On Sunday night in Los Angeles, Will & Grace actor Sean Hayes was honored at Outfest's Legacy Awards as a Trailblazer for his iconic role.
The October 5 press release announcing the honor praised Hayes' performance in the role: "Sean Hayes' portrayal of Jack on NBC's Will & Grace took the stereotypical gay sissy and made him human, lovable, flawed and real," said Outfest executive director Christopher Racster. "... Jack lived in a land where it was OK to simply be Jack — open, honest, funny, and real."
But when Hayes took the stage to accept the award, which was also given to Transparent creator Jill Soloway and the Freeform network, he expressed his "embarassment" for not coming out sooner, reports The Hollywood Reporter.
"[The press release] said that I took the stereotypical gay sissy and made him human, lovable, flawed and real. While this may be true, I think you should've led with flawed because at the time, I was a young closeted actor having his first taste of a little success and unfortunately, in my mind, my lucky break was inextricably tied to me thinking that I had to stay in the closet in order to keep moving forward," Hayes said.
"Looking back at my choice to stay silent, I am ashamed and embarrassed. What was I thinking? As If any of you had any doubts. I mean, right, could a straight actor ever do this...?"
He then delivered his famous Cher impression, once performed alongside the singer on his Emmy-winning show from her 1989 hit "If I Could Turn Back Time."
“When it comes to nights like tonight and honors like this, I’m consumed with what I didn’t do," Hayes continued. "I know I should’ve come out sooner and I’m sorry for that. Especially when I think about the possibility that I might have made a difference in someone’s life. I would probably be able to sleep a lot better than I do if I had acted sooner, but such is life. We learn our lessons only when we are ready.”
You can watch Hayes' speech below:
— Chris Gardner (@chrissgardner) October 24, 2016