When there’s a major gay role in a film or TV show, there’s often grumbling if its played by a resolutely straight person. There are actually fairly complex arguments surrounding this – it’s not just a question of whether gay people ought to play gay roles, but whether the fact gay people are so often typecast into particular types of parts, that by casting a straight person you are both perpetuating the idea that having homosexuality on-screen is okay as long as it’s not ‘real’ and that you’re taking work away from gay actors who are often overlooked for major roles.
Conversely of course, fewer people believe in the principle that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to play straight roles, even if there’s still a perverse belief in some circles in Hollywood that audiences won’t believe a man-woman romance if they know one of the people is really gay.
Now Nathan Lane has weighed into the discussion while talking to TV critics earlier this week about PBS’ presentation of his Broadway play The Nance, he was asked about his thought on straight people playing gay. He said (via Salon.com), “We just had ‘The Normal Heart’ (with straight actor) Mark Ruffalo, fantastic job. I think who’s right for the part and most talented” should be hired.
He adds that if actors had to stick to their own sexuality, “That way only madness lies… I wouldn’t have played Nathan Detroit or Max Bialystock” if he couldn’t play straight roles.
Lane won a Tony Award recently for The Nance, about a gay burlesque performer in 1930’s New York. It recently screened in US cinemas and will air on PBS in October.