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Darren Criss says he has been 'culturally queer' his whole life

Darren Criss says he has been 'culturally queer' his whole life

Darren Criss culturally queer
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The Emmy-winning actor famously played gay character Blaine on Glee.

Darren Criss is so good at playing gay on TV that many of his fans thought he was actually queer until he clarified that he is cis and straight. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have a deep connection to the queer community.

Criss, who won an Emmy for playing gay murderer Andrew Cunanan in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, rose to national prominence playing gay high school singer Blaine Anderson for five seasons on the groundbreaking teen musical show Glee.

On a recent panel at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, Criss talked about playing Blaine, and what it was like for him, as a straight actor, to embrace the role.

"I have been so culturally queer my whole life," Criss said on the panel. "Not because I'm trying — you know, actually, I was gonna say not because I'm trying to be cool but I'm gonna erase that, because I am trying to be cool. The things in my life that I have tried to emulate, learn from and be inspired by are 100 percent queer as fuck."

"It was in queer communities that I've found people that I idolize, that I want to learn something from," he continued. "And I'd say that's a gross generalization, that's a lot of things and a lot of people. But I grew up in San Francisco in the '90s. I watched men die. There was an awareness of the gay experience that was not a foreign concept to me. So, it was a narrative that I cared deeply about."

"In many ways, I'm glad it was me because it was a thing I really liked showing," he added after saying he doesn't feel any entitlement to be able to play gay roles like Blaine. "It meant a great deal to me and it meant a great deal to other people. Because when people say they were affected by that show or that relationship, it's not because of me, it's because of that relationship on TV and the risks that people took to put that on TV."

"It took the people watching it to have the aptitude for seeing beyond what was maybe given to them in other avenues of culture. People of all ages, all spectrums of awareness say, 'I didn't grow up with a show like that and it was a really meaningful thing for me to see,' and I go I didn't grow up with a show like that and that would've been very meaningful for me too," Criss continued. "Regardless of the fact that I'm a straight kid. That has value. For anyone who's been an underdog, we all know, in any shape or form — sexual, religious, biological — it has value because there's going to be a lot of people who see that and say, 'Okay, I can now understand this in a context that maybe I wasn't able to before.'"

"It was a fucking privilege," he concluded. "And I love talking about it and I'm so grateful I got to do it."

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Mey Rude

Mey Rude is a journalist and cultural critic who has been covering queer news for a decade. The transgender, Latina lesbian lives in Los Angeles with her fiancée.

Mey Rude is a journalist and cultural critic who has been covering queer news for a decade. The transgender, Latina lesbian lives in Los Angeles with her fiancée.