Gus Kenworthy has some strong words for anyone who thinks he shouldn’t be playing Emma Roberts’ boyfriend on American Horror Story: 1984. The Olympian penned an op-ed for ESPN responding to the criticism over both his casting, acting abilities, and to decision to play a non-queer role for his first acting job.
“When Ryan announced he’d hired me to play Emma’s boyfriend, he and I both received a lot of negative comments online,” he said, adding that “the gay community is the most supportive community in the world and also the quickest to cut you down.” No lies detected!
Kenworthy confessed to being hurt that critics were skeptical of his casting. “There were a lot of people saying, ‘Gus has no credits, no experience. How did he get this role?’” he recalled. “Some people wanted to know how I was cast as a straight man or if I could play straight.” Kenworthy argues that he “spent the first 23 years” of his life playing a straight man” and that every queer man “has the experience at some point in his life of pretending to be someone he’s not.” Who needs Stanislavsky when you’ve got a societal culture of homophobia!
The athlete explained that he knew from a young age that he was queer but pretended to be straight to advance as an athlete before coming out in 2015. “The stakes were so high,” he said. “I remember going to crazy lengths to make people believe I was someone I was not. That’s acting.”
Straight actors play gay characters all the time, Kenworthy reminded readers, but the reverse is early true. “Allowing a gay person to play that character does a lot in terms of visibility and breaking down perceptions and stereotypes,” he argued. “A gay actor playing straight is a big deal. There aren’t many openly gay actors getting cast in straight parts.”
Thankfully, Kenworthy concludes, things are changing, and he feels “lucky to have the opportunity to be part of that change.” Kenworthy now joins a pretigious lineage of gay actors who have played straight on AHS, including Zachary Quinto and Billy Eichner.
The slasher-themed AHS: 1984 premiered Wednesday night and airs every week on FX.