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Heroes Producer Speaks Out on Axing of Gay Character Zach

Last December, after a series of marketing efforts that appeared to hype Zach (played by Thomas Dekker), one of the characters on the hit show Heroes, as gay, NBC suddenly appeared to pull the plug on it.

Zach_2Now, Heroes executive producer Bryan Fuller tells website popgurls the story behind the controversy and reveals that Dekker's manager said she would pull him from the show because he was up for a role on FOX and she was afraid that his playing a gay character would affect the network's decision to hire him.

Says Fuller: "[Making Zach gay was] absolutely was a path that we were going to take. In the first meetings when we were sitting down and talking about the show, one of the things about the show that Tim said that he wanted all these characters to represent different people in the world and we had an Asian guy and an Indian guy and… a whole bunch of white people. He just wanted it to be a united Benetton cast. I said that's fantastic, but if we have this many people, then we need to have a gay character. If you want to represent the world, that's certainly a demographic that we need to hit. [Tim completely agreed and] was thinking Claire's best friend might be a good person – and I couldn't agree more. So we were definitely going down a route of making [Zach] the gay character and having him have a big role in her life and sort of teaching her to come out about her ability and embrace herself and actually using the coming out metaphor and the gay metaphor in that instance as a fun piece of storytelling."

Bryan_fullerHe adds: "There was an unfortunate miscommunication and when the script arrived that had the line in it, 'I would take you to homecoming but you have to know that I don't like girls that way.' The actor [Thomas Dekker]'s, manager threatened to pull him from the show because he was up for the John Carter role in The Sarah Connor Chronicles and she didn't want him playing a gay character because it might affect FOX's interest in hiring him. It got really ugly...

...It's unfortunate and really – we only took one line out of the script. In really, in all of our minds, the character was still gay but we couldn't say it explicitly. I was very upset by it – I was not happy about it at all. There were times I had to avoid talking about it because we didn't want to have a negative reflection on the show. The show's been such a positive experience for so many people, we didn't want to get hung up on the fact that one actor's management felt that it was a career killer for him to play a homosexual which, as a gay man, I found incredibly insulting. We had episodes planned for him to be in, and she pulled him from the show altogether. So that's why he sort of disappeared."


PopGurls Interview: Heroes Bryan Fuller [popgurls]

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  1. They should have recast the part. Find a kid that looked like the actor and show his homophobic manager how it works.

    The manager should be fired.

    Posted by: Bobby | Apr 23, 2007 1:26:20 PM

  2. I really want to know how the actor feels about the whole situation, so I know whether to boycott anything he's ever in for the rest of his career, or whether I should just despise his manager.

    Posted by: Dan E | Apr 23, 2007 1:29:23 PM


    It's not like other characters in past shows haven't been replaced by different actors and I am quite certain there are other actors with gay-positive management that would be MORE than happy to take the role.

    Posted by: FizziekruntNT | Apr 23, 2007 1:33:33 PM

  4. Bobby got it right.

    The heartfelt statement lands a little weak.

    Why would they just not recast the part or simply make another charater gay?

    Seems like a limp way of passing the buck.Its not like he's the only actor in hollywood, or that writers can no longer create a new character.

    something smells here.

    Posted by: rich | Apr 23, 2007 1:34:11 PM

  5. can't wait to hear who the actor management really pathetic

    Posted by: matty | Apr 23, 2007 1:38:23 PM

  6. Props to a degree for what Fuller had planned to do, but it would have been even more representative "of the world" if one of the actual "heroes" were gay or lesbian. And, for that matter, there's only one "of color" [not counting the Indian], and he's "Haitian" for Pete's sake—sounds like an old AIDS "joke."

    Just as society at large still sees us as second-class citizens, too many in Follywood still see us as supporting characters, scenery, "color," site gags. "Will" and "Jack" are still the exception not the rule.

    As as long as I'm ranting, when is GLAAD or AfterElton or SOMEONE going to complain about the gay stereotypes Mark Gay Repug Cherry still keeps minting up "Desperate Housewives" with? Last night it was a blink and you missed "her" "gay real estate agent" flaming so high I'm surprised "she" didn't singe Carlos and Edie's pubic hair when she discovered them in bed. Plus, you see, in TV & Movie Land, heteros fuck while gay capons strut and shriek about.

