Discrimination | News

Straight Actor Confronts Discomfort With Playing Gay

FeemalesIn a piece that explores the darkest crevices of prejudice and ingrained discrimination, Nicholas Brown writes about his own discomfort playing gay for pay and being perceived as gay by strangers on the street.

Here is an excerpt from the piece, published at The Atlantic:

I am not gay. I have no shortage of gay friends. My uncle is gay. I've marched in a gay pride parade. More than half of the roommates I have lived with are gay. I support marriage equality.

So it comes as a shock to me when I realize that, actually, if I am honest with myself, I'm not comfortable with kissing another man on camera. I really don't want to book this part.

I don't want people to think I'm gay. And I'm even more uncomfortable because that isn't a thought that I want to have.

The article is not a man trying to justify a discomfort; rather, Brown goes on to study his own implicit prejudices and how we are all programmed with insidious messages and ideas about people, places and things.

"Psychologists at Harvard created a series of tests that measure your reaction time when you associate positive and negative concepts with different social groups," Brown writes. "The results give you an indication of how racist or sexist or ageist or generally prejudiced you are on a subconscious level."

"If you ever want to feel really wretched about what a big jerk you are, there are worse ways to do it than logging onto Harvard's Project Implicit." Maybe save that for a sunny day when you're in a really good mood?

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  1. May I be yhe first to call bullshite on this one.

    Oh no, I am an actor in 2012 and the mere thought of playing gay on screen freaks me out because no straight man has ever played gay.

    Posted by: Michael | Dec 27, 2012 6:34:43 PM

  2. I appreciate the guys' honesty. I'm sure lots of people feel that way, and he doesn't seem to harbor any ill thoughts towards gays.

    however -- he is an actor. What if his role is to play a murderer? Or a jerk? Larry Hagman played a scheming shyster on Dallas many years. Did people out in tvland think that Hagman is really a jerk in real life? Maybe yes, maybe no -- but it is what comes with the territory.

    Think of it this way -- if you were to play a hipster who gets all the girls, would you be upset if in real life you aren't that, but people think you are? Probably not, but as an actor you have to dissassociate yourself from your character, whether the character is good, evil, or just another sexual orientation. It's called professionalism, and he'd better get used to it if he wants a career.

    Posted by: Randy | Dec 27, 2012 6:37:19 PM

  3. I don't think this guy merits Michael's comment. By all indications, he's aware of the problem -- "I'm even more uncomfortable because that isn't a thought that I want to have."

    Sure, I'd love to live in a world in which no straight actor is ever afraid of playing a gay role. But we're not there yet, and we're only going to get there when straight actors confront these kinds of prejudices upfront, like this guy is doing. He might be hesitant about playing a gay role -- and despite it being 2012 it's not a gay paradise out there -- but he recognizes this hesitation and that it's bad.

    Posted by: Andrew | Dec 27, 2012 6:40:15 PM

  4. Then why doesn't this idiot quit auditioning for gay roles and let other actors (preferably actual gay people) take on these roles? Straight people don't need to be taking our roles anyway.

    Posted by: Foolish Pig | Dec 27, 2012 6:40:29 PM

  5. @Foolish Pig: If straight people don't need to take "our" roles, doesn't that mean that gay actors shouldn't take straight roles either? Seems to me that that's far from ideal.

    Posted by: Andrew | Dec 27, 2012 6:43:30 PM

  6. While I am not one to say that straight actors should not play gay, I do believe that an actor taking on a role must fully commit to a role. There's no way a guy feeling uncomfortable can do that. We have seen that on camera before. It make for bad acting. His personal issues aside, his admission means he shouldn't be taking on these roles. It does raise the question about why he would take the role. Is he doing it because its suppose to make us think "wow, what a great actor?" That's not what I feel with I read this. I feel "wow, what a bad actor."

    Posted by: Factoid | Dec 27, 2012 6:57:39 PM

  7. Oh, please, some of you. The guy is just being honest and is exploring his feelings in an open, transparant way and he doesn't deserve all your petty chastizing. He's UPFRONT, he's exploring his issues. I wish the rest of the culture would do this.

    We, as a gay culture, too, have a tendency to be superficial and judging. We are sometimes the opposite of what we preach. We need to explore that ourselves.

    Posted by: will | Dec 27, 2012 7:12:18 PM

  8. Unfortunately, given most actors are not straight yet not ever going to come out, this is the position we're in. In fact, there are as many gay/bi/non-straight actors who WONT play gay than straight actors that won't. Hollywood is both very gay yet, outside of some actors speaking out on their own accord, very awkwardly silent regarding homosexuality.

    I liked the article. It's a person looking into the mirror and questioning their own internalized bias and making an attempt to embrace the fact they feel this way and then do their part to change. I respect Nicholas Brown for that. He's representative of someone who is legitimately gay-accepting and not doing it for show.

    There is still bias. We still have gay people saying that gay actors cannot play straight, so given that's the case, it's clear there are still issues surrounding out gay actors being able to make a career in film. And in leading rolls. And basically, there is still a major glass closet. Society is a lot to blame for that. As society is becoming more accepting, things will improve. Many tend to think sex regarding anything gay, tend to think intimate/sexual relations, regardless of the circumstances. It revolves around insecurity and it's getting better, but we have a ways to go.

    Posted by: Francis | Dec 27, 2012 7:15:24 PM

  9. What Will said. Bite the guy's head off why don't you, bitches, instead of hooraying for a bit of honesty?

    Posted by: melvin | Dec 27, 2012 7:21:40 PM

  10. One of the problems with a site like this is some people like nuance.

    My criticism of the guy has nothing to do with being gay or straight.

    Its about whether he's a good actor or not.

    There are many gay actors who play straight all the time. You never know it. More than you realize. I could not imagine them saying, 'I have difficulties kissing a woman" even if its true because they are good actors.

    Not everything is gay versus straight, or more importantly, about some of your need to be validated by straights.

    I don't care if this guy is being honest because my criticism isn't about his honesty. Its a question about how good of an actor could he be if he can't act in roles that aren't like him? Other actors do it all the time. I don't need his validation about his issues about gayness even if you do.

    Posted by: nonapologies | Dec 27, 2012 8:09:33 PM

  11. By the way, let me emphasize something: One of the saddest aspects of gay mainstream media and those who follow it is the constant search for validation fro straights.

    Even when, if you think about it, what they are saying it isn't something that's particularly interesting or helpful to us. Do you really want actors playing gay roles who look uncomfortable in the roles on screen? I will bet you more people will see him being uncomfortable in the role than will care about this random statement he has made in an article.

    Posted by: nonapologies | Dec 27, 2012 8:13:51 PM

  12. I read Brown's self-indulgent, pay-attention-to-me piece and then looked for him on the Internet Movie Data Base. He doesn't appear there. Odd, for someone who is uncomfortable about playing gay on television. Then I looked at his actual resume. His film work includes such things playing Luc in "Tangiers" which you didn't see because it's a student film. He also played Luke in Marco Polo, which is