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Jane Lynch says gay actors will never get the straight leading roles

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  1. HalfAPancreas 14 Jan 2011, 3:18pm

    Speaking from the statistics of sexuality, I can understand why the majority audience would want to pin hopes and dreams on straight lead *characters*, but that has nothing to do with those characters being played by gay or straight actors.

    To want an actor’s real-life sexuality to match that of a lead role is like saying, “I can’t watch Rain Man because Dustin Hoffman isn’t really autistic.”

    If matching sexuality is a reason for gay actors not to get lead roles, then that IS homophobia.

  2. I completely agree, HalfAPancreas. It’s not a problem that people fantasise about leading actors (if ‘fantasise’ is the right word) but as they’re basing their nice dream on a fiction anyway then the sexuality of the actor should make no difference at all.

    And I think Hollywood IS homophobic to a certain extent and that that encourages many actors to stay in the closet.

  3. I think Hollywood is intrinsically homophobic, but that’s because they are catering to an American audience first and foremost. And we know what a large minority of Americans think about gays!

    I don’t think it’s true for the UK and parts of Europe though. Russell Tovey springs to mind. Openly gay since forever and now the leading man in a comedy about a straight couple. Rupert Everett did also play whatshischops in the French version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses (although his voice was dubbed, badly). I can’t really imagine Brits turning off their TVs or avoiding the cinema on such a basis.

    The only hindrance to a gay person playing a straight would be that if they couldn’t convince the audience the character was straight. If you’re a good actor, you’ll be able to do that.

  4. The uk is fine with gay lead roles.

    John barrowman, capt. Jack harkness is regularly seen making out with a guy on screen and we love him ^^

    The problem as said is Hollywood and it’s skewed views on what a male lead should be.

  5. Adam

    The article was about gay people playing straight roles. But it’s still a good point as well, it shows the UK has made more progress than the US. Mind you, isn’t Cap’n Jack bisexual? I guess that’s half-straight ;)

  6. de Villiers 14 Jan 2011, 4:55pm

    May be the problem is that an audience does not want the “straight” part to be acted. It should be taken as simply to be.

  7. martyn notman 14 Jan 2011, 5:37pm

    russell tovey, jeremy sheffield, michael french….all gay, all play straight on a regular basis

  8. Hmmm, with the bashing I often see gay actors/comedians/presenters in the UK etc get in the media and online
    (I’ve read pages and pages of hmophobic abuse) and sometimes on the streets (Alan Carr says people often scream homophobic things at him for example). The complaints the lesbian kiss in a soap got recently, complaints about a gay kiss on Come Fly With Me etc I don’t think the UK is less homophobic, but is homophobic in a different way …

  9. I totally understand where she is coming from. In the 80’s I used to work with a lot of teeny-type pop groups that would get mobbed by teenage girls. Their rather warped idea was “somehow, somewhere, I might meet him, and then we can fall in love and get married”… etc etc. It may be a schoolgirl fantasy, but these kids bought masses of records and merchandise.

    A pretty high percentage of those artists were gay, but we were all sworn to secrecy in case it got out, as it would completely destroy their career when the girls found out their dream wasn’t going to happen. (As if it ever was).

    As Jane Lynch points out, the majority of the world is straight, and it is they you primarily have to cater for, whether you like it or not.

  10. mm…I don’t hear anyone arguing with Richard Chamberlain now, laddies.

    …or Everett Rupert for that matter…

    peanut gallery is strangely silent..

  11. Captain Jack is currently in Hollywood for season 4 of Torchwood. They’d better head for the storm shelters!

  12. Janice

    “Hmmm, with the bashing I often see gay actors/comedians/presenters in the UK etc get in the media and online
    (I’ve read pages and pages of hmophobic abuse) and sometimes on the streets (Alan Carr says people often scream homophobic things at him for example). The complaints the lesbian kiss in a soap got recently, complaints about a gay kiss on Come Fly With Me etc I don’t think the UK is less homophobic, but is homophobic in a different way …”

    You are just being a scaremongerer which is highly irresponsible. Could you cite some of these so-called pages and pages of abuse you have fallen upon? There is no way at all I can accept that the UK is just as homophobic as the US. I mean, in what different way do you mean? Surely something is homophobic or it isn’t? If you are going to say something like this, you have to substantiate your point.