    Well, I suppose it was better than the gay male serial child molestor discovered by Housewive het heroine Lynette.

    Posted by: Leland | Apr 23, 2007 1:41:04 PM

  7. A quick check of a listings service says Dekker's manager is:
    Mimi DiTrani
    Untitled Entertainment
    331 N. Maple Drive 2nd Floor
    Beverly Hills CA 90210
    Phone: 310-601-2100
    FAX: 310-601-2344
    I would suggest if anyone disagrees with her rationale, you write her a polite note. I think decisions like hers are very commonplace and are based on assumed fallout for playing gay roles. All it would take is calling people on their bullshit publicly to encourage most of them to think twice before allowing fear of the unknown to inadvertently send negative messages about being gay to audiences. Keep in mind, the listing could be wrong. But I doubt it.

    Posted by: All About Mimi | Apr 23, 2007 1:41:53 PM

  8. If his manager had watched 'Three's Company' she'd know that playing gay can score a guy a really sweet pad with two awesome babes in a rent-controlled apartment in Santa Monica.

    Posted by: peterparker | Apr 23, 2007 1:46:47 PM

  9. Funny, Peter! :- )

    Posted by: Leland | Apr 23, 2007 1:50:52 PM

  10. They should have replaced the actor. Plain and simple. The actor, however young, must be held responsible for the choice made. The manager's statement is also something SHE needs to be held responsible for. Homophobia is rampant in Hollywood. But small - positve - steps are being taking place everyday -- but bear in mind adversity of any kind can be just as positive in its own way, as positive as any actor (straight or gay) embracing a "gay" role. Let's all keep fighting the good fight. Goodness will win over stupidity. It just takes time and time is on our side.

    Posted by: DJ | Apr 23, 2007 1:53:05 PM

  11. Heroes is a great show and I watch it religiously. Why do we care if there is a gay character or not? It has nothing to do with the story line.

    I also can't blame this actor for not wanting to be type casted as gay. A previous post here stated he had already played a gay character. Look at the boy from Eating Out. He pretty much only plays gay roles now...even a gay pig. LOL.

    Posted by: Matt | Apr 23, 2007 1:55:32 PM

  12. Actually there are two black heroes (Nikki's husband, whose name I forget, in addition to the Haitian), as well as a multi-racial kid hero, and multiple inter-racial romances. So yeah, I'd say they're doing pretty well on the whole race issue.

    As a sidenote, I liked the flamingly gay real estate agent-- I thought he was a hoot-- and I think it's foolish to suggest that flamingly gay characters be somehow banned from television. Let's not forget that desperate housewives also has a gay teenager who doesn't conform to mainstream gay stereotypes, and who may, at this point, be one of the most sane characters on the show.

    Posted by: Dan E | Apr 23, 2007 2:06:05 PM

  13. I agree 100%. There are flaming gay men just like that in real life. Are we embarassed about these sections of our community. The gay teenager role seems well without sterotypical nuances seen in Jack and any other flaming character.

    Posted by: Matt | Apr 23, 2007 2:17:06 PM

  14. Dan, do you really believe Andrew is "one the most sane charachters" on Desperate Housewives? I don't know how it is on the third season but he hasn't been very sane on the two previous.

    Posted by: Fernando | Apr 23, 2007 2:17:52 PM

  15. I never watch the show, so I can't comment on the characters, however I agree with the common response: Recast the part with someone who's manager is not so hung up on gay issues.

    Such a shame; things have never been the same over at Fux since Thelma turned dyke on "The Simpsons".

    Posted by: Rad | Apr 23, 2007 2:18:22 PM

  16. It's so interesting that no one has mentioned that Hiro Nakamura (who the show is NAMED AFTER fer cryin' out loud) is actually not a white person. That, combined with the "not counting the Indian" remark, makes me wonder if there's a bit of anti-Asian sentiment out there.

    As far as that kid's manager goes - whether or not she made a bad business decision will depend on her client's success. I'm interested to see what happens.

    Posted by: Zlexar | Apr 23, 2007 2:27:41 PM

  17. His manager shouldn't be fired for being so offensively narrow-minded, she should be fired for having no bloody clue what an actor is.

    Posted by: Rascal | Apr 23, 2007 2:29:46 PM

  18. I find it insulting that in this day and age, a multi-cultural cast is considered to be "Benetton" instead of, um, oh I don't know..REAL LIFE?! How fucking "white" of him to have an Asian and an Indian! WOW! "Don't want to get too crazy with an ethnic cast, the white folks watching may not be able to handle it!"
    If they still can't cast people of color equally in 2007, then don't expect fair gay representation to happen anytime soon.

    Posted by: soulbrotha | Apr 23, 2007 2:30:19 PM

  19. In the most recent season, Andrew actually becomes very sane. It's an over-the-top soap opera, so complete character transformations aren't that unusual!

    And yea, I wasn't counting Hiro or Mohinder because I was responding to a rant about Heroes "of color," which I took to be a shorthand for Black/African American. But as I said, I think Heroes does pretty well with the whole minority thing (except, perhaps, that there does appear to be a shortage of significant female characters, in comparison to significant male characters).

    Posted by: Dan E | Apr 23, 2007 2:31:42 PM

  20. It's too bad they had to recast the actress who plays Thelma.

    If what Fuller says is true, Dekker and his management made a big mistake. "Sarah Connor Chronicles" is going to be D.O.A. We'll see whose left holding the bag.

    Posted by: Tiger | Apr 23, 2007 2:34:35 PM

  21. soulbrotha--

    of the recurring characters in Heroes, you have three african americans (four if you count the inter-racial child, though one, and the only woman among them, recently died), one indian, and two japanese (three if you count Sulu!!). You can nitpick at the word choice of the producer if you want, but when it comes to actually having a multicultural set of characters on a show, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find one that does a better job than Heroes.

    Posted by: dan e | Apr 23, 2007 2:36:14 PM

  22. Somebody named Mimi DiTrannie should not be going around freaking out about gay roles.

    Posted by: Gregoire | Apr 23, 2007 2:36:37 PM

  23. why would an agent choose Fox over NBC ??
    and the actor had no voice in this ??

    Posted by: A.J. | Apr 23, 2007 2:42:04 PM

  24. Matt,

    With every post you continue to amaze me with your homophobia and your ignorance. You are clearly either a heterosexual troll or a very young gay guy who hasn't yet shed his preconceived notions (all negative) about gay people. Either way, I think you could benefit from some professional help.

    As for the dangers of an actor playing gay, you might want to do a little casual research on actors who have played gay in the past and what it has done for their careers. Jake Gyllenhaal's career doesn't seem to be suffering despite the fact that he played gay in the highest profile film of 2005. Ditto Heath Ledger. Speaking of high profile films of 2005, Philip Seymour Hoffman snagged an Academy Award for playing one of the gayest gays of modern gaydom in his role as Truman Capote in the film 'Capote'. Catherine Deneuve seems to be doing alright, this despite a role not only as a lesbian, but a lesbian VAMPIRE in 'The Hunger'. And look at Jon Voight...he played gay-ish in 'Midnight Cowboy' and now he's Angelina Jolie's dad! (Never mind that she's too busy saving orphans to speak to him.) And since you brought up playing gay twice, I'll bring up Forest Whitaker. In 1992 Whitaker starred in 'The Crying Game', a film in which he courted a transgendered woman (unbeknownst to him) and flirted heavily with another male character played by Stephen Rea. He followed that with a role in 1994 as a gay clothing designer in Robert Altman's 'Ready to Wear'. And then won an Academy Award for Best Actor in his role as Idi Amin in 'The Last King of Scotland'. Yep, playing gay seems *terrible* for an actor's career.

    P.S.--I have some friends who are psychotherapists who could rid you of that nasty homophobia.


    Posted by: peterparker | Apr 23, 2007 2:43:57 PM

  25. Matty, I watch the show too. I do care if there is a gay character--there should be at least one gay character on a show that pretends to represent a cross section of the general population. But, even more, I care that there was going to be a gay character and everyone seems to have woosed out on it. I care that for the first several episodes it seemed that the character was gay--then suddenly he wasn't--and now he seems to have dissapeared without an explanation. I do care about things like this. I care about the timidity here, especially in an era when there are a lot of gay characters on shows, gay and straight actors who play gay characters on shows. There are also actors who play gay characters and then go on to play all kinds of different roles. In regards to the single actor you brought up as an example--I think that has more to do with the actor's (lack of) talent and his persona.

    Posted by: Daniel | Apr 23, 2007 2:44:28 PM

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