Russell T Davies defends not casting straight actors in gay roles

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Russell T Davies defends not casting straight actors in gay roles

Russell T Davies has said that he will 'happily defend' his call to stop casting straight actors in gay roles.Earlier this month, the critically-ac

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Russell T Davies has said that he will ‘happily defend’ his call to stop casting straight actors in gay roles.

Earlier this month, the critically-acclaimed screenwriter, 57, said every gay character in his upcoming Channel 4 drama It’s A Sin will be played by gay actors, because it is the only way to ensure an authentic portrayal. 

Davies insisted at the time that he was ‘not being woke about this’ and said the idea of ‘acting gay’ is just a ‘bunch of codes for a performance’.  

Speaking out: Russell T Davies has said that he will 'happily defend' his call to stop casting straight actors in gay roles

Speaking out: Russell T Davies has said that he will ‘happily defend’ his call to stop casting straight actors in gay roles

Several stars have since shared their thoughts on the matter, with Christopher Biggins saying it’s ‘ridiculous’ and Neil Patrick Harris, who stars in Davies’ It’s A Sin, claiming it is better to hire the ‘best actor’ for the role regardless of sexuality.

Discussing his comments on Thursday’s Loose Women, Davies admitted that they had caused a ‘bit of a stir’ and he insisted that he never meant to upstage straight actors, adding: ‘It’s the system I was looking at.’ 

He said: ‘A bit of a stir. I would happily defend that position. 

‘I’m sorry but I do think this programme is about HIV and aids and there are experts on the field of HIV and Aids who would die to be on Loose Women in a slot like this. I’m sorry if that upstaged it slightly. 

Pictured: Earlier this month, the critically-acclaimed screenwriter, 57, said every gay character in his upcoming Channel 4 drama It's A Sin will be played by gay actors, because it is the only way to ensure an authentic portrayal (the cast in show still)

Pictured: Earlier this month, the critically-acclaimed screenwriter, 57, said every gay character in his upcoming Channel 4 drama It’s A Sin will be played by gay actors, because it is the only way to ensure an authentic portrayal (the cast in show still)  

Thoughts: Several stars have since shared their thoughts on the matter, with Neil Patrick Harris, who stars in Davies' It's A Sin (pictured), claiming it is better to hire the 'best actor' for the role regardless of sexuality

Thoughts: Several stars have since shared their thoughts on the matter, with Neil Patrick Harris, who stars in Davies’ It’s A Sin (pictured), claiming it is better to hire the ‘best actor’ for the role regardless of sexuality 

‘Also, genuinely never meant to upstage straight actors, it’s the system I was looking at, this is the way I’ve run this show, and it’s my job to look at something new and look at things in a new way and to try and find a new way to do things.

‘I’m very, I would really say come along, look at this show, I think it has an energy, a uniqueness, maybe it works, maybe not. I might be wrong.’ 

Davies’ new Channel 4 drama It’s A Sin follows the stories of three gay 18-year-olds who arrive in London in 1981, at the beginning of the HIV epidemic, and its star-studded cast includes Olly Alexander, Neil Patrick Harris, and Stephen Fry.

Talking about the new series, he said: ‘It took me this long I think, some people did it straight away in 1983.

'Bit of a stir': Discussing his comments on Thursday's Loose Women, Davies admitted that they had caused a 'bit of a stir' and he insisted that he never meant to upstage straight actors, adding: 'It's the system I was looking at.'

‘Bit of a stir’: Discussing his comments on Thursday’s Loose Women, Davies admitted that they had caused a ‘bit of a stir’ and he insisted that he never meant to upstage straight actors, adding: ‘It’s the system I was looking at.’ 

‘I think I was maybe in its shadow, it was the only upbringing I had where young men around me would drop down dead. I am glad I did it later in life.’

Davies admitted that he would have gone to his deathbed with regrets if he hadn’t of created It’s A Sin and that the first episode took six months to write as he was distraught thinking about the people he has lost to HIV/AIDS.

He said: ‘It was something I had to do I would have gone to my deathbed with regrets if I hadn’t told this story that celebrated these men’s lives.’

Talking about how emotional he found writing the series, Davies continued: ‘I’m quite a fast writer I tend to sit it and bash things out, that first episode had to be dragged out to me over about six months.

