Thursday, July 7, 2011

Acting Straight (Again)

I had an audition today - which is usually hell - but it was pretty quick and painless and enjoyable.

And I really love the play, so it was fun to read for it, whether I get cast or not.

And I love the character, because he's nothing like me.

He's this uber-straight, alpha male, heterosexual, self-described neanderthal. 

And I love trying to transform into that.

And I love that I had the opportunity to do that, because I remember when it wasn't always that way.

By that, I mean - once upon a time -  openly gay actors were seldom cast in straight roles. 

Not only that, but openly gay actors were seldom allowed to play openly gay roles - ie, the actor usually had to be openly straight to make the gay character more palatable to a heterosexual audience: ("Oh, that's OK, he's only PRETENDING to be queer.")

And that's really film acting I'm talking about here, stage is quite different (and more inclusive).

Being an openly an gay film actor really held no advantage at all.  In fact, it was a marked disadvantage.  Unless you were British, in which case the rules are different.

Thus we have Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in "Brokeback Mountain"
Sean Penn in "Milk".
Daniel Day Lewis in "My Beautiful Launderette".
Gary Oldman in "Prick Up Your Ears"
Eric McCormack on "Will & Grace"
Billy Crystal on "Soap"

And those are just off the top of my head.  But the list goes on and on.

And don't get me wrong, those performances were fine.  Incredible, in most of those above examples.

But that's because the actors were good, not because they were straight.

And if any of those actors had been openly gay, they probably would not have been cast.

And that's a shame.

And that's why there's still a closet.

There was - is -  an unwritten, exclusionary rule.

And an openly gay actor in a major Hollywood film is still rare.  VERY rare.  Like you can count them on one hand. 

But that's changing.

Tonight, I was watching "The Big C".  And there's John Benjamin Hickey making out with Cynthia Nixon.  And I realized that both these actors are, in "real life", gay.  And probably, if I wasn't LOOKING for it, if I hadn't been thinking of these things already, I never would have even thought of it at all. 

Because they were doing their jobs.  They were ACTING.  They were playing someone else, and I believed it.

And that's just the way it should be.

They are actors.  Good actors.  It doesn't matter that they're gay or straight.

They should be able to play anyone.

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