June 27, 2014

In 2014, Some Actors Still Have An Issue With Playing Gay

There were two stories this week about male actors and their reluctance to play gay. I found this news a bit surprising given how much things have changed in the last 10 years, with many straight actors like Jared Leto and Jake Gyllenhal doing some of their best work playing gay roles. I thought maybe actors' nervousness, both professional and personal, was maybe a thing of the past. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

On the HBO show TRUE BLOOD, the actor Luke Grimes reportedly left the show when he found out his character was going to have a gay romance in the new season. While his agents contend the reasons for the move were strictly professional (ie. he booked bigger feature gigs), it does seem to be a case of curious timing.

On an NBC show, Brendan Fehr is playing a gay doctor on NIGHT SHIFT. However, he admitted in a recent interview that he had great difficulty with the intimacy that the role requires.  His comments about having trouble kissing onscreen partner Luke Mafarlane (?!) were maybe taken a little out of context. But it's still troubling that an actor would publicly admit to something like this...unless it was some strange reverse attempt at publicity for the show during gay pride month. The old adage of there being no such thing as bad press may be at play (especially when it comes to a summer show on NBC!).

Anyway, that this is still even part of the conversation in 2014 is troubling to me as a filmmaker who often writes gay characters. In fact, I recently had an experience in auditions for a new project where one of the actors was great and said he was totally comfortable with the role. Then, after he read the script which does involve kissing another guy, he balked and took himself out of consideration. My advice for him? If he can't do his job as an actor, which is to play other people...all kinds of other people, then he may want to consider a career in catering. Just saying...