9-1-1: Lone Star’s ‘Tarlos’: Are T.K. & Carlos’ Portrayers Gay in Real Life?
As one of the most beloved LGBTQ+ relationships in primetime TV, there’s a lot of curiosity around whether or not the actors who play 9-1-1: Lone Star‘s T.K. and Carlos are gay in real life.
9-1-1: Lone Star is FOX’s procedural drama following the personal and professional lives of first responders — firefighters, paramedics, police officers and dispatchers — in Austin, Texas. The series, which was created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Tim Minear (the same creators behind shows like Glee and American Horror Story), is a spin-off of 9-1-1, which is set in Los Angeles, California.
Ronen Rubinstein plays Tyler Kennedy “T.K.” Strand, a firefighter at Station 126 and the son of the station’s captain, Owen Strand. T.K. is a recovering opioid addict who quits being a firefighter in Season 2 of 9-1-1: Lone Star to become a paramedic. Rafael L. Silva plays Carlos Reyes, a police officer with the Austin Police Department, who starts a romantic relationship with T.K. in Season 1 of 9-1-1: Lone Star. The couple — who has been nicknamed “Tarlos” by fans — got engaged in Season 3 of 9-1-1: Lone Star.
“I think, all roads sort of led to here, but I just really appreciate the roller coaster ride that it took for us to get here,” Rubinstein told Out magazine in 2022 of Tarlos’ engagement. “And I feel like we truly earned the engagement, it didn’t come easily and it felt very real and very relatable to relationships in the real world and I feel like Tim really gave us a true emotional rollercoaster to get to this place. And I think it’s a beautiful way to end the third season.”
He continued, “It was so emotional. I mean, we were crying literally during the rehearsal and that rarely happens and our director had to cut the rehearsal short and he’s like, all right, let’s save this for the real thing.”
Are TK and Carlos gay in real life from 9-1-1: Lone Star?
Are T.K. and Carlos gay in real life from 9-1-1: Lone Star? Ronen Rubinstein, who plays TK, is openly bisexual, while Rafael L. Silva, who plays Carlos, is openly gay.
Rubinstein — who has played Tyler Kennedy “TK” Strand since Season 1 of 9-1-1: Lone Star — came out as bisexual in an interview with Variety in April 2021, in which he revealed that he was anxious about what his friends and family from Staten Island, New York, would think about TK and Carlos’ first sex scene. “Carlos and I have a huge make-out scene where we, like, burst through the door, and we’re ripping our clothes off,” Rubinstein said. “It’s super hot and it just goes on. It just doesn’t stop. We’re, like, crashing against the walls, and then we end up on the couch. I warned my parents and my friends for months. I said, ‘Listen, I understand if you guys don’t want to watch it, I understand you probably might say some really ignorant, close-minded stuff or you just might not want to watch it and I get that too.’”
Rubinstein also explained how his coming out “journey” was inspired by his work as an actor, including on 9-1-1: Lone Star. “I fully identify as bisexual,” he said. “I literally just got goosebumps saying that. It feels so good to talk about it, it feels so good to finally be comfortable with it.”
He continued, “The biggest thing for me is where I come from, it’s like people like me and people who have identified as bisexual or gay or as any part of the community, you’re just not welcomed. It’s as brutally honest as that. It’s either you faced insane amounts of profanity, like the F-word was thrown around all the time or you would get your ass kicked if you were gay. So there was definitely a fear of sort of embracing how I felt. I was definitely more aware of it in high school. I was aware of my feelings and how I started looking at men, but I couldn’t talk to anybody about it.”
He also told Variety how fans of Tarlos — the couple name for T.K. and Carlos — helped him embrace his sexuality publicly. “The fans, especially the Tarlos fans, it’s one of the biggest reasons that I finally felt safe and comfortable to talk about it and to finally embrace it and be happy about it,” Rubinstein said.
Before he came out publicly, Rubinstein revealed that the first people he talked to about his decision were Silva, 9-1-1‘s co-creator Ryan Murphy, and his girlfriend, actress Jessica Parker Kennedy. “She’s actually one of the first people that sort of respectfully called me out on it,” he said. “She’s like, ‘Is there something we need to talk about?’ And I said, ‘Maybe.’ I didn’t know how that conversation would go. And it went probably as good as it can go. She definitely encouraged me to be vocal about it, just to live my truth. She’s like, ‘I love you for who you are, your full self and people will love you for who you are and your full self.’” He continued, “She just sometimes jokes, ‘Just don’t leave me for Harry Styles.'”
As for why he wanted to come out publicly, Rubinstein told Variety that he chose to live his truth in hopes of helping others. “I want people to know that this is a hopeful and a happy story,” he said. “I want people to know that they’re not alone and it’s definitely OK. Trust me, I know that it is not easy. My path has not been easy at all, but it’s just one more thing that I can share with people to help them and let them know that I’m here for them.”
Silva, who has played Carlos Reyes since Season 1 of 9-1-1: Lone Star, opened up about his sexuality in an interview with the Dallas Observer in September 2022. “It’s such a privilege because you get to meet people who have gone through so many experiences,” he said. “I think learning from each other is the number-one task.”
Silva, who was born and raised in Brazil and moved to the United States when he was 13 years old, explained that he had inklings he was gay when he was 4 years old but didn’t fully understand his sexuality until he was older. “I come from a country where machismo equates to strength, and equates to a feeling of superiority over others,” he said. “And being part of the LGBTQIA+ community is considered everything but that. Navigating how I was brought up, to moving here, to then receiving another identity as an immigrant and Latino was very confusing. But I found my way, thankfully.”
Silva also noted the lack of LGBTQ+ Latinx characters in the media, despite the Latinx community making up such a large percentage of the United States’ overall population. “How does 30 percent of the consumers make up only 3 percent of film and television?” Silva said. “I think culturally and socially, Latinx and queer people are forgotten. It’s as if you plant a tree and you expect it to grow, and it creates the very first fruits, and then you take all of the fruits, but then you keep expecting more, but you don’t keep watering or nurturing the tree. How does that even work?”
Silva — who described Carlos as someone who “tries to do the best he can” but sometimes “trips pretty hard” — also told the Dallas Observer about how he maintains a “healthy relationship with social media,” despite the hundreds of Tarlos fans tagging him on Instagram and Twitter. “I think the healthiest way to maintain it is to maybe read one or two posts, but not diving too deeply into it,” he said.
9-1-1: Lone Star airs on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on FOX.
For more on 9-1-1, check out the gallery below to see the 9-1-1 cast salaries per episode, from Angela Bassett to Oliver Stark!