Friday, 4 February 2011

Will Young: Straight Acting Gay/Gay Acting Straight

This week's Popbitch gave us a fascinating little glimpse of what it's like to be at a press screening...

'Sky Living recently held a press screening for its new haunted house show, Bedlam, which stars Will Young. Unsurprisingly, the pop star was the focus of most of the Q&A. And we got a glimpse of what it's like to be one of the only prominent gays in pop.
So was poor Will asked anything about the show or his acting? Well, he was asked if
kissing a girl in the series was "rubbish".
To which he rather cooly replied "Do you mean because I am a homosexual?"
It got worse...'

Fagburn's sure that it did.
Today's Daily Mail have regurgitated Will Young's press call quotes into a feature; 'Will Young isn't spooked by success: Star shows different side in ghostly TV drama'
Like the tease - or possible double entendre - in the title, it's obsessed by the "gay plays straight" angle.

'You could almost believe Will has been possessed by one of the troubled spirits that haunt apartment block Bedlam Heights, as he recklessly kisses and caresses his young and attractive landlady Kate (Charlotte Salt).
A bit of a shocker, isn’t it, Will?
"I think the series has the potential to shock, although I hope you’re not ­suggesting it’s shocking because I am a gay man who gets passionate with a woman," says the singer, his indignation perhaps only partly for comic effect.
"There are plenty of straight actors who have played gay men. Why not a gay actor in a love scene with a woman? I think it’s quite refreshing."'

Fagburn really liked the way Will Young handled this vaguely offensive daftness.
But the thing is gay male actors have been playing romantic straight leads since before the dawn of Hollywood - all that's new is that many big name gay actors are now out.
Hence "Gay playing straight" has become a media trope in the US last year - partly prompted by a Newsweek article by Ramin Setoodeh, Straight Jacket, that argued that out actor Jonathan Groff was unconvincing playing it straight in Glee.
The cat was let out of the closet again more recently by Richard Chamberlain [Left] - an old school TV matinee idol, and quite a dish in his day.
Chamberlain told The Advocate in December; "There's still a tremendous amount of homophobia in our culture.
"For an actor to be working [at all] is a kind of miracle, because most actors aren't."
"So it's just silly for a working actor to say, 'Oh, I don't care if anybody knows I'm gay' - especially if you're a leading man.
"Personally, I wouldn't advise a gay leading man-type actor to come out."
Rent-a-quote ex-rent boy Rupert Everett told BBC Radio 1 he thought Richard Chamberlain was right - claiming the good non-gay parts dried up after he came out; "I just never got a job [in Hollywood] and I never had another job here for, I don't know, ten years probably after [coming out]."
There is an elephant-sized irony in all of this, of course.
All actors are acting, they get paid for playing someone they are not.
A further irony is that when a straight man plays a gay man it's often Oscar Gold!
The Bafta may well be in the goodie bag for Matt Smith playing Christopher Isherwood on the BBC later this year.
"I think that's fine," said Everett, "but that does mean the gay actor who used to just get to play the gay part - like me - has been reduced to drag really."
I'll leave the last few hundred words to Alan Cumming, talking to The Guardian last month;

'"I think it's so mean-spirited. If you're living a lie, that's not healthy, and I think it is really irresponsible of [Chamberlain] and Rupert to say these things."
But do they not have a point – that audiences don't seem able to accept actors who they know to be gay playing heterosexual lovers onscreen, and therefore their acting opportunities are instantly limited?
"But it's not about your work," he says, scornfully biting out the last word. "It's about how you exist as a person in the world, and the idea that your work is more important than you as a person is a horrible, horrible message. I always think about a little gay boy in Wisconsin or a little lesbian in Arkansas seeing someone like me, and if I cannot be open in my life, how on earth can they?
"Anyway, it's an academic question: how can you know [that coming out affects your career]? Some people get less work than others and it has nothing to do with sexuality."'

I wonder if he's talking about anyone we know?

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