Talking Point: gay actors can’t pull off heterosexual roles?

10 May 2010

An article in Newsweek has had Perez Hilton up in arms this weekend after writer Ramin Setoodeh wrote that while straight actors can play gay men realistically, when the tables are turned, gay actors can’t pull off a heterosexual role.

‘Openly gay actors still have reason to be scared,’ said Ramin, ‘While it's OK for straight actors to play gay as Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger did in Brokeback Mountain, it's rare for someone to pull off the trick in reverse.’

Case in point 1: Sean Hayes (aka Jack from Will and Grace) who’s currently starring in Broadway show ‘Promises, Promises’. ‘He comes off as wooden and insincere,’ said Ramin, ‘Like he's trying to hide something, which of course he is. Even the play's most hilarious scene, when Chuck tries to pick up a drunk woman at a bar, devolves into unintentional camp. Is it funny because of all the '60s-era one-liners, or because the woman is so drunk (and clueless) that she agrees to go home with a guy we all know is gay?’

Umm, hate to break this to you Ramin, but it’s not real… The clues in the word ‘act’-ors! Whether an actor’s straight or gay bears no relation to the script, does it?  

Case in point 2 – Jonathon Groff (you’ll know him as Rachel’s star crossed lover in Glee). ‘As the shifty Glee captain from another school who steals Rachel's heart, there's something about [the openly Gay Broadway star’s] performance that feels off,’ said Ramin, ‘In half his scenes, he scowls—is that a substitute for being straight? When he smiles or giggles, he seems more like your average theatre queen, a better romantic match for Kurt than Rachel.’

Gleeks, do you think Jonathon was wrongly cast? In a show that’s thrives on camping it up, to us he seems no more a ‘queen’ than the rest of the pompom waving, jazz hand shaking cast.

What about all the homosexual actresses who play straight women in films and sitcoms? Since Cynthia Nixon revealed she was dating a woman in 2004 has her portrayal of Miranda become any less believable? When Portia De Rossi was dating ‘John’ in Ally McBeal were you thinking, ‘hah, he’s in for a shock when Ellen shows up.’

Should a good actor be able to pull off a part, no matter if it matches their sexuality or not? Nothing like a hot topic of debate to fire up your Monday morning: let us know your thoughts…

By Amy Molloy


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