The age-old question of should straight actors play gay roles tends to rear its ugly head every time a straight actor plays a role against their sexual orientation. The latest is The Power of the Dog, where Benedict Cumberbatch has the lead role as a gay male. However, the history of straight actors playing gay roles is rich, with the most notable being Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger for Brokeback Mountain, Trevante Rhodes and Andre Holland for Moonlight, or even Jared Leto as a transgender for Dallas Buyers Club. Now, there’s no denying the history of the LGBTQ+ mostly being shunned in Tinseltown. In fact, Kate Winslet – an actress who played a queer role in Ammonite – actually confirmed one of the biggest fears that many gay actors have to deal with, “I cannot tell you the number of young actors I know – some well known, some starting out – who are terrified their sexuality will be revealed and that it will stand in the way of their cast in straight roles, Winslet told The Sunday Times. The struggle for queer actors in the film industry is well documented and it shouldn’t go unnoticed that these men and women are likely being rejected over their sexuality. Do straight actors have more of an advantage? Yes. They’ve never had to stop pretending to be straight to play a certain role.
However, Winslet touched upon something that’s very crucial, and that’s gay actors being afraid of not being cast in straight roles. The topic of this article asks, should straight actors play gay roles? But what if the shoe was on the other foot and straight actors started complaining about gay actors taking away heterosexual roles? In fact, what if Hollywood opted to have only gay actors play queer roles and straight actors play heterosexual roles? The conversation would instantly be turned from it not being fair that straight actors are taking over gay roles to the lack of opportunities for queer actors. In truth, there’s no proof that states an actor’s sexuality has an impact on selective roles. Did you ever suspect that Wentworth Miller was gay while he was playing Michael Scofield in Prison Break? or Matt Boomer as Neal Caffrey in White Collar? What about Jodie Foster? or Elliot Page in Juno?
These actors weren’t great because of their sexuality. Sure, they have experiences throughout their lives that could actually aid them in queer roles, but the purpose of highlighting their straight roles is to close the notion that sexuality manners when acting. It’s the same thing with straight guys listed above, you genuinely brought that they were the homosexual characters that they were portraying onscreen. Acting is a job that allows you to play all sorts of characters in whatever role you have. By going with the notion that straight actors shouldn’t be allowed to play gay roles, it’s actually a bit discriminatory, which is classified under unfair treatment as turning away a human being’s rights to play a role because of his/her sexual orientation. Again, I understand that queer actors have been mistreated by Hollywood, but if there’s any way to truly have equality in the filmmaking industry then all actors should be allowed to pursue any role that they want. Granted, there will be times when race is necessary for a role. If a biography is being made about George W. Bush, then naturally a white actor should only get the part.
Same thing with Martin Luther King Jr., only a Black actor should get the role of the fact-based movie. Now, these men are straight; however, if a gay actor auditioned for the roles and pulls it off then they should get it because they’re able to portray the kind of character that producers are looking for. This isn’t a case of white washing because a White or Latino man can’t pretend to be Black by playing Martin Luther King Jr or in vice versa. It’s silly that there’s this blind outrage over straight actors nabbing a gay or trans role when equality for everyone is what we should be aiming for. There’s never any uproar over the fact that a gay actor is playing a straight role because it shouldn’t matter what your sexuality is in order to get a job. It’s a controversial statement that doesn’t get much push back because we’re mainly living in a world where celebrities can be cancelled for nearly anything. However, if people actually sat down and understood that not limiting roles to a certain group means better opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community then there wouldn’t be so much controversy over this topic. I know the situation isn’t as black and white as it seems because politics get in the way, but straight actors should be able to play gay roles and vice versa.