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Neil Patrick Harris thinks there’s ‘something sexy’ about straight actors playing gay roles

Patrick Kelleher January 21, 2021
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NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 13: Actor Neil Patrick Harris attends the Build series to discuss the Netflix drama 'Lemony Snicket's a Series Of Unfortunate Events' at Build Studio on January 13, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Neil Patrick Harris. (Getty)

Neil Patrick Harris thinks there’s “something sexy” about casting a straight actor to play a gay character because of the “nervousness” they bring to the role.

Harris threw his support behind straight actors taking on gay roles in an interview with The Times.

The 47-year-old actor, who came out publicly as gay in 2006, was asked about comments made by Russell T Davies, creator of the new AIDS-era drama It’s a Sin, which Harris also stars in.

Davies faced the fury of straight people everywhere earlier this month when he said he deliberately cast gay actors to play gay characters in It’s a Sin as they would bring an authenticity to the show.

When asked about those comments, Harris said: “I’m not one to jump on to labelling.”

He continued: “As an actor you certainly hope you can be a visible option for all kinds of different roles. I played a character [in How I Met Your Mother] for nine years who was nothing like me.”

Harris went on to reference his own experience in the director’s chair in both television and theatre, saying he “would definitely want to hire the best actor” when working behind the scenes.

He also heaped praise on Davies’ seminal 1999 series Queer as Folk, which starred three straight actors – Aidan Gillen, Craig Kelly and Charlie Hunnam – as gay men.

There’s a nervousness that comes from the newness of it all. To declare that you’d never do that, you might miss opportunities.

“It was one of the real true turning points for me as examples of sexy guys behaving as leads in something of import, not as comic sidekicks,” Harris said.

“I think there’s something sexy about casting a straight actor to play a gay role, if they’re willing to invest a lot into it.”

Neil Patrick Harris fears ‘missed opportunities’ by casting gay actors

“There’s a nervousness that comes from the newness of it all. To declare that you’d never do that, you might miss opportunities.”

Neil Patrick Harris said he will continue playing straight characters, adding: “In our world that we live in you can’t really as a director demand that [an actor be gay or straight]. Who’s to determine how gay someone is?”

He also said he believes Davies was “speaking more about the joyfulness of being able to be authentic” by casting gay actors as gay characters and that he doesn’t believe it’s a hard rule for the screenwriter.

Davies caused an international incident when he told Radio Times in an interview on 11 January that he sought gay actors to play the gay characters in It’s a Sin.

His comments ignited the fury of countless straight people, including Coronation Street actor Peter Ash and Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan.

Davies was subsequently grilled on his casting choices by journalist Andrew Marr during a BBC Sounds discussion.

Marr said he had stirred up a “hornet’s nest” with his comments, and asked Davies if he thinks casting gay actors in gay roles could “deprive audiences” of “some great performances of gay characters by straight actors”.

Davies went on to tell Marr that audiences will never be deprived of straight actors playing gay characters and said it is not a “level playing field”. 

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Related topics: Gay, gay actors, It's a Sin, neil patrick harris, russell t davies

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