Though queer representation on television is at an all time high right now, the reality is that many times, gay and trans actors and actresses are only relegated to characters that match those roles. It’s for that reason, in fact, that some believe that queer and trans roles should only go to queer and trans actors — as without them they might not be cast at all. If you don’t believe us, director Greg Berlanti, who has headlined projects like Riverdale and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, recently spoke out about his own experiences.
“Early on in my career there were gay execs and gay casting people who were the least likely to let me cast an actor they knew was gay in a straight part,” Berlanti, who also directed Love, Simon, told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview. “These were the individuals who knew how important it would be.”
And that importance is significant; if an actor is cast as a gay character it can become an inextricable part of their brand. Daniel Franzese, who played Damian in Mean Girls said that he began to hit a “gay glass ceiling” after his success. People kept reaching out with projects for him to play what he saw as stereotypical gay characters based on tropes, and his refusal to take those jobs left him broke. And while eventually he was cast in a more complex role by way of HBO’s Looking, one option out of this would have been to get cast in something different all together; a straight role — the little work he did have on Sopranos dried up after Mean Girls.
But times have changed and in ways, Berlanti is calling the shots. He cast Nicole Maines as television’s first transgender superhero in Supergirl and routinely makes LGBTQ+ inclusion a priority on his sets.