Former Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies says he has only cast gay actors in his new channel 4 drama It’s A Sin.
The new series is following the story of three young men in London in 1981 at the beginning of the HIV epidemic.
Davies said to the 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. You wouldn’t cast someone able-bodied and put them in a wheelchair. You wouldn’t black someone up. Authenticity is leading us to joyous places.”
It’s A Sin features Olly Alexander, Neil Patrick Harris, and Stephen Fry.
Davies also talks about the conversations he had with Stephen Fry on set, about friends that they lost. “We had amazing chats off-stage. We’d sit and have a coffee and talk about the friends we lost, all of the funerals we’d been to, all of the lies that were told, and all of the people who survived.”
Davies made his name writing Queer As Folk in 1999, about the lives of gay men in Manchester. The series starred straight actors including Charlie Hunnam, Aidan Gillen and Craig Kelly.
There have been many high profile roles of gay characters that have been taken by straight actors. Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain, Sean Penn in Milk, Cate Blanchett in Carol, and Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name are just a few. Many of them went on to be award-winning roles.
Tom Hanks won the Best Actor Academy Award in 1994 for playing a gay man diagnosed with AIDS in Philadelphia. Ten years later, Charlize Theron won Best Actress for her portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, who was a lesbian, in Monster.
The debate was reignited recently over The Prom, and James Corden playing a gay character. He was part of a big-name cast in Ryan Murphy’s adaptation of the Broadway show for TV. However, Corden has almost universally been panned for his performance.
He stars alongside Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman. The plot features a group of has-been actors, who visit a small town to help a lesbian teen who has been banned from her prom. Corden is being torn apart because he relies on dated stereotypes in the role of Barry Glickman.
Elsewhere, one viewer tweeted: “James Corden, a straight man, portraying a gay man like this just makes me 100000% uncomfortable.”
Meanwhile, another added: “James Corden’s performance is grossly inappropriate. It’s not brave playing a gay man, in fact you stole the role from a member of the LGBTQ community.”
At least two people liked Corden’s performance though.
It’s not the first time a project of Ryan Murphy’s has come under fire. His infamous series about singing teenagers, Glee, was heavily criticised for casting a non-disabled actor Kevin McHale in the role of Artie, a wheelchair user.
Glee’s executive producer Brad Falchuk caused upset at the time when he said: “We brought in anyone: white, black, Asian, in a wheelchair. It was very hard to find people who could really sing, really act, and have that charisma you need on TV.”
He says he understood the concern and frustration expressed about casting Kevin, but adds: “It’s hard to say no to someone that talented.”
Darren Criss also starred as Blaine Anderson, a gay character, but he is straight. In 2018, Darren gave an interview to Bustle saying: “There are certain [queer] roles that I’ll see that are just wonderful, but I want to make sure I won’t be another straight boy taking a gay man’s role.”
Do you think it’s right that only gay actors should play gay characters?
Image via Alamy