    Whenever there is a gay kiss or gay moment on TV, there are always complaints. But they are from the same anti-gay minority every time. You are foolish to imply that these complaints are from the accepting majority when they aren’t.

    The UK may not be perfect. But making out there is greater homophobia than there is does just for the sake of feeling sorry for yourself does us no favours. Comments like yours infuriate me.

  13. Spanner

    I see your point, but I think that has changed a lot in recent years. Take Phixx (ok, they were crap, but hear me out). The gay bloke was out from the start and the record company made sure it was known so it would appeal to a wider audience. Something for both teenage girls and boys to aspire to marrying one day. Did anyone bat an eyelid? Nah. Westlife and Boyzone didn’t do any worse from having gay members. Will Young was out from the start, we’ve had gay winners on X-Factor etc. It’s a very different place from boybands of yore, thankfully.

    Of course, there are more straight people in the world and thus our entertainment industry will always focus on them 90% more than they do our 10%. However, script writers and music moguls have caught on to the financial advantages of having a wider variety of media puppets on offer. Shallow and contrived? You bet, but that’s what boybands and soaps are in their very nature. At least it’s equal (well, more equal than it was).

  14. I wonder why the straight guys get all the gay roles ALSO. There are plenty of great gay actors around!!!

  15. Adam

    I agree and someone mentioned about Gay actors playing straight roles. John Barrowman has played mostly straight roles from what I can tell.

    I do have a problem with straight actors playing gays roles when the gays actors are not getting the straight roles. Your sexuality shouldn’t matter. You are after all an actor and so there for be allowed to take on roles regardless. But there is a deffinate imbalance here!

  16. mmmm:
    I certainly agree that gay men have a better chance of it these days that straight ones, but take someone like Justin Beiber. What if he ‘came out’?
    His sales would vapourise overnight.

    A lot of what I said is still applicable.
    Also, you may also point out the 90/10 factor, you may also consider the 99/1 one as well. Americans make entertainment primarily for other Americans. We all know from Pink News the level of homophobia in USA compared to Europe. How far do you think WestLife or Will Young would get in the USA?

    Oh, and as for John Barrowman, that mince couldn’t play straight if his life depended on it. ;)

  17. Well, what I can gather that Hollywood is homophobic on gay actors. This shouldn’t be happening because we are all equal at the end of the day.

  18. Right, Spanner, so John Barrowman has had a 20 year career in the WestEnd and Broadway playing every male lead you could name in top theatre productions because he can’t act straight. Personal dislikes of a particular actor really don’t help this discussion.

    John is an exception to the rule. He has played gay and straight roles succesfully. But there does seem to be a problem for the majority of actors.

    Part of the problem is that openly gay Holywood is relatively new. In the past leading men kept it quiet. Prime example would be Holywood hunk and heartthrob Rock Hudson! I can recall the shock when it was revealed that he was gay and had AIDS and it was a toss up which shocked people more.

    Now some actors are out and have to fight to be accepted,and very likely some are still hiding it like Rock did. Until attitudes change, both will have an uphill struggle.

    But what is the point in snide sideswipes at somebody like John Barrowman who has managed to rise above it all? That just comes across like the bitchiness of the girls boarding school after lights out and makes you look silly not him.

  19. fleur black 15 Jan 2011, 11:25am

    Has everyone forgotten lovely Rock Hudson wooed many leading ladies?

  20. no i havent forotten. Presumably that was all to cover up his true nature when he wasn’t allowed to be himself.

