NBCU Photo Bank, via NBCUniversal, via Getty Images

Thirst Trap: Nerd Edition

32 of the hottest goofballs and geeks on film and television

Leona’s Love Quest
9 min readMar 23, 2022


A few years ago, I started this Thirst Trap series to highlight actors who are overlooked or undersold as romantic leads. I’m taking on the Nerds this time because I’ve noticed their uptick in roles as leading men. Nerds don’t always look like the dweebs on The Big Bang Theory. A host of comedians, eccentrics, and brainy boys whose unconventional looks or quirky personalities leave a select group of fans feeling absolutely parched.



Can you think of a more annoying group of twerps than those with a passion for musical theater? I can’t, and I say that as someone who works in the theater industry. Thanks to actors like James Corden, the internet absolutely despises theater kids. Even classically trained thespians have a reputation for being a little too extra. Generally, the public is a lot more forgiving when they are also hot as fuck.

EDDIE REDMAYNE (Jason Bell/Omega), ANDREW GARFIELD (Amanda Edwards / Getty Images)
SKYLAR ASTIN (Keith Pratt), DAVEED DIGGS (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Eddie Redmayne went from the London stage to Broadway and into the mainstream at approximately lightning speed. I can see how his features are too delicate for some, but I’m obsessed with faces that look like they were peeled off a 19th-century portrait painting. Eddie can get it, and I would insist that he wears his costume from Les Mis.

With Tick, Tick…BOOM and The Amazing Spiderman Andrew Garfield has earned a double distinction as a musical theater nerd and the most famous nerd in the MCU. Can you believe anyone thought he wasn’t good-looking enough to play Prince Caspian in the Chronicles of Narnia movie? That fantasy novel credit would have earned him a nerd trifecta.

Skylar Astin made his way to Pitch Perfect from the original Broadway cast of Spring Awakening. Being firmly on Team Max while watching Zoe’s Extraordinary Playlist felt a little anti-Black, but I don’t care. Simon was a punk, Zoe was messy, and Astin had superior vocals. I hope he gets another singing role soon because I refuse to watch the 101st season of Grey’s Anatomy.

Sorry to Lin-Manuel Miranda fans, but the real star of Hamilton was David Diggs — and his hair. Sure, he’s all dreaded and swaggy on Snowpiercer now. He’s also part of an experimental rap group that spits bars about Hannukah and puppies. That’s only one step away from getting slushied like a member of Glee.



Because white people have struggled historically with non-white people doing anything heroic. In retaliation, creators have justifiably made heroes of colors (HOCs?) the baddest motherfuckers on the planet. But not all heroes wear capes or come with imposing public personas. And unless someone is eager to feel the wrath of the entire Comic-Con fandom blaze down around them in a reign of fire, these characters are usually cast to type.

TOM HOLLAND (Fanny Latour-Lambert/GQ Style), CHARLIE COX (Erik Tanner/ Getty Images)
PAUL RUDD (Greg Swales/GQ), EZRA MILLER (Heather Hazzan/THR)

Oh, are you just noticing Tom Holland is hot now that he’s dating Zendaya? Well, the rest of us are yelling, WE BEEN KNEW!!! Like, how did you watch his “Umbrella” performance on Lip Sync Battle and come out unscathed? Holland reminds me of having a high school crush right before my heart was beaten into dust. He’s Gen Z’s Michael J. Fox, and this GenXer is incredibly jealous.

You have to watch Daredevil to truly understand the thirst for Charlie Cox. Matt Murdoch wants everyone to think he’s a nerd, but he knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s not entirely blind, and under that cheap Today’s Man suit is a lethal martial artist who is bagging women like groceries. We need a full-length feature reprising him in this role immediately. It’s what we deserve.

I love that Paul Rudd has made a career out of playing a doable doofus. Ant-Man’s Scott Lang gets some street cred for white-collar prison time; other than that, he is basically just a techie and a goofy dad. He’s not even cooler than The Wasp. And yet, Paul Rudd is loved universally. I wouldn’t trust anyone who didn’t. He may be the answer to solving World Peace.

Ezra Miller’s Flash is the first inarguably Jewish superhero. With an alias like Barry Allen, you’d think this might have happened a little sooner. From their interviews, they seem to be vibing on an entirely different frequency. Still, I find their enigmatic, genderless beauty quite attractive, akin to Prince or Bowie. That face has an elite bone structure you cannot easily forget.



So what separates the Black nerds from white nerds? Nothing besides an extra layer of bullshit. It’s a vague generalization for Black people who act too “white.” This ironically includes interests and activities that most white people view as cool and edgy or things like, you know, getting a good education. Also, many Blerd celebrities are buff as hell because it makes it easier to code-switch into “urban” roles. Once you break it down, it’s pretty fucked up; we just reap the shirtless benefits.

STERLING K. BROWN (Maarten De Boer/The Licensing Project), JOHNATHAN MAJORS (STAMMTISCH.604/Instagram)
JON BOYEGA (Sebastian Kim/Elle.com), WILLIAM JACKSON HARPER (Kendall Bessent/InStyle)

Sterling K. Brown is best known for playing Randall Pearson, the blerd brother of the triplets on the NBC Drama, This is Us. What makes him so damn attractive is unadulterated talent. He’s the first Black American actor to win a Golden Globe and a SAG Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama. Fun Fact: the K stands for Kelby, and he went by that name in eighth grade. 🥺❤️

For a relative newcomer to the Hollywood scene, Jonathan Majors has already bodied several genres in the blerd catalog: sci-fi horror (Lovecraft Country), Marvel Comics (Loki), and *checks notes* a Western?! His quirky facial expressions do something to me that I can’t describe without getting dirty. He also wins the award for Outstanding Actor in a Fitted T-shirt.

