‘Our Love Is Built to Last’


On Easter Sunday in 2014, Anthony Hemingway, a director and producer, was mingling with fellow congregants after a service at the Potter’s House at One LA in Los Angeles. Through the crowd gathered outside on La Brea Avenue, he noticed a friend chatting up a handsome stranger in a black suit, bow tie and round-frame glasses, bearing a striking resemblance to a young Malcolm X.

“I was trying to be present in the conversation I was having, but I kept finding myself looking over and counting the seconds to get out of it,” Mr. Hemingway said. “I had to figure out who this guy was my friend was talking to.”

The friend, Dondraico Johnson, who is an actor and choreographer, introduced Mr. Hemingway to the mysterious gentlemen, Steven Norfleet.

The two would run into each other a few more times that year. But it wasn’t until December that Mr. Norfleet sent Mr. Hemingway a text after seeing he had liked one of his Instagram photos. They began exchanging messages.

“He started telling me about my outfit from Easter and about all the times he’d seen me throughout the year and wanted to speak to me,” said Mr. Norfleet, who is an actor. “He was giving me all of these sweet nothings, and I am a sucker for those sweet nothings.”

Even though the two hadn’t met until that Easter, Mr. Norfleet had actually been to one of the lavish house parties Mr. Hemingway is known in Hollywood circles for hosting in Los Angeles. It was approaching New Year’s Eve, and Mr. Norfleet asked Mr. Hemingway if he was planning on hosting a celebration. He said that he wasn’t. But a few days later, Mr. Norfleet received an invitation from Mr. Hemingway for a New Year’s party.

Mr. Norfleet arrived with two of his best friends but spent much of the night with Mr. Hemingway, flirting and taking pictures together in a photo booth.

The next day, the two attended a dinner party with Mr. Johnson, their mutual friend. Later, everyone went back to Mr. Johnson’s house, where Mr. Norfleet and Mr. Hemingway spent the rest of the evening talking about what each was looking for in a relationship.

“At this point I’m really falling for him,” Mr. Norfleet said.

It was around 2 a.m., and everyone was going home, but Mr. Norfleet wasn’t ready to give up the conversation. He texted Mr. Hemingway to ask if he was tired. He answered no.

“Of course, I was lying,” Mr. Hemingway said.

Mr. Norfleet asked if he would like some company, and Mr. Hemingway said yes.

“I go back to his house, he cracks a bottle of white wine, and we fall asleep,” Mr. Norfleet said. “We’ve been rocking ever since.”

But, making time for each other can be challenging during long days on set and when traveling for shoots. Mr. Hemingway, 44, is a director and producer of television shows including “The Wire,” “Shameless” and “The People vs. O.J. Simpson.” Mr. Norfleet, 31, has acted in TV series including “Chicago P.D.” and “Good Girls.”

To nurture their relationship, they practice small rituals such as waking up early to get breakfast together or reading a daily inspiration. “Having to work on the road, it causes a push and pull,” Mr. Hemingway said. “But it’s helped engage our commitment to each other.”

Aisha Hinds, an actor who met Mr. Hemingway on the HBO series “True Blood,” said the couple’s relationship serves as an example for others to express their identity. “It’s beautiful that they can stand as towers of inspiration for couples to feel a safe space to love one another openly,” she said.

Mr. Hemingway and Mr. Norfleet say they aim to present an empowered image for the African-American and L.G.B.T.Q. communities, both onscreen and in their personal lives. They often post about their relationship on Instagram and Facebook, where they have several thousand followers.

Mr. Hemingway, who’s been recognized by the NAACP and African-American Film Critics Association, has also established a foundation within his production company to support diverse voices in Hollywood. “It’s about being visible and contributing to the progress of the community and the culture and being one of the change agents moving us forward,” he said. “It’s something we have talked about and continue to talk about.”

Sharing their relationship publicly was new to Mr. Norfleet, who had not always been fully open about his sexual identity. It wasn’t until he started seeing Mr. Hemingway that he came out to many members of his family.

