Will We Ever See A Straight Actor Playing A Gay Character Again

…in a major network series like Eric Stonestreet (“Cameron Tucker”) in “Modern Family” or Eric McCormack (“Will Truman”) on “Will & Grace”?

It seems like over the past couple of years there has been significant backlash about actors (from what I can tell, mostly straight, white actors?) playing characters of a different sexual preference, ethnicity or perhaps an able-bodied actor playing someone with a physical disability.

Do you think it is likely that we will see a straight actor playing gay again, or is it something that is becoming akin to blackface or other such outdated, offensive relics of the past?

Yes. We will.

Sure, it’s not an issue now, and I don’t foresee it becoming one in the future.

I’ll even go out on a limb and say we’ll see gay actors playing straight characters as well.

Actors don’t need to play people just like themselves. That’s why what they do is “acting.”

Moving this acting-related thread to Cafe Society.

The OP opens this up to just more than gay actors. If you haven’t noticed, there has been some backlash against casting in recent years. Scarlett Johansson drew fire for being in Ghost in the Shell and withdrew from another movie where her character was transgender, Ruby Rose supposedly wasn’t gay enough to play Batwoman/Kate Kane, and more recently Sia has gotten into hot water for hiring an actress without autism to play a character with autism.

I think some of this criticism stems from good intentions. But ultimately I think we’ll settle down and won’t have a problem with actors being actors.

Edit: On the flip side, just because I see a lot of online complaints doesn’t mean a lot of people are upset about something. Voices are often amplified online.

George Takei was pissed when they made Sulu gay in the Abrams ST movies. It was a ham handed if well intentioned move. He said something like “I’m gay, Sulu is straight.” I think he was annoyed by the assumption that since he was gay, all his characters must be as well.

Well, Reno 911 was given a 7th season, of sorts in 2020.

Lieut Jim Dangle’s journey from heroicly uniformed metrosexual cop to out and proud gay man was a beautiful moth-to-butterfly story told over a multi-season arc, as good as anything in The Wire or Sopranos. Dangle is played by Thomas Lennon (I assume straight from his wikipedia entry, although he is a Morrisey fan)

I’m certain we will, because almost all the gay characters on TV recently have been played by straight people.

Bridgerton only has one gay character (well, two sort of, but the other one is an even more minor character) and he’s played by a straight man.

On Orange is the New Black almost all the lesbian or bi characters were played by straight women.

In Gentleman Jack the main character is a lesbian played by a straight woman, and her love interest is also played by a straight woman.

I’m not sure if those shows fail you criteria of a major network series, but they are popular shows with high viewing figures, not niche programming.

One of the problems with disabled characters being played by able-bodied characters, is that they are often also written by able-bodied writers as well. At no point in the creation process is any disabled person involved, and you end up with something called “inspiration porn.”

The easiest remedy is to hire actors with the same disability, and give them input into the character’s creation.

You also avoid the problem of taking the limited number of opportunities there are for disabled actors away from them, and giving them to actors who could be doing something else. It’s a little like what happens when people without the placards park in disabled parking spaces.

It’s a little different with gay characters: often you have gay writers or editors, or directors, involved somewhere higher up in the chain; also, gay actors have plenty of opportunities to play straight characters. (Can you imagine anyone but Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper?) As long as there is that balance, you will continue to see gay characters played by straight actors.

Luke Macfarlane, who is gay, played a gay character on Brothers & Sisters (his partner on that show, Matthew Rhys is not gay) has been playing the straight lead love interest in quite a few Hallmark movies the last few years.

Came to post some examples that were already covered, so I’ll just leave my question here: How would an actor prove they were gay?

That’s another reason I hope we never get to the point of “You can’t play characters different from yourself.” I mean, Tom Cruise walks in, says “I can play this gay action hero, and do all his stunts… including the gay ones.” Can a casting director say “No, you’re straight.” Or would they say “Let’s see some proof, Tom.”

My daughter is a bit upset about James Corden playing Barry Glickman in The Prom.

Because he’s straight, or because he’s James Corden?

Noah Reid, (Patrick on Schitt’s Creek) is straight.

There’s two different, slightly overlapping issues at play here: representation, and opportunity.

Representation is about the idea that its important to see people like yourself reflected in popular culture. This is most often talked about in the context of race - Black Panther was a big deal in large part because its so rare to have a black person helming a giant Event Movie like that. Scarlett Johansson got a ton of criticism over taking the lead in Ghost in the Shell, which was originally written to be a Japanese woman, because again, you don’t have a lot of lead roles in major movies like that for Asians. This aspect is pretty straightforward.

Opportunity is a bit more nuanced. Because its already considered inappropriate to cast a white actor as a black character, solving the representation problem there necessarily resolves the opportunity problem: more black roles means more opportunity for black actors. But that’s not necessarily the case for other groups. Trans actors, for example, almost never get cast in cis roles. And there aren’t a whole lot of trans characters out there, so there’s very limited opportunity for trans actors already. So when a high profile role for an explicitly trans character come along, and they decide to cast Scarlett Johansson (again!) there’s a justifiable sense that she’s screwing a struggling trans actor out of a huge career break.

There’s a similar dynamic when it comes to disabled actors. If you’re in a wheelchair, it doesn’t matter how great your audition was - if the character you’re auditioning for isn’t already in a chair, they’re not going to rewrite the character to put him in one just to get you in the role. They’re just going to cast a non-disabled actor. So, when the rare character comes along that uses a wheelchair, and they cast an able bodied actor in that role…

When it comes to gays, it gets complicated, because let’s face it: gay men, at least, have never exactly had trouble getting work in Hollywood. Speaking just for myself, I have no problem with a straight actor taking a queer role. The existence of the queer role in the first place is enough of a win for me, and I’m not really interested in policing celebrities sex lives to make sure they’re sufficiently gay for a given role.

I think you’ll probably start hearing more complaints about straight actors taking gay roles in the future, just because “non-minority should not pretend to have minority status for a movie” is a much easier concept to grasp than the last four paragraphs I just wrote. But I also don’t think it will get that much traction. Because if we set a “rule” that says Chris Evans can’t ever play a gay role, that means we don’t ever get to see Chris Evans making out with another dude. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t interested in seeing that.

Hah. Because he’s straight.

I’d say it’s possibly more because he’s bad at it. Which is the James Corden bit of it.

A bad actor is a bad actor. You can give them roles of murderers, villains, fathers, sons, hobos, kings, presidents, and they’ll give a bad version of those (though Corden was actually quite good in One chance, probably more because the role suited him than because he’s a good actor). The same applies to a gay role.

Hammy and stereotype-ridden, which is why I can understand the complaint, and the OPs question.

If a straight actor plays gay characters full of crass cliches, then that’s not great. But plenty of straight people put in sterling performances as gay characters. I have no problem in that regard.