The notion of straight actors playing gay roles has been a controversial topic in Hollywood in recent years, especially surrounding high-profile LGBTQ films like “Call Me By Your Name” or “Ammonite.” But Neil Patrick Harris, who is currently starring in Russell T. Davies’ AIDS drama miniseries “It’s a Sin” now on Channel 4, thinks that casting shouldn’t be driven by sexual preference and, in fact, that straight actors playing gay can even be “sexy.”
“In our world that we live in you can’t really as a director demand that [an actor be a given sexual orientation],” he said. “Who’s to determine how gay someone is?”
Harris is perhaps most famous for playing a straight character, the womanizing bachelor Barney Stinson, in the long-running CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.”
“I played a character for nine years who was nothing like me,” the multiple Emmy-winning actor said. “I would definitely want to hire the best actor.”
As Advocate pointed out, Russell T. Davies (who also created the popular “Queer as Folk” and more recently “Years and Years”) previously denounced casting straight actors in gay roles. “You wouldn’t cast someone able-bodied and put them in a wheelchair; you wouldn’t Black someone up,” Davies told the Radio Times. “Authenticity is leading us to joyous places.” Indeed, “It’s a Sin,” which centers on the AIDS epidemic hitting London in the early 1980s, features a variety of LGBTQ actors playing gay roles, including Harris himself, Olly Alexander, and Stephen Fry.
Davies added, “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.”
Among other actors who’ve recently chimed in on the topic of straight actors playing gay are Henry Golding, who plays a gay man in “Monsoon,” and Viggo Mortensen, who directs and stars in the film “Falling,” about a gay man’s relationship with his homophobic father.