Only gay actors should play gay characters, says former Doctor Who screenwriter Russell T Davies

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Only gay actors should play gay characters in film and television, insisted critically acclaimed screenwriter Russell T Davies (pictured).

Only gay actors should play gay characters in film and television, insisted critically acclaimed screenwriter Russell T. Davies.

Davies has stated that all of the gay characters in his upcoming Channel 4 drama It’s A Sin are played by gay actors because that is the only way to ensure authentic portrayal.

The series follows the tragic stories of three 18-year-old gays who arrived in London in 1981, at the start of the HIV epidemic, and its star cast includes Olly Alexander, Neil Patrick Harris and Stephen Fry.

Davies – who was behind the Doctor Who revival in 2005 – said directors need to get gay men to act as gay men, because you wouldn’t “blacken someone” these days.

He insisted he “wasn’t awake to this” and said the idea of ​​”acting gay” was just a “bunch of codes for a performance” and was not not genuine.

Straight actors portraying same-sex roles have been criticized by critics for years – many accused of using harmful stereotypes.

The most recent actor in the line of fire was James Corden as Broadway gay star Barry Glickman in Netflix’s The Prom.

Straight actors portraying same-sex roles have been criticized by critics for years - many accused of using harmful stereotypes.  The most recent actor in the line of fire was James Corden as Broadway gay star Barry Glickman in Netflix's The Prom (pictured alongside co-star Meryl Streep)

Straight actors portraying same-sex roles have been criticized by critics for years – many accused of using harmful stereotypes. The most recent actor in the line of fire was James Corden as Broadway gay star Barry Glickman in Netflix’s The Prom (pictured alongside co-star Meryl Streep)

Davies told Radio Times: “I’m not awake to this, but I’m a firm believer that if I throw someone into a story, I’m throwing them to act like a lover, or an enemy, or someone. who does drugs or a criminal saint.

“They aren’t here to ‘act gay’ because ‘playing gay’ is a bunch of codes for a performance.”

He added: “You wouldn’t throw some able-bodied person and put them in a wheelchair, you wouldn’t blacken someone. “

Davies said his latest project It’s A Sin – which started filming in October 2019 – is loosely influenced by his own life.

The writer, who is gay, was only 18 when the HIV crisis began in 1981, but he did not contract the disease.

Davies - who relaunched Doctor Who in 2005 - said directors need to nominate gay men to play gay male roles because you wouldn't

Davies – who relaunched Doctor Who in 2005 – said directors need to nominate gay men to play gay male roles because you wouldn’t “blacken someone” these days. Other films criticized for actors playing gay roles include Tom Hanks in Philadelphia (pictured)

Straight actor Sean Penn won an Oscar in 2009 for his role as gay rights activist Harvey Milk in Milk

Cate Blanchett was nominated in 2016 to play a lesbian in Carol (pictured)

Straight actor Sean Penn won an Oscar in 2009 for his role as gay rights activist Harvey Milk in Milk (left). Cate Blanchett was nominated in 2016 to play a lesbian in Carol

Queer as Folk – about the lives of three men in Manchester – was Davies’ first gay TV drama – and he chose straight actors for the role.

In his 2018 miniseries A Very English Scandal, Hugh Grant, who is straight, played Jeremy Thorpe while his 2015 series Cucumber also saw a straight actor play a gay role.

Other films criticized for actors playing gay roles include Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain, Cate Blanchett in Carol, Sean Penn in Milk and Tom Hanks in Philadelphia.

Call Me By Your Name – which received an Oscar in 2018 – introduced Armie Hammer as a gay character.

Timothée Chalamet plays his young love.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger played gay characters at Brokeback Mountain (pictured)

Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger played gay characters at Brokeback Mountain (pictured)

The film’s director, Luca Guadagnino, defended the cast at the time, telling The Independent, “Honestly, I don’t think I have the right to decide whether an actor is straight or not.

“Yes, Armie is a straight man with a wife and children and the same can be said of Timothy.

But do I ask them to swear on their sexuality, on their identities, on their desires, before launching them? I do not.’

Jame’s Corden co-star Andrew Rannells, who is gay, defended the actor’s portrayal of a gay character in Prom, saying the film casting is about finding “the best person for the job.”

Speaking to Attitude magazine, Rannells said he believes “portrayal” in movies and television is important, but added that the film’s director, Ryan Murphy, “is looking for talent above all else.”

He said, “You know, I go back and forth about this. Obviously representation is very important, but what I think Ryan does so well, you know, is the best person for the job, quite frankly.

  • It’s A Sin will air on Channel 4 on January 22

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