  21. Katie Murphy 15 Jan 2011, 6:16pm

    WE want kids to fanasize over openly gay actors, regardless of roles.

    the more the merrier. The pope needs some fun in his life also. Maybe then he wouldn’t be such a …………

  22. Katie Murphy 15 Jan 2011, 6:17pm

    You dont want to wait until gays are accepted to have openly gay actors playing whatever role.

    You win by leading, not by playing defense

  23. Rose: I dangled the Barrowman comment as I just KNEW you would rise to the bait! LOL
    I’ve got nothing against the bloke personally, but I wouldn’t put him in the Hugh Jackman mould quite just yet.

    Broadway is theatre, and the same rules dont apply. That business is FULL of luvvies, but nobody really cares, and even a packed house for a year doesn’t come close to the audience of a movie, or even a TV show. The audience that goes to a Radio City show are not going to be quite the same crowd as those found in Crucifixion, Alabama.

    Many people mention Rock Hudson, but forget many other gay actors of that period, such as Montgomery Clift, Charles Laughton, Roddy McDowall, Dirk Bogarde and many others.

    Remember Grandpa in “The Waltons”?
    Yup, him too. :)

  24. “I’ve got nothing against the bloke personally, but I wouldn’t put him in the Hugh Jackman mould quite just yet.”

    Er, I think you’ll find Hugh has played a lot of the same roles on Broadway that John has on the West End, so actually I would put him in the same mould. And they’ve both had a few movie turkeys to squirm about.

    The idea that there are different kind of actors for different kinds of acting is the root of the problem. Stage actors can and do turn their hand to TV and film and vice versa. A GOOD actor can play any role, and they DO all the time. What that actor does in his or her private life shouldn’t have anything to do with his/her ability to act. The problem is getting that fact through to Hollywood. Or, if Miss Ly nch is correct, to the people who buy tickets to see Hollywood films.

    Which raises the point, DO straight people get put off by gay actors in the heartthrob roles? I think Miss Lynch may be wrong. I think the fantasies just take on a new dimension. Not only do women dream of being the one their idol will fall in love with, but they dream of turning them straight, too! Yes, WE know that will never happen, but the lure of the unobtainable is very strong. Take a look at an average audience at a John Barrowman concert, if you want proof! Three thousand women who all want to show him what he’s missing! THAT is what would happen if Hollywood stopped flapping about and bit the bullet.

  25. incidentally, I DO remember the other actors mentioned. Rock Hudson comes to mind as my mum had a huge poster of him on her bedroom wall ain the era when he was one of the big men of Dynasty. The revelations came as something of a shock to her. But she kept the poster on the wall until some time after he died, when it started to seem a bit morbid keeping it, so I suppose that’s an indication that she still liked him.

  26. Y’know, there’s enough people on here to give this cause a voice. Pick a Hollywood movie and next time 2 hetros kiss, we’ll all write to the studio and complain!

  27. Rachy-Roo : Oh give us a break!
    Can you name many films that *don’t* have a straight kiss in them somewhere or other? We would be permanently writing missives.

  28. I am somewhat bugged by straight actors playing gay to shamelessly fish for Oscars ‘because it expands my range’ whilst gay actors are almost universally overlooked for those roles.
    Probably petty as there’s no reason a good actor can’t play gay or straight, but it’s true what Jarvis Cocker said – “cause everybody hates a tourist, especially one that thinks it’s all such a laugh…”!

