Can gay actors play straight roles?
A full year ago, a gay Newsweek writer upset a big gay applecart by saying that gay actors couldn’t play straight convincingly. He specifically targetted Jonathan Groff‘s role in the musical dramedy Glee and Sean Hayes’ “wooden and insincere” portrayal of a straight man in Promises, Promises.
I’d wanted to write about this, and while I was researching it, I realised that the actual experts had said plenty about it themselves. There’s little to add, except to say that it’s hard to not agree with all of them, even where that might contradict itself.
This is a business of projection and desiring people from afar. And watching people go through trials and tribulations, so there has got to be some truth to it, in terms of, “I could see myself with that person.” Because the leading man and lady are the person we want them to fall in love with, and most of the audience is straight. So for right now, we can only use straight actors.
Look, I’ve never — as far as I know, it’s been behind my back if it has — I’ve never been turned down for a role because I’m gay. I’m a character actor, and that’s probably why. I don’t find Hollywood, in my own experience, to be homophobic. Have I ever been turned down? I don’t know because you never know when you don’t get something or why you didn’t get it. But I do think the straight folks will continue to play the straight roles.
Jane Lynch in AfterElton.com
It’s a business of perception. My being perceived as queer is likely not going to affect the jobs I get, but with certain people it might. Coming out can ruin your career. My career is not based on people believing me with a woman. If it was, I’d be in trouble. If George Clooney came out, he’d be in trouble. Suddenly people would say, ‘Wait, he doesn’t like what I see him doing? Now I don’t believe it.’ When you have 20 people who have to agree to cast somebody in a role, a little thing like that could be a really big thing to them.
Michael Urie in The Advocate
It’s complicated. There’s still a tremendous amount of homophobia in our culture. It’s regrettable, it’s stupid, it’s heartless, and it’s immoral, but there it is. For an actor to be working is a kind of miracle, because most actors aren’t, so it’s just silly for a working actor to say, “Oh, I don’t care if anybody knows I’m gay” — especially if you’re a leading man. Personally, I wouldn’t advise a gay leading man–type actor to come out… Despite all the wonderful advances that have been made, it’s still dangerous for an actor to talk about that in our extremely misguided culture. Look at what happened in California with Proposition 8. Please, don’t pretend that we’re suddenly all wonderfully, blissfully accepted.
Richard Chamberlain in The Advocate
I understand being up-in-arms about that [Newsweek] article, but it was so bizarre to me, and not true. I’m the only character on Criminal Minds that’s had sex. You see her come out of the shower with a guy. I shamelessly, obviously flirt, and I enjoy all of that, and I’m as queer as a purple unicorn singing Madonna. You wouldn’t do that with a straight woman playing a gay character. Ninety percent of the women on The L Word were straight and no one was walking around saying ‘This is somehow unbelievable.’ I can look at men [on the show] and say ‘I want to go there!’ As an actor, you can find those things. I think it’s really silly.
Kirsten Vangsness in AfterEllen.com
When you’re a gay actor it’s the first fear they tell you you’re supposed to have [that it will affect the roles you're offered], but I don’t have it because I know my own capabilities as an actor. I always laugh when I read things that say “he’s good on Glee but he’ll never be the lead in a romantic comedy.” Is that supposed to be the goal? I’d rather play someone mentally unstable who’s being possessed in 18th century Prague any day. It’d be much more enjoyable! I think the first mistake is waiting around for roles to be given to you. Actors of any orientation should get out there and create opportunities for themselves.
Chris Colfer in GleeFan.com
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