reluctant Psycho: Deep down, Whitely is truly ashamed of his own sadistic tendencies.
  • Serial Killer: Of the Mission-Based variety.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: He was dishonorably discharged from the army when he began enjoying killing people during the Vietnam War.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: As insane as Mr. Whitely's plan is, it's driven by a genuine desire to protect the gay community of New York City from all those who are trying to hurt them.

    Velvet Touch 

Henry

Portrayed By: Denis O'Hare

A flamboyant hitman on the payroll of the New York crime families.


  • Abhorrent Admirer: In the latter half of the season, Henry reveals that he's smitten with Gino, having read all of his articles in the Native; Gino is repulsed at the idea of being courted by an unrepentant hitman.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Henry hacks off his own hand in order to escape after being captured by the Mai Tai Killer.
  • Camp Gay: A very flamboyant and openly gay man.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: He feels responsible for the crimes of the Mai Tai Killer and agrees to help the others stop him.
  • Hitman with a Heart: He was ordered to assassinate Gino but changed his mind after getting to know him better.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Part of what motivates him to help bring the Mai Tai killer to justice is his inaction towards the killer's crimes, as he not only knew the killer but didn't find his obsession with corpses to be anything concering.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Henry kills people for a living but is firmly on the side of the good guys.

Other residents of New York City

    Dr. Hannah Wells 

Dr. Hannah Wells

Portrayed By: Billie Lourd

A scientist studying the newly-discovered HIV virus.


  • The Beard: To the gay Adam to some extent, as he refers to himself as her "husband" at certain points and she decides to carry his child.
  • Been There, Shaped History: She's basically the one who identified the HIV virus.
  • Driven to Suicide: Her eventual fate at the end of the season.
  • Hero of Another Story: In the context of the show, Hannah spends most of her time fighting her own battle in the field of science, away from the investigations conducted by the Native and the NYPD.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: With Adam, seeing as he's a gay man and she's a straight woman. She clearly trusts him a lot, enough to decide to have him be the father of her child.

    Barbara Read 

Barbara Read

Portrayed By: Leslie Grossman

Patrick's ex-wife.


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