He said: 'A bit of a stir. I would happily defend that position,' adding: 'Also, genuinely never meant to upstage straight actors, it's the system I was looking at, this is the way I've run this show.' (pictured in 2019)

He said: ‘A bit of a stir. I would happily defend that position,’ adding: ‘Also, genuinely never meant to upstage straight actors, it’s the system I was looking at, this is the way I’ve run this show.’ (pictured in 2019) 

‘I normally take two weeks but it took me six months, there were blocks because where I sat here crying thinking about these people, and also I had to rebuild it. 

‘I thought I don’t want to make a series where everyone cries, I don’t want to drive viewers away, I want to make this as fun and lively and entertaining as those boys’ lives were.

‘So I had to deconstruct myself and build myself back up but that cast, you’ve seen them, they’re absolutely beautiful.’  

On putting parts of himself into the show, he added: ‘Oh you kind of do that with whatever you’re writing, when Rose Tyler flew around in the TARDIS that was like me as a child flying around.

Way back when: Queer as Folk - about the lives of three men in Manchester - was Davies' first gay TV drama - and he cast straight actors in the roles. From left: Charlie Hannun, Aidan Gillen and Craig Kelly in the hit show

Way back when: Queer as Folk – about the lives of three men in Manchester – was Davies’ first gay TV drama – and he cast straight actors in the roles. From left: Charlie Hannun, Aidan Gillen and Craig Kelly in the hit show

‘To get a chance to write this series is an honour, I have put my life into it, I’ve put my friends into it, I think every line in this series you can take a line and go back through my life and find the friend who said it… those boys I knew, great times.’

Davies said his latest project It’s A Sin – which began filming in October 2019 – is loosely influenced by his own life.

The writer, who is gay, was just 18 when the HIV crisis began in 1981, but he did not contract the disease.

Earlier this month, Davies, who was behind Doctor Who’s 2005 revival, said that directors must cast gay men to play gay male roles because you ‘wouldn’t black someone up’ in the modern day.

Previous projects: Davies' 2018 miniseries A Very English Scandal featured Hugh Grant, who is straight, playing Liberal politician Jeremy Thorpe

Previous projects: Davies’ 2018 miniseries A Very English Scandal featured Hugh Grant, who is straight, playing Liberal politician Jeremy Thorpe

The screenwriter insisted he was ‘not being woke about this’ and said the idea of ‘acting gay’ is just a ‘bunch of codes for a performance’ and is not authentic.

Davies also said all the gay characters in his upcoming Channel 4 drama It’s A Sin are played by gay actors because it is the only way to ensure an authentic portrayal. 

He told Radio Times: ‘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.’

Critics: Straight actors portraying gay roles have been blasted by critics for years with  James Corden most recently in the firing line for his role as gay Broadway star Barry Glickman in Netflix's The Prom (pictured alongside co-star Meryl Streep)

Critics: Straight actors portraying gay roles have been blasted by critics for years with  James Corden most recently in the firing line for his role as gay Broadway star Barry Glickman in Netflix’s The Prom (pictured alongside co-star Meryl Streep)

He added: ‘You wouldn’t cast someone able-bodied and put them in a wheelchair, you wouldn’t black someone up.’ 

Queer as Folk – about the lives of three men in Manchester – was Davies’ first gay TV drama – and he cast straight actors in the role.

Actor Alan Davies starred as a gay teacher in Davies’ hit 2001 show Bob & Rose, while his 2018 miniseries A Very English Scandal featured Hugh Grant, who is straight, playing Liberal politician Jeremy Thorpe.

Davies’ 2015 series Cucumber – and its companion show Banana – also saw straight actors Freddie Fox and Vincent Franklin in gay roles.

Previous roles: Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger played gay characters in Brokeback Mountain (pictured)

Previous roles: Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger played gay characters in Brokeback Mountain (pictured)

Davies has previously cast gay actors in roles where they played gay characters – including Russel Tovey in Years and Years, and John Barrowman in Torchwood.

MailOnline contacted Mr Davies’ agent about his decision at the time.

Gay actors who have won critical acclaim for portrayal of straight characters 

Andrew Scott: Gay actors have won critical acclaim for their portrayal of heterosexual characters – most notably Andrew Scott for his turn as the ‘Hot Priest’ in Phoebe Waller Bridge’s hit show, Fleabag. 

