Op-ed: Actor Tells The Others to Take The Risk, Play It Gay

One young actor examines his burgeoning career and his pattern of gay roles.

BY Tyler Ross

October 11 2012 3:00 AM ET

Tyler Ross

Growing up in northern Florida in a Southern Baptist church, I didn’t know any openly gay people. Not until high school did I even meet my first openly gay man, a very talented performer with a heart of gold. As I deepened my involvement in the Jacksonville community theatre scene, I got to know him and a few other openly gay people, and it was during the time of getting to know these lovely souls that my church-instilled sense of homophobia began to dissolve and my compassion for the gay community took root.

Working on Nate & Margaret gave me insight into a community where homosexuality is greatly accepted. Playing Nate, and just living in Chicago actually, I was surrounded by people who believe that being gay really isn’t a big deal. Nate & Margaret paints a refreshingly progressive picture of such a community. Having grown up in an environment where homosexuality was condemned, I did not see the gay community as a supported, thriving group of people. My experiences working on the film showed me just how truly supportive and embracing the gay community can be, especially when it is supported and embraced in return.

I almost didn’t audition for Nate & Margaret. Nathan Adloff, the writer and director, saw a rough cut of The Wise Kids and wanted me to audition for his new film as Nate. I read the script. I was apprehensive at first, for two reasons. One, just because I’m O.K. with playing a gay man doesn’t mean I’m naturally comfortable being physical with another guy, and in that regard Nate in Nate & Margaret is a bit of a step up from Tim in the The Wise Kids. The second reason holds more weight: I admit it, I was afraid to be caught in a “type-cast” trap. Taking two lead roles in a row, both gay, would mean setting a pattern. And unfortunately, “type-casting” is a very real issue. I don’t mind playing gay, but I don’t want to only play gay roles.

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