Entertainment

Andrew Marr asks Russell T Davies if casting gay actors ‘deprives audiences of great performances’ by straight people

Patrick Kelleher January 18, 2021
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Russell T Davies was questioned on his casting choices for It's a Sin. (Matthew Horwood/Getty)

Journalist Andrew Marr has asked Russell T Davies if casting gay actors in gay roles will “deprive audiences of great performances by straight people”.

Davies was questioned about his casting choices after he told Radio Times in an interview on Monday (11 January) that he specifically cast gay actors to play gay characters in his new AIDS drama It’s a Sin.

That statement stirred up the fury of straight people everywhere, with many wondering how a television series about queer people could possibly be made without their input.

During a discussion for BBC Sounds, Davies was questioned on his casting choices by Marr.

“You’ve stirred up a certain hornet’s nest by emphasising you’ve cast, all of the 14 gay characters are played by gay actors, does that principle not deprive audiences, potentially, of some great performances of gay characters by straight actors? I’m thinking of Brokeback Mountain, but there are many, many more,” Marr said.

Davies replied: “That’s very true, except they’re not deprived, are they?

“We could sit here and rattle off enormous long lists of straight actors playing gay characters and those short lists of gay characters playing gay characters. It’s like, there’s always a presumption behind this that it’s a level playing field, that it’s 50/50, that you’re casting say 50 straight actors against 50 gay actors, and actually you’re not.

“There’s 90 straight actors against 10 gay actors and then you look at the parts, and say for every 100 parts there’s like 97 straight parts against three gay parts, so you’ve got 10 gay actors up for three parts while every single straight person is up for every single part.

He added: “It’s not a level playing field, it’s not a see-saw.”

Russell T Davies thinks gay actors bring a special energy to television.

Russell T Davies went on to say that casting gay actors in gay roles is how he wants to work.

“When you do an interview these things come across as very didactic, saying: ‘I demand that the whole industry behaves like this!’ If only I had that power.

“It’s just my little corner of the world and I’ve discovered this, I didn’t do this in the past, but much to people’s shock I’ve changed my mind – that’s an impossible thing to do in modern society, I’ve changed my mind. And I’ve found myself here in a new place.

“It’s not just gay actors, It’s a Sin has a gay producer, a gay director… and I think there’s an energy rising off the screen, I think there’s a joy, I think there’s a truth that I’m very, very happy with.

“I’m quite sure the rest of the industry will ignore me and keep doing what it wants so there’s no danger of people being unemployed any moment.”

Russell T Davies faced backlash from various straight commentators last week when he explained why he cast gay actors in gay roles for his new drama, including Years & Years singer Olly Alexander.

He said that “authenticity” is key when casting gay roles, adding: “I’m not being woke about this… but I feel strongly that if I cast someone in a story, I am casting them to act as a lover, or an enemy, or someone on drugs or a criminal or a saint… they are not there to ‘act gay’ because ‘acting gay’ is a bunch of codes for a performance.

“It’s about authenticity, the taste of 2020.”

He added: “You wouldn’t cast someone able-bodied and put them in a wheelchair, you wouldn’t Black someone up. Authenticity is leading us to joyous places.”

His comments stoked the fury of Piers Morgan and straight Coronation Street actor Peter Ash, to name a few – however, many queer people have shared their support for Davies’ approach on social media.

Related topics: Andrew Marr, russell t davies

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