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Ewan McGregor Explains Why He Took on Gay ‘Halston’ Role Despite Backlash Concerns

With its May 14 release date, Netflix is positioning "Halston" as one of its last-minute Emmys contenders.

Ewan McGregor, "Halston"

Ewan McGregor in “Halston”

Atsushi Nishijima / Netflix

Ewan McGregor scored his first Emmy nomination in 2017 for his performance in FX’s limited series “Fargo,” and now he’s returning to the television awards season with Netflix’s upcoming “Halston.” Executive produced by Ryan Murphy, “Halston” stars McGregor as the beloved fashion designer. As part of the actor’s cover story for The Hollywood Reporter, the publication reports that “McGregor was concerned that taking on a gay icon like Halston might result in a backlash.” McGregor has played gay characters throughout his career (see “I Love You Phillip Morris” for starters), but there’s a more heightened awareness these days about straight actors tackling queer roles.

“I hear the discussion and I respect both sides of it, I really do,” McGregor told THR. “I haven’t walked in Billy Porter’s shoes. I don’t know what it’s like to lose out on parts when you might feel it’s to do with your sexuality. So I can only respect his point of view.”

McGregor is referring to Billy Porter’s appearance on THR’s 2019 Actor Roundtable. The “Pose” Emmy winner addressed sexuality-blind casting in Hollywood being an issue because it only works in one direction. Porter said, “If ‘flamboyantly’ wasn’t in the description of the character, no one would see me ever for anything. Straight men playing gay — everyone wants to give them an award.”

“If it had been a story about Halston’s sexuality more, then maybe it’s right that gay actors should play that role,” McGregor added, explaining why he felt comfortable taking on a gay role in “Halston” specifically. “But in this case — and I don’t want to sound like I’m worming out of this, because it’s something I did think a lot about — I suppose ultimately I felt like it was just one part of who he was.”

McGregor joined in on pitch meetings to help get the series bought (Murphy said yes immediately and set up the project at Netflix) and learned to sew so he could play Halston as accurately as possible.

“There are people I met who do not have nice things to say about him,” McGregor said of becoming Halston. “And there are people who love him and are unbelievably loyal to this day. I was excited to play that. To go to the extremes of his temper. But behind it all — this drive, this creative drive. And this desire to be grand. Everything had to be the best.”

“Halston” debuts May 14 on Netflix. Head over to The Hollywood Reporter’s website to read McGregor’s cover story in its entirety.

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