Richard Chamberlain: Sibling Revelry

Now starring on Brothers & Sisters, the Dr. Kildare heartthrob explains why other gay leading men would be unwise to follow in his footsteps.




Since coming out, you’ve played gay roles on Nip/Tuck, Desperate Housewives, Will & Grace — 
My character wasn’t gay in Will & Grace. They all thought he was gay, but he was actually straight.

OK, but it was still a part that played off of your newly out public persona. You were initially scared that your coming-out would end your career entirely. Once you started to work again, were you concerned about being pigeonholed into gay parts?
No, because that just hasn’t happened. Yes, I’ve played a few gay parts, but most of the characters I’ve been playing have been straight. It’s fine either way. I just did a wonderful movie called We Are the Hartmans — I’m praying that it gets a good release — in which I play an aging hippie with an interesting family who runs a music club that’s in danger. He was a great character, and it was just a wonderful experience. So no, I don’t see typecasting as a problem at all.

Your roles on Chuck and Leverage also come to mind as recent straight characters. But do you feel a certain comfort or freedom when you get to play a gay character?
Hmm. Well, that’s very interesting. But no, not really, because I like thinking that it’s all sort of the same. I mean, love is love and attraction is attraction. I did have a very interesting realization during one scene on Brothers & Sisters that we filmed recently — well, no, I can’t talk about it because I’d be ruining the plot, so forget I said anything!

You released some popular albums in the ’60s, and you starred in the Broadway musical revivals of My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music during the ’90s. Since you’ve already worked with Ryan Murphy on Nip/Tuck, maybe you should call him to ask if any glee club students might need a singing grandfather on Glee.
Oh, that would be interesting. I only saw Glee for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and it was cute. Sure, why not? I’d love the opportunity to sing again.

You were a wildly successful closeted actor during a period of time when coming out was unheard of, but the climate of acceptance has significantly changed in recent years. How do you feel about gay actors who still remain closeted as we near 2011?
It’s complicated. There’s still a tremendous amount of homophobia in our culture. It’s regrettable, it’s stupid, it’s heartless, and it’s immoral, but there it is. For an actor to be working is a kind of miracle, because most actors aren’t, so it’s just silly for a working actor to say, “Oh, I don’t care if anybody knows I’m gay” — especially if you’re a leading man. Personally, I wouldn’t advise a gay leading man–type actor to come out.

When can a leading man come out — when he’s 69 and promoting a memoir?
I have no idea. Despite all the wonderful advances that have been made, it’s still dangerous for an actor to talk about that in our extremely misguided culture. Look at what happened in California with Proposition 8. Please, don’t pretend that we’re suddenly all wonderfully, blissfully accepted.

Tags: television