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Out on the small
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Out on the small
screen

Milligan

The Bones costar argues through personal experience that there's no need to be closeted for the casting agents.

I never came out of the closet. I was never in the closet. Well, I suppose you're born in the closet and when you realize that you're gay, you then take steps to tell the people around you. So yes, I suppose I was in the closet. It took me a little bit of time to admit it to myself and then a little bit of time to tell my friends and ultimately, my parents. Oh, and I had to tell each and every one of my five siblings when the time felt right. Having done all of that, I was then cast to play a young lovesick gay man in the movie On-Line. It then occurred to me that it would come up in interviews. Was I, like the character, gay? I figured publications like The Advocate and Out magazine would ask. Well, when the movie premiered at Sundance, the movie's director scheduled my partner, Charles, and me to make an appearance at the Gay Brunch where I would be interviewed by gay publications. He never asked me if I wanted to attend. I think he just assumed that, since I was so completely out in my life, I wouldn't have a problem doing gay-related publicity for the movie. So I went. I met with Lawrence Ferber, who wanted to write an article about me for The Advocate when the movie was released. And I met Jeffrey Epstein, who wanted to do a piece about me for Out (they went on to name me the "Hottest Up-and-Coming Openly Gay Actor" of 2003). I called my agent and asked him what he thought--whether or not he thought it was a bad career move--and he told me it would be no problem for me. And so that was that.

The movie was released, and the articles came out. Other publications wanted interviews, and I did them as well. None of these were really about "coming out," though, because it's not as if I'd been famous before these articles were published. People like Nathan Lane, Ellen DeGeneres, and Rosie O'Donnell came out of the closet after establishing their careers. I was out before anything happened to me. And things turned out OK. It was still a struggle to get jobs, as it is for straight people. It's a competitive business. But I did OK, and I wasn't typecast as gay. Now there is nothing wrong with playing gay roles. And when people asked me if I was worried about being typecast as gay, I would say "I have no problem with being typecast as employed." But it was cool that I got to play straight roles. I wasn't typecast. I went on to play a man in a mental hospital who falls in love with a female patient in the Off-Broadway play Constellations. I had a nude scene with her and kissed her onstage. I was openly gay and still got cast in such a role. I made out with a girl on Law & Order: Criminal Intent and kissed Oscar winner Estelle Parsons in the world premiere of the musical version of Harold and Maude.

Then I traveled to Los Angeles in search of more television and film work (i.e. more money and recognition). I was advised by a friend of mine to be closeted about both my sexual orientation and my age. Not only was he sure that my sexuality would work against me but also the fact that at the time, I was 30 years old. Even though I looked much younger, he told me people would have a problem with my actual age. I completely refused to lie on either account. I was gay and in my 30s, and I wasn't going to say otherwise. Of course, it's not as if I could've lied at that point. All anyone would've had to do was Google me to read the articles that had mentioned both age and sexual orientation. Nonetheless, I just didn't believe that pretending to be straight would help me book work. There are lots of unemployed straight people.

And then I booked the role of Zack Addy in Bones. It felt really great to come to L.A. completely openly gay and book a network television series--a straight role, no less. I do hope that my example will free others to know that they can be themselves and still work and not be limited in the roles they can play. The cast and crew of Bones has completely welcomed and supported me. My boss, Hart Hanson. My co-stars David Boreanaz, Emily Deschanel, T.J. Thyne, Michaela Conlin, and Tamara Taylor. We all get along very well. I've never felt uncomfortable or treated differently because I was gay. And Hart has told me that he has been sometimes pressured to make my character gay but that he has refused to change my character merely because I'm gay myself.

All of this said, I'm saddened to know that not everyone is as supportive of gay people in this country. As a big NBA fan, I was floored to hear former NBA player Tim Hardaway say "I hate gay people." I know that there are people out there who hate me for being gay. And I know that not everyone is as fortunate as I am to work with the great people at Bones. And I know that my convictions haven't really been tested. For instance, if I was offered $5 million to star in a big studio film as long as I renounced my sexual orientation and pretended to be straight, which, I personally don't think would ever happen, would I refuse such an offer? I hope I would.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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Eric Millegan