  29. Ok, so I’ve been reading the comments left on this page and I have a few things to say.
    @halfpancreas: your ananlogy about Rain Man makes sense but I’m not sure that failing to match a characters sexuality, as a reason for not getting a role can be called homophobia. I’m just saying that in my opinion it can and should be only based on your skill as an actor.
    The next few points about Hollywood being homophobic and Europe not being homophobic I think is a falsehood, in my opinion that studios, directors, cast, etc. couldn’t give a toss about whether you are straight or gay but simply that when you act you fulfill/conform to the audiences perception of a gay or straight person. Now I think that’s wrong but you’re not going to be able to change everyones minds. People don’t mind seeing a gay person on tv as long as it meets their ideas of gay people and to challenge that doesn’t bode well for producers and studios. People like Alan Carr, Rupert Everett, Andy Dick, Kenneth Williams and people like that because they are a stereotype for gay people and people in general like that.
    When it comes to straight people playing gay roles, Glen Close, Trevor Donovan, James Marsden, Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Robin Williams, Will Smith, Gabriel Thompson, to name but a few. When straight actors take on these roles there is obvious critisism from media and some fans and friends but mostly they a heralded as people who break stereotypes and push boundaries, so what’s the difference when it goes the other way? A job is a job, gay/straight, blue/green, man/woman, it makes not damm difference.
    @Dee-Moe: There are tonnes of gay people getting gay roles, the only reason straight people are getting gay roles – that I can see- is that they are better actors for specific roles.

    Perhaps a lot of out gay actors simply don’t go for those roles, perhaps a lot of closeted gay actors don’t want to go for those roles, perhaps they just weren’t right for the role one way or another.

    Another reason I can think of straight actors getting gay roles is simply because having their name above a title will attract a far greater audience, Brokeback Mountain is perfect example and I don’t think that any straight men or women who went to see it couldn’t get past the fact that Jake and Heath eventually got together and see the bigger story.

    Finally I’m not saying every gay actor should now go out and build themselves up to that level either, I’m simply saying that whether it’s a gay guy playing a gay role or a straight guy playing a gay role or the other way round, it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference, and it never will. People will always like or dislike a character, role or movie plot so get over it.

    Getting back to the topic, remember 40 Year Old Virgin?

  30. The sad truth is that it seems a large proportion of Hollywood-filmgoers can consider a straight actor in a gay role to be acting (as it should be) and “challenging”, but it doesn’t work the other way round – this prejudice seems ineradicable, even in otherwise reasonably intelligent people.

    With this sort of attitude prevailing, no studio will back actors known to be gay in principal roles – and Hollywood is concerned with making money – hence the absence of known gay leads in a profession otherwise thought sexually questionable.

    Character actors, like Jane Lynch, are clearly able to make a living in Hollywood now; young romantic leads, not yet. Hollywood hasn’t really changed that much from the time Rock Hudson had to jump through the hoops to allow the public to think of him as straight, has it?

  31. Acting is acting, you play a role it’s as simple as that.
    I could be the most homophobic or racist person in the world BUT I still can play the best friend/parent/sibling/lover of a black/jewish/asian/russian/etc. person or the boyfriend to another guy if I was asked to or chose to.
    That the job of an actor to PORTRAY the role of their character whether they wanted to or chose to.

    What I’m saying is if I was in the situation that Trevor Donovan is in now, playing a gay man coming out after playing a womanising socialite, then that’s his job and I applaud him for doing it because he obviously loves his character and wants to PORTRAY him as his is. Where as someone going for an audition can be straight or gay for example can go for a role that requires them to be straight or gay and that is there choice.
    If you don’t like a character or person or move plot or whatever then there a thousands of other mmovies to watch.

  32. Stephen: Any decent actor worth his salt can play *anyone* gay, straight whatever.

    Their ability is not in question. It is the audiences that determine who is ‘acceptable’. The studios merely cater to that demographic. There is a multi-million dollar industry built on the concept of “celebrity”. If people just went to movies, watched it and came home, it wouldn’t be a problem.

    The problem lies in people wanting to know about that actor, who they are, what they do, who they sleep with and what they had for breakfast.

    Can anyone name the actress that voiced “Snow White”? I doubt anyone can, but these days every animation has to have leading name stars as voiceover artists. That is the level that celebrity has become these days.

    The reason people like Rock Hudson did so well was because back then nobody cared about him, just the roles he played. Do you seriously think if he was doing the same in today’s celebrity-obsessed culture he would have got away with it? He would have had paparazzi following his every move, been outed and disappeared without trace.

