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Film and TV

Russell T Davies points out the glaringly obvious about backlash to him only casting gay actors in gay roles

Emma Powys Maurice February 4, 2021
Russell T Davies

Russell T Davies speaking to Steph McGovern on Steph's Packed Lunch (Twitter/@PackedlunchC4)

It’s A Sin creator Russell T Davies did not miss a beat when responding to critics who disagreed with his view on only casting gay actors for gay roles.

The former Doctor Who showrunner appeared on Steph’s Packed Lunch on Wednesday (3 February), where he was asked to clarify the opinion that’s driven debate in recent weeks.

“You’ve said that you wouldn’t cast non-gay people in gay roles… Is that fair?” asked host Steph McGovern, alluding to the backlash from predominantly straight commentators.

“It’s fair as fair can be,” Davies hit back. “I loved it when I said that because I made that theory about my own work, how I like to work. And strangely, all the straight male commentators lined up to tell me off.

“Can you believe that, Steph? Straight men telling you how to live your life? What a puzzle that was. What a surprise! A marvel.”

The 57-year-old writer noted that the debate “kind of stopped” after It’s A Sin came on air as viewers realised the value in letting queer people tell their own stories.

“People could see what I meant,” he said. “There was an entirely gay and queer cast doing their stuff, and I think it shines off the programme. I think it rises off the screen, I think there’s an energy.

“I absolutely believe it, it’s my job to believe these things. It’s my show. I think we did a great thing, and I’m so proud of that cast. Aren’t they good?”

Straight actors ‘own the playground’, Russell T Davies says.

The critically acclaimed It’s A Sin was so popular it broke All 4 streaming records, driving a 91 per cent increase in viewership compared to the same period last year.

Yet Steph McGovern pressed Russell T Davies on his choice of casting, sharing fears that restricting gay roles to gay actors could lead to queer stars being snubbed for straight parts.

Davies immediately disagreed. “No, because it’s not equal,” he replied flatly. “There’s 100 straight actors, there’s two gay actors. There’s 100 straight parts, there’s two gay parts.

“So it’s not a seesaw, it’s not even. That seesaw is not moving, it’s stuck. It’s stuck in the straight weight. They own the playground so it will never happen.

“And frankly, if you do get gay actors to play straight parts, we’ve been pretending to be straight since the age of 11.”

Russell T Davies is correct in highlighting the dearth of queer roles in the entertainment industry.

A recent GLAAD report found that although representation of white gay men is constantly improving in major studio films, representation of other queer people is dismal, and trans and non-binary characters were found to be non-existent in major studio releases from 2019.

An analysis of 118 films across eight major studios found that only 22 (18.6 per cent) included an LGBT+ character, and only nine gave LGBT+ characters more than 10 minutes of screen time.

When those few roles are given to straight actors rather than LGBT+ ones, it throws up an additional barrier to queer people being able to tell their own stories on the big screen.

 

More: It's a Sin, lgbt representation, russell t davies, Steph's Packed Lunch

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