Eric star McKinley Belcher III: 'I got to honour the journey of what it would have been to be a queer man in the 80s'

Virgin Radio

7 Jun 2024, 13:23

McKinley Belcher III in Eric (Netflix)

Credit: Netflix / Getty

Eric actor McKinley Belcher III didn’t take playing gay NYPD officer Michael Ledroit lightly when he signed up to the Netflix drama. 

(Spoilers for Eric ahead! You’ve been warned!) 

Detective Ledroit is responsible for the search of missing boy Edgar, who’s father Vincent (Benedict Cumberbatch) becomes increasingly unhinged the longer his son is missing. 

In his search, Vincent finds solace in Edgar’s drawings of a blue monster puppet called Eric - who becomes his only friend as his increasingly unhinged behaviour pushes those around him away. 



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Ledroit has to navigate difficult circumstances of his own against the backdrop of the Aids epidemic in 1980s New York, resulting in homophobic attacks and rampant slurs used at work. At home, Ledroit also has to take care of an ailing partner in the late stages of the illness.

As a gay actor, McKingley jumped at the opportunity to play not only a Black queer character, but to “honour” the experiences of those in the police force at the height of tensions against the LGBTQ+ community. 

Speaking exclusively to, the Passenger star explained: “I was looking for something that I'd be challenged in. As a black queer man in the world, it was exciting to play a black queer character, where he's a detective, but the show is interested in more than his investigative ability. It's interested in giving him space to be a full human being.

“Some of the things that we get to see in that apartment with him alone with [partner] William, and some of the quiet moments in the show, are a gift for an artist to be challenged emotionally, and to get to honour the journey of what it would have been to be a queer man in the 80s, couched right in the middle of the NYPD, where there are all these institutional problems both for Black men and for inclusion.”

On making sure to give justice to Ledroit’s experiences, McKingley admitted he did “feel pressure” but that was only a positive thing. 

“It's a rare opportunity to get to honour what that experience would have been,” he added. “I stand on the shoulders of so many men and women, some didn't make it through that time. I felt honoured to honour their story. I also felt like it was like a full circle moment for me to live our journey and life and get to speak to that in your work.”

While the world of New York is very real, Eric’s creator Abi Morgan revealed the story is a work of fiction, despite rumours of it being based on a real story. 

Discussing where the whispers might’ve come from, the show’s mastermind revealed: “I think it probably started from this idea that I worked as a nanny for a while in New York in the mid 80s. I'd looked after a child and I suddenly had this idea of writing a show that was from the perspective of the child so that was at the heart of it, the birth of Edgar. 

Going into detail about the core of Eric, Abi shared: “Edgar is a little boy who grows up in New York in the midst of a very dysfunctional marriage. He's watching his parents' marriage fall apart. One day he goes missing while walking to school. Vincent, his father, one of America's leading puppeteers on the top puppet show for kids, goes on a quest to try and find him. And in finding him, you realise he's also on a journey to find himself.”

Eric is available to watch on Netflix now.