J.J. Abrams cast Jon Boyega in Star Wars: Episode VII after seeing him in a sci-fi comedy about a teen gang defending their South London block from aliens. And if that doesn’t qualify for blerd status, he’s also a Manga and comic book fan and a theatre nerd. Boyega was one of three finalists for the role of Eggsy in Kingsman: Secret Service, which could have been pretty damn cool.

When William Jackson Harper went shirtless as Chidi on The Good Place, viewers of all sexes and genders lost their minds. Shout-out to his costume designer for hiding so much hotness behind a pair of nerdy frames and a terrible haircut. The Superman effect is REAL. I’m about to get into this new season of Love Life on HBO real quick.


I don’t think there is anything sexier than a man with a handsome face that can make you laugh. Narrowing this category down to my top four was impossible, so I doubled it. I approached it from all angles: popularity, representation (’cause, yeah, it matters), lead roles, supporting roles, unexpected glow-ups, best transformations with a beard — phew! It was hard work, looking at all this beauty. I need to go lie down.


ZACHARY LEVI (Eric Blackmon), DAN LEVY (Jose Mandojana)
RANDALL PARK (Clarke Tolton), SETH ROGAN ( Sebastian Mader/GQ)

Zachary Levi has probably gotten a little too hot for his own good. He already had me shaking as a blonde-haired Fandral, and now he’s all jacked up from playing Shazam. No matter what, the nerdy charm of Chuck Bartowski will always have my heart. It’s impossible to take his exquisite looks too seriously.

Dan Levy was Schitt’s Creek’s indisputable breakout star. A gender-queer icon in black and white sweaters. His romance with Patrick even melted my bitter, cold, irreparably-damaged heart. Anyone watching this show who didn’t fall slightly in love with Levy might not have a soul. I would proceed with caution.

Randall Park is surprisingly the only Asian nerd killing the game in this category. He’s leveled up from supporting actor in Ant-Man and WandaVision to the main character in Always Be My Maybe. Just a super funny, endearing human being. It’s the facial hair he’s got going on in this photo for me.

I couldn’t stand Seth Rogen or his stupid face before the GQ spread, Long Shot, and all the sexy pottery. Then, suddenly, without warning, he was is hot, and there was nothing I could do about it. It’s embarrassing, I tell you. Stay off his Twitter and save yourself while you can.


JOHN KRASINSKI (Christian Black /Paramount Pictures), RICHARD AYOADE (BAFTA)
JASON SUDEIKIS (jason_sudeikis/Instagram), TAIKA WAITITI (Steven Taylor/GQ)

John Krasinski’s shift from a lovable nerd into a sexy action hero has been fascinating to watch — primarily from his photos at the gym. And yeah, I have a lot of questions. Number one: How dare you? But also: How do I get to touch him? Wait. Is this some kind of alternate universe? Have we actually made fetch happen?!!!

My feelings for Richard Ayoade have me concerned I am losing my tenuous grip on reality. Every episode of Travel Man feels like we go on a bit of holiday together, but I can never get him to come home with me. Oh, those curly locks and that perfectly dimpled chin! I know I cannot have his babies, but I would so gladly die trying.

Someone will have to tell me if Jason Sudeikis has gotten sexier since Ted Lasso because I’m not paying for Apple TV+. All I know is him doing the running man in a tracksuit on the “Wha’dup Wit Dat?” skits from SNL was my absolute favorite thing. He looks mighty fine in a tuxedo; I’m not gonna lie.

Whenever I’ve watched any version of Taika Waititi on screen, his antics have made me shout, “WHAT?!” at least once every 15 minutes. It wasn’t until I saw a thirst tweet from someone who had just met him in person that I thought, “Godammit!… You are absolutely right.”


Let’s take a moment to appreciate that regardless of your viewing habits, there is a scorching hot nerd for you, from the youthful tenderonis to the silver foxes and the daddies in between. Is a nerd-daddy a thing, or did I just make that up? Nerdaddy? I’ll work on it… but if that takes off, I want the credit. I present the following without comment other than some audible moans. Enjoy and stay thirsty, my friends!

NICHOLAS HOULT- (Shane McCauley/GQ), MATTHEW GRAY GUBLER (Lauren Dukoff/L’Uomo Vogue), JOE KEERY (Luke Fontana)
GRANT GUSTIN (Tyler Gustin/Twitter@gustinonline), ANDY SANDBERG (Peter Yang/Men’s Journal), LAKEITH STANFIELD (Ryan Pfluger/WSJ)
MARK RUFFALO (Gabriel Goldberg/Twitter), PAUL BETTANY (Rich Polk/Getty Images), MICHAEL PENA (Noam Galai/Getty Images)
JEFF GOLDBLUM (John Russo/20th Century Fox International), LEE PACE (Alexi Lubomirski/Man About Town), STEVE CARELL (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)



Leona’s Love Quest

A humorous view of the single life from a Gen X black woman prone to falling into thirst traps. I go on rants instead of dates.