Will & Grace star Sean Hayes, in accepting the Trailblazer Award Sunday at the Outfest Legacy Awards in Los Angeles, apologized for not coming out as gay earlier in his career. Although much of America believed the actor was gay like his flaky Will & Grace character, Jack, the actor didn't come out until four years after the trailblazing show ended.
In 2006, as Will and Grace was drawing to a close and after eight years of Hayes declining invitations to do an interview with the magazine, The Advocate ran a made-up interview culled together from Hayes's responses to various reporters, which taken in toto provided a rather risible view of Hayes's unnecessary attempts to stay closeted. When he finally did consent to an interview with the Advocate in 2010, he pointed to the work his characters had accomplished as evidence that he'd done enough already, and said that nobody owes anyone anything. "I feel like I've contributed monumentally to the success of the gay movement in America, and if anyone wants to argue that, I'm open to it. You're welcome, Advocate."
At the Legacy Awards this week, Hayes lamented the fact that it took him so long to come out. "Looking back at my choice to stay silent, I am ashamed and embarrassed. What was I thinking? As If any of you had any doubts. I mean, right, could a straight actor ever do this...?" That's when he burst into his spot-on impression of Cher singing "If I Could Turn Back Time," a hilarious showcase of his talent.
Like many closeted Hollywood actors, Hayes was afraid of the consequences for his acting career if he came out, as well as fearing physical violence for being such a public face of the LGBT movement. "Some people in the gay community were very upset with me for not coming out on their terms," he said. "They don't stop to think about what's going on in somebody's personal life, and the struggles that they're having. It was all very scary. We got death threats. It was a really rough time for me, but I was also having the time of my life."
Whatever fears he may have had at that time have proved to be unfounded. Hayes has continued to find work in television and theater, and his big regret now is simply not having come out sooner. "I'm consumed with what I didn't do," Hayes confessed. "I know I should've come out sooner and I'm sorry for that. Especially when I think about the possibility that I might have made a difference in someone's life. I would probably be able to sleep a lot better than I do if I had acted sooner, but such is life. We learn our lessons only when we are ready."
Hopefully other closeted stars can learn from the wisdom Hayes has gleaned. Watch his acceptance speech below: