British television mogul Russell T. Davies, the mind behind Queer as Folk, the Doctor Who revival, and Years and Years, spoke recently about casting for gay roles and why he only wants to see gay actors fill them.
“I’m not being woke about this,” Davies told the Radio Times in an interview, “but I feel strongly that if I cast someone in a story, I am casting them to act as a lover, or an enemy, or someone on drugs or a criminal or a saint… they are not there to 'act gay' because 'acting gay' is a bunch of codes for a performance. It’s about authenticity, the taste of 2020."
"You wouldn’t cast someone able-bodied and put them in a wheelchair,” he continued. “You wouldn’t Black someone up. Authenticity is leading us to joyous places."
Davies’ latest project, It’s a Sin, stars Olly Alexander, Neil Patrick Harris, and Stephen Fry, among others, and follows a group of young gay men in 1980’s London as they learn firsthand about the AIDS epidemic.
The creator hasn’t always cast out actors for his queer roles. While Queer as Folk featured some gay actors, most of the main characters were played by straight actors like Aiden Gillen, Charlie Hunnam, Jason Merrells, and Craig Kelly. Everyone is allowed the space to evolve though, and 2021 may present a chance for a new way of thinking.
The issue of whether or not straight actors should play gay roles has been a hot topic lately with everyone from Henry Golding to Dan Levy and Billy Eichner offering their opinions on the issue. Jim Parsons recently said his piece about it.
“There’s definitely this spectrum,” he said in an interview. “It’s important that gay characters are portrayed as well-rounded and completely human individuals.”