What about straight actors in gay roles?

The subject of a gay actor playing straight parts has come up in the comments before, but I think for me personally, that’s more to do with the actor’s skills than anything else.

For instance, if a certain actor we all love and are really devoted to would turn out to bat for the other team, as it were, some people would argue that it would be too weird to watch him play straight relationships on screen. For instance, wouldn’t it be weird if Thornton was gay in real life?

Don’t look like no limp wrists to me, sonny.

I think it’s more to do with how the actor portrays the character. With Thornton, I’d say “whoa boy, you sure could’ve fooled me!” for instance. In Serenity, we finally see Kaylee and Simon get together. The actor playing Simon, Sean Maher, came out last year. Him and Kaylee? That seems genuine enough to me.

If it was someone who was completely over-the-top super camp, yes, it would be odd. Consider Graham Norton (not an actor, but bear with me) snogging a woman. I wouldn’t believe it for once second. John Barrowman got to try it on with both sides in Torchwood, and he’s incredibly camp as himself on TV. Still managed to get with the ladies quite well, if I remember correctly. Which I might not, because I never watched a lot of that show.

Consider Sean Hayes, who played the flamboyant and very, very gay Jack in Will & Grace. He would refuse to say one way or the other, because he didn’t want the audience’s expectations be influenced by who he is in real life and instead focus on the character at hand, and the character’s sexuality. Fair play to him. I saw him in some kind of biopic, and found it incredibly hard to focus, as I kept expecting him to do a “Just Jack” pose. Apparently, he has since come out. Or rather, claimed he was never in the closet in the first place.

There is another side of this, though. Straight actors playing gay characters. How ’bout that one, then?

From the same series, why not Will himself? Eric McCormack is straight, played a gay character. Never saw that show thinking it was so weird that a straight guy played a gay character, because he was good at it. Probably helped that I don’t associate McCormack with anything either, to be fair.

When or if you do associate an actor with a particular role, your brain can really go into meltdown mode if you see them in something far removed from that role. You’ve typecast them in your head and forever more, they’ll be that character. Imagine my head exploding when I saw Peter O’Brien get jiggy with a bloke in Queer as Folk. “WTF are you doing with that MAN?! What about Emma?!”

Peter O’Brien is Sam Patterson. End of story.

I didn’t even really pay attention after registering that Sam Patterson was doing things with another man, so if he was convincing or not, I don’t really remember. I do remember seeing Sam Neill in Little Fish. He’s a sleazy drugdealer who’s in a relationship with Hugo Weaving’s character. Kissing a bloke? Like kissing a dog’s behind, or something like that, I believe is how he described it. The funny thing is, he (Neill) looked so spectacularly uncomfortable when the two characters kissed that I just burst out laughing. Sam, I love you dearly as an actor, but I will never believe you’re a homosexual in real life. Never.

“We’re meant to be in love. Why can’t he just look at me?”
“If I keep pretending to make a call, maybe he won’t kiss me.”

I think it’s more down to how comfortable you are with yourself and your own sexuality, paired with how well you can act the opposite on screen. If you’re convincing, it doesn’t matter if you’re a straight actor playing a gay character or a gay actor playing a straight character. Either one will work, if you do it well.

So yeah.

What do you think?

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