Gay Bridgerton star Jonathan Bailey elegantly wades into debate on straight actors playing queer

Patrick Kelleher December 22, 2020
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Jonathan Bailey smouldering in a rust-coloured jacket against a green backdrop / Jonathan on a horse in period gear in Bridgerton

Jonathan Bailey in Netflix's Bridgerton. (Getty/Netflix)

Bridgerton star Jonathan Bailey thinks it would be “brilliant” if gay men were playing their “own experiences” on screen.

The actor, who is gay but plays a straight character in the big-budget Netflix period drama, told Digital Spy that he would like to see gay actors taking on their own stories in film and television.

“I think it shouldn’t matter at all what character people play, but of course there is a narrative that’s very clear, that openly gay men aren’t playing straight in leading roles,” Bailey said.

“And also, there’s a reason why gay characters are so interesting. Because much like women in Bridgerton, there are a lot of hurdles and there’s a lot of self-growth, and there’s a real strength to gay men.”

Bailey continued: “So the fact that a lot of straight men have gone on to play iconic gay roles and to be lauded for that is fantastic, that that story is being told.

“But wouldn’t it be brilliant to see gay men play their own experience?”

Should straight actors be handed gay roles?

The issue of straight actors playing queer roles on-screen has been a source of contention within the film industry, and within the wider LGBT+ community, for years.

Numerous straight actors have won awards and accolades for taking on queer roles – but many LGBT+ actors and filmmakers have pointed out that access to roles is not equal across the board.

Henry Golding, a straight actor, recently won acclaim for playing a gay man in Monsoon, and told EW in November that he might “never come to a conclusion” about whether it’s acceptable for straight actors to play gay characters.

“Representation needs to be truthful on screen, but then does that limit artistry?” he said.

“It’s a merry-go-round of conversation and I think neither really… how should I put it… neither are right, neither are wrong.”

Meanwhile, Kristen Stewart – who is bisexual – also waded into the debate recently following her turn in lesbian Christmas rom-com Happiest Season.

She told Variety that she thinks about the debate of straight actors playing gay characters “all the time”, adding: “I would never want to tell a story that really should be told by somebody who’s lived that experience.

“Having said that, it’s a slippery slope conversation because that means I could never play another straight character if I’m going to hold everyone to the letter of this particular law.”

“I think it’s such a grey area,” she added. “There are ways for men to tell women’s stories, or ways for women to tell men’s stories. But we need to have our finger on the pulse and actually have to care.

She added: “You kind of know where you’re allowed. I mean, if you’re telling a story about a community and they’re not welcoming to you, then f**k off.”


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