Disney is currently seeing backlash for casting a straight actor for its first openly gay role in the 2019 movie “The Jungle Cruise.” As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I don’t think it’s a problem if a straight actor portrays an LGBTQ+ character.
Although it would be ideal for a gay character to be portrayed by an actor of the same orientation, we’ve seen countless LGBTQ+ actors play straight characters.
Neil Patrick Harris is known for playing the womanizer character Barney Stinson in “How I Met Your Mother,” despite being gay himself. Luke Evans, who played Gaston in Disney’s 2017 “Beauty and the Beast,” is gay. Ellen Page and Rosie O’Donnell have both played characters who’ve also been straight.
The list could go on and on. Yet, there’s little to no backlash in 2018 for a gay actor to be taking a role of a straight character.
So when a straight actor is cast in an LGBTQ+ role, the actor’s sexual orientation shouldn’t be the focus but rather the story the actor would be telling.
One such case is coming out of the closet, which was the central storyline of the movie “Love, Simon.” The 2018 film starred Nick Robinson, a straight actor.
Despite being cast as a gay character, Robinson did hold some reservations initially because of his sexual orientation.
During an interview for GQ magazine, Robinson stated, “Initially I thought that maybe making this movie was not my place. But in speaking with Greg (Berlanti), he was very adamant that I was right for this role.”
Berlanti, who directed “Love, Simon” was right about Robinson being right for the part of Simon: during an interview on Ellen DeGeneres, Robinson revealed that his younger brother came out of the closet during the filming process.
Robinson’s brother’s coming out story is one of many because of the movie. Several viewers of “Love, Simon” related to the central storyline and where inspired to come out themselves.
Yet with the rise of more LGBTQ+ characters appearing across TV and film, it’s hard to be too choosy with whom is cast. Robinson had been drawn to the film because he felt that the story was one that needed to be told. Although I’m not an actor, I would imagine that the appeal of telling a coming out story like Robinson and his fellow castmates did is why actors pursue certain roles.
And in some cases, LGBTQ+ actors might still be hesitant to come out of the closet. The reason why, according to Evan Rachel Wood in an IndieWire article, is because “A lot of people advise you not to do it. They tell you flat out — ‘Don’t do it.’”
It’s ridiculous then, I believe, then for a studio to receive backlash for allowing an actor who is straight to portray a bisexual, gay, or transgender character. Especially when a LGBTQ+ actor might want to keep their personal life out of the limelight while pursuing a career as an actor.