Partner Benefits

After an acclaimed turn on the stage, Michael Urie returns to series television with Partners, a sharp new comedy from the creators of Will & Grace.



As Rudi Gernreich with Thomas Jay Ryan as Harry Hay in the Mattachine drama The Temperamentals.

Choosing to do Partners wasn’t necessarily a no-brainer — that is, according to his friends who questioned the wisdom of playing another gay role and risking, at 32, being pigeonholed. “Everyone was telling me, ‘Don’t do any more gay men,’ ” Urie says. “But it’s not like they’re banging down my door wanting me to play the straight parts.”

Anyway, the gay parts he’s taken have been good. “Why would I want to play the straight guy in this?” he asks of Partners. “The gay guy is way better, it’s just a way better part.” Likewise his gay roles onstage, as in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: “How was I supposed to turn that down? That would be insane.”

Urie gets that he’s not the leading man type that Hollywood goes for. When he does play straight, it’s usually an asexual kind of part, like Mozart in a North Carolina production of Amadeus or Bud Frump in How to Succeed. It’s never, he says, “the heartbreaker, macho type. If I were to fight for the romantic lead, it would look silly. It would be embarrassing for everyone because somebody would have to say it at some point: ‘Isn’t this the gay guy?’ They’d use weird words like ‘too soft’ or ‘flamboyant.’ I’ve heard all those words and they’re awful.” He’s heard them time and again from his agents, who are — in the kindest way possible, Urie says — relaying the euphemisms uttered by producers.

“You have to be perfect for a part,” the Juilliard graduate explains. “Some actors are perfect for the kinds of parts that are in every TV show, sometimes two in a TV show, or three. I’m not. I’m right for a few parts, but they’re all really awesome parts.” Though he’s obviously open to appearing in dramas, he would rather not have to spew jargon about, say, forensic science. “I don’t want to talk about that. They could get somebody much better. I would waste their time trying to make it look silly or something. I would be like, ‘What if this was a funny scene?’ ”