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Can Straight Actors Play Gay? There's a 'Spectrum,' Says Jim Parsons

JIM PARSONS

Jim Parsons has weighed in on the appropriateness of straight actors playing LGBTQ+ roles.

“There’s definitely this spectrum: I think the fight, as it were, is not about having only gay people play the gay parts but to ensure that all parts are open to all actors," the Boys in the Band star told the Los Angeles Times. "It’s important that gay characters are portrayed as well-rounded and completely human individuals.

“And there are plenty of straight actors who have played gay characters brilliantly. I think Brokeback Mountain is one of the most touching gay movies and love stories I have ever seen, and those two straight actors [Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal] were the best choices for those roles.”

His remarks come at a time of debate over queer casting. Historically, LGBTQ+ roles have disproportionately gone to straight actors, despite there being no shortage of out talent in the entertainment industry. James Corden, in particular, was slammed for his portrayal of a gay character in The Prom, a flamboyant depiction that was criticized as "gayface."

Even in 2021, many LGBTQ+ actors fear coming out because of the possibility that they will lose roles (and income) due to stigma in the industry. To the L.A. Times, Parsons, who came out in 2008, said his anxieties about being a gay actor were assuaged when he portrayed a woman in a Charles Busch play. 

“When I was studying theater at school, I wasn’t worried about coming out,” he said. “I was more concerned that at a small level, I would always seem gay in every role that I took. That was something that held me back.

“But when I performed in drag in the Busch play, I felt that there was this permission that was granted and I didn’t have to worry about appearing gay. Once you taste that level of freedom, there’s really no going back.”

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