  33. just to throw a loop into this discussion, how many serious gay roles are there in films or tv? I mean, there are plenty of comic relief gays, for example the bloke in the bookshop with Hugh Grant in Notting Hill. i’ve got a shelf full of dvds with characters like that hovering on the periphery while the romantic lead and lady carry on. But Brokeback Mountain and Philadelphia aside, and that one with Colin Firth the title of which escapes me, where are the gay lead characters? and how many are played by gay actors? Let’s have a bit of a reckoning up.

  34. Not many, Rose. I was thinking about that as I watched a film last night. So many Hollywood gay roles are simply comedy stereotypes. There are some films that don’t do that but they don’t tend to be Hollywood ones. I can think of a few quickly now, but not any Hollywood ones at the moment. That’s telling, in my opinion.

  35. In fairness, Iris, Hollywood tends to deal with stereotypes in every respect, it’s a common complaint from ethnic minorities and, for that matter, older women.

    As for how many of the very few gay lead roles are played by gay men, the answer’s simple: none. Hollywood is unlikely to invest in promoting a known gay actor for quite a long time yet, I’d guess.

    TV in the UK is doing rather better, if you think of the soaps at least; but the non-stereotypical characters still seem to be mainly played by non-gay actors.

  36. Don’t get me started on Hollywood’s attitude to ethnic actors or older women, Rehan! :D

  37. Ethnic minority actors, Iris – we’re all ethnic after all (and it’s not like you to be imprecise!)! But yes, I agree, that’s another HUGE subject.

    Coming back to the topic at hand, maybe things are looking up – from what I’ve heard The Kids are All Right and I Love You, Philip Morris are mainstream productions and have subverted stereotypes to some extent (I haven’t yet seen either).

    But straight actors in all the main roles …

  38. Ok so I haven’t seen Snow White in about a decade but out of curiosity the actresses name was Adriana Caselotti.
    @Rose: I’m not sure how many gay LEAD roles there are, but there are numerous gay characters in TV and movies, peole like: Gerad Kearns, Ian, Shameless; James Sutton, John-Paul, Hollyoaks; Danny Miller, Emerdale; Trevor Donovan, Teddy, 90210; Robin Williams, in several films; Hugh Lorie in almost every Blackadder. Admitidly they are all straight playing gay but the flip side of that is that Kenneth Williams God rest him played pretty much every role as a straight man, however Charles Hawtrey’s roles, though they were never really defined one way or the other seemed to be straight but with a definite campness which he brought to the roles. Also since Imention Hollyoaks, Kieron Richardson recently came out and theymade his Hollyoaks character gay. My point being that people have never really minded the super camp gay man or super butch lesbian on tv because that is the perception for the majority of the viewers, where as now you’re right Spanner every “celebrity” and the mother is followed by a lense and it’s not right or fair that people have been conditioned to give a crap about what these people do.
    @Rehan: I think Hollywood has moved on from the majority of stereo types with regards to race and gender, so you’re statement is wrong in my opinion; and as for the UK well perhaps they are doing slightly better but if you ask anyone on the street anywhere in the world they would say that they don’t have a problem with gay people, that’s their public opinion. I say public because now days it’s not considered correct to say you hate gay people because of legislation, which helps us but also hinders the entire population because it forces everyone gay and straight to conform to saying something they may or may not believe.

    To come back to the point, Hollywood and studios in general will invest in gay actors as soon as the people they are conforming to and in turn conditioning say it’s ok. So to any studio exec’s reading this get off your arse’s and get gay people into gay roles if it’s so important to you the viewing audience.

  39. Rose – Thank you for your back up comment about John Barrowman. He’s played more straight roles than gay.

    When he auditioned for the role of Will, the ‘gay’ lead role in ‘Will & Grace’ they turned him down because they said he was too straight then promptly gave the role to a straight actor! Go figure!

    John Barrowman can ‘act’ very gay when he wants, but normally speaking he’s comes across as anything but gay.

  40. “Ethnic minority actors, Iris – we’re all ethnic after all (and it’s not like you to be imprecise!)!”

    No, but it IS like me to get over-excited and for my fingers to fail to keep up with my brain! :D Sorry for missing an important word out there.

    The comment about John Barrowman and Will and Grace is interesting, Mickie, because, to me, it backs up the idea that gay characters have to be a certain type. Folowing on from that, if that ‘type’ were to appear in someone’s head as they were considering a gay actor for a straight role, then you can see why they might not give them the part (even though their assumption is wrong).

    But the main reason, I think, is fear of the attitude of the general public.

  41. Iris – Very true anee. And and totally agree. And if you look at Jack in Will & Grace (played by a gay actor) he’s a typical stereo type of a gay man…complete cliche, much like Mr Humphries in Are You Being Served, but with out the pink suits! lol

  42. Iris – Sorry about abouve typos…I’m on my Netbook and it’s a small keyboard! lol Didn’t spot them until it was too late hahaha

  43. MIckie, no problem. I make typos and I have a perfectly adequate keyboard :D

    Yes, I was thinking about Mr Humphries this morning. Now there’s nothing wrong with being camp at all, but I do think that some TV insists on using that one type of gay person and no other. It might not be done with malice, but it still sends a poor message – we have to be ‘safe’, we have to be types recognisable to the public because god forbid we should just be ‘normal’.

  44. Everyone is forgetting Ian McKellen… One of the greatest actors ever.

  45. xin_a_tizzlex 27 Jan 2011, 6:09pm

    @spanner the reason very few people know who snow white was is because walt disney didnt credit her, it was the first animated film and there was no precident (please excuse my spelling!) saying that actors had to be credited with work and disney decided that having her name in the credits would ruin the magic. having an actor’s name in the credits isn’t just about celebrity status, its about being able to take credit for a job you’ve done, actors would get pissed off otherwise lol :)

  46. “Hmmm, with the bashing I often see gay actors/comedians/presenters in the UK etc get in the media and online
    (I’ve read pages and pages of hmophobic abuse) and sometimes on the streets (Alan Carr says people often scream homophobic things at him for example). The complaints the lesbian kiss in a soap got recently, complaints about a gay kiss on Come Fly With Me etc I don’t think the UK is less homophobic, but is homophobic in a different way …”
    Janice

    I don’t want to be mean Janice but I couldn’t disagree more. There is an incredibly high number of gay people in the British media who are revered or even considered to be national treasures.

    I don’t even need to try hard to name some, how popular was Freddie Mercury? Or how popular is Elton John, Matt Lucas, Sir Ian McKellen? Russell Tovey’s career doesn’t appear to be being negatively affected by his homosexuality, nor does that of Mark Gatiss, Simon Amstell, Derren Brown or John Barrowman. Graham Norton is one of the biggest names on tv, Dale Winton used to be; Brian Dowling won Big Brother, and Will Young won Pop Idol (and Joe McElderry X-Factor too – we all suspected!). Lord Byron and Oscar Wilde are considered historical icons. Finally, need I say more than possibly the most popular man in Britain at this second, Stephen Fry? Homophobia is at an all-time low, and is rightly considered shameful by the vast majority of the population.

    Alan Carr, unfortunately, is to some people a particularly irritating man, and I suppose that can bring the worst out in those rare few who do have that disposition. The 99.9% of people that smile at him are bound to go ignored compared to the 0.1% that hurl abuse at him.

  47. I remember John Barrowman saying he was up for the part of Will in Will & Grace but was rejected because they said he was “too straight”. So they gave the gay role to a straight actor…

  48. Neil Patrick Harris.

  49. I disagree with the statement that the majority of the population is straight. Kinsey’s study showed that the majority of the population engaged in a range of bisexual behavior – only 10% was exclusively gay or exclusively heterosexual.

    So long as bisexuality is denied by the gay and straight press, anyone with any shade of attraction to the opposite sex gets a pass to say they are heterosexual, skewing the numbers and supporting homophobia.

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