“My experience as an African-American man is that we can have it the hardest with being comfortable and open with our sexuality,” Mr. Norfleet said. “But once we got together, I realized this is someone that I’m truly in love with, and I don’t want to hide it.”

Both Mr. Hemingway and Mr. Norfleet had deeply religious upbringings, which in the past made it difficult for some in their families to fully embrace their identities as gay men. But the two say having grown up in church provides a spiritual foundation that brings them closer together.

The couple hopes to inspire others with similar backgrounds. “I want to show people, especially black men, that it’s O.K.,” Mr. Norfleet said. “And if you want to, you can share your love to the world.”

Last year was Mr. Norfleet’s 30th birthday, and Mr. Hemingway wanted to make it special. He invited nearly 100 friends and family members to celebrate on a yacht off the coast of Marina del Rey, Calif.

When it was time to make a birthday toast, Mr. Hemingway nervously asked one of his best girlfriends to hand him a box containing two engagement rings. Mr. Norfleet quickly realized what was about to happen.

“He saw it, and his eyes were as wide as a deer in the headlights,” Mr. Hemingway said.

On June 10, 2018, Mr. Hemingway got down on one knee and asked Mr. Norfleet to marry him.

“He started to hyperventilate,” Mr. Hemingway said. “He was so emotional. ‘I was like, are you going to say yes?’”

He did.

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“It was awesome in the moment to be completely shocked,” Mr. Norfleet said. “To feel something that we’d been talking about was actually becoming real.”

On Sept. 1, 2019, more than 300 guests gathered for the wedding at the Newhall Mansion overlooking the Santa Clara River Valley in Piru, Calif. The ceremony took place on the Victorian estate’s front steps, the railings ornamented with a garland of magenta orchids and purple lavender, in keeping with the wedding’s regal theme.

“In our own way, we had a royal wedding,” Mr. Hemingway said.

It was a warm late-summer evening, and to cool off, guests were given hand fans with a printed cartoon image of two Mickey Mouse characters, in tuxedos and black and orange Nikes, holding hands beneath the words: “Love is all you need.”

A full camera crew was there to capture the event, complete with a drone that hummed softly overhead. A live band and gospel choir kicked off the service with a set of upbeat worship songs, followed by a rendition of Pharrell Williams’s “Happy,” with guests dancing and clapping along.

Ms. Hinds, the actor, officiated at the ceremony, having received permission from the state of California after Mr. Hemingway asked her to lead the service. Ms. Hinds said she was nervous but dedicated a confident blessing to the couple.

“Anthony and Steven stand here today with hearts wide open, ready for new light to flood in,” she said. “If there’s anyone in attendance who has cause to believe that this couple should not be joined in marriage, you may speak now and be dragged into an eternity by Black Twitter,” she added, to a rousing amen.

“Standing here in front of our family and extended family feels better than I could have ever imagined.” Mr. Norfleet said to Mr. Hemingway at the altar. “I’ve received many blessings in my 31 years, but this one I hold in my hand tops the list for sure. I’m in love with you, and will always be, Mr. Anthony Hemingway.”

“Unimaginable challenges may await us, but our love is built to last,” Mr. Hemingway said to Mr. Norfleet in his vows. “I will face it all with you. Together, we will ask God to keep us sensitive to each other’s spirit. I will love you forever; we will become veterans in love together.”

The couple exchanged rings and Ms. Hinds pronounced them husband and husband.

With that, the opening guitar notes to Al Green’s “Love and Happiness” rung out across the valley, the organ swelled, and Mr. Hemingway and Mr. Norfleet danced into their new life together.

When Sept. 1, 2019

Where Newhall Mansion, Piru, Calif.

Rings The couple’s rings were crafted by the New York jewelry designer Anna Sheffield. Each ring features two pieces that fit together in the shape of a crown. “It represents two kings coming together, so the two halves make a whole,” Mr. Hemingway said.

Musical Performances They included the gospel band Jason McGee & the Choir; the R&B artists Luke James, Ledisi and Jazmine Sullivan; and actor and singer Elijah Kelley.

Notable Guests The actors Regina King, Andre Royo, Sterling K. Brown, Sarah Paulson and Josh Duhamel were in attendance.

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