After he played Waller Bridge’s love interest in the second season of her show, the phrase, ‘Can you have sex with a Catholic priest?’ became one of the most googled terms of 2019. 

Luke Evans: The Welsh actor Luke Evans, who recently split with his boyfriend, won ‘Best Villain’ at the 2017 Teen Choice Awards for his portrayal of the Lothario Gaston in the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast. 

Ben Whishaw: The revered stage and film actor has been nominated for, and won, dozens of awards for his depiction of characters including Hamlet, Richard II and Q in James Bond. He also played Keith Richards in the Rolling Stones biopic, Stoned. 

Jim Parsons: The actor came out publicly in 2012 in a New York Times profile. He won several awards for playing Sheldon Cooper on the CBS show, The Big Bang Theory. The role saw Parsons become one of the highest paid actors in the world, earning $1million per episode. In the series, Sheldon marries fellow scientist Amy. 

Zachary Quinto: The actor came out in 2011. He is perhaps best know for his turn as Spock in the Star Trek films. 

Straight actors portraying gay roles have been blasted by critics for years – with several accused of using harmful stereotypes.

The actor most recently in the firing line was James Corden in his role as gay Broadway star Barry Glickman in Netflix’s The Prom

Other films criticised for actors playing gay roles include Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain, Cate Blanchett in Carol, Sean Penn in Milk and Tom Hanks in Philadelphia.

Call Me By Your Name – which received an Oscar in 2018 – featured Armie Hammer as a gay character. Timothée Chalamet plays his young love interest.

Yet several stars have defended the use of straight actors for gay characters and only recently Christopher Biggins said it’s ‘ridiculous’.

Filming on Good Morning Britain earlier this month, Biggins, 72, appeared with journalist Benjamin Butterworth to debate the issue, saying that the point of acting is ‘taking on a character’.

Viewers agreed with the actor, who has been in a civil partnership with his partner Neil Sinclair since 2006, arguing such divisive statements could cause ‘more harm than good’ in terms of equality, and that great actors can make ‘any role believable’.

Responding to the critics, Biggins said: ‘Ridiculous, acting is acting acting, its taking on a character and becoming that character. I don’t understand why?’ 

He added: ‘Acting is about taking on a character and becoming a character, it doesn’t matter what sexuality you are. That doesn’t mean anything.’ 

While Neil Patrick Harris claimed on Wednesday that it’s better to focus on hiring the ‘best actor’ for a role than choose a person based on their sexuality.

The actor, 47, stars as Henry Coltrane in Davies’ It’s A Sin, and weighed in on the debate that gay actors should play gay characters, a topic the showrunner has been vocal about.

Speaking to The Times’ Times2, Neil claimed: ‘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 said that he didn’t like to ‘jump on to labelling’ but felt it was important for a gay actor to be ‘a visible option’ for all types of roles.

Debate: Christopher Biggins recently said it's 'ridiculous' to claim only gay actors should play gay characters in film and television on Good Morning Britain

Debate: Christopher Biggins recently said it’s ‘ridiculous’ to claim only gay actors should play gay characters in film and television on Good Morning Britain

He also said of Davies’ remarks: ‘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?’

Referring to his stint as lovable Lothario Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother, he added: ‘I played a character for nine years who was nothing like me. I would definitely want to hire the best actor.’

The A Series Of Unfortunate Events star did however stipulate that he didn’t think Davies was being militant about his decision to cast gay actors, as Neil felt he was just concerned about being ‘authentic.’

Neil also heaped praise on Davies’ iconic show Queer As Folk and claimed it was a ‘turning point’ in the industry, saying it showed him that gay characters could be more than the comic sidekick on screen.

It’s A Sin starts on Friday 22 January at 9pm on Channel 4 while Loose Women continues on weekdays at 12:30pm on ITV.   

'There's something sexy about casting a straight actor to play a gay role': Neil Patrick Harris claimed on Wednesday it's better to hire the 'best actor' rather base casting on their sexuality

‘There’s something sexy about casting a straight actor to play a gay role’: Neil Patrick Harris claimed on Wednesday it’s better to hire the ‘best actor’ rather base casting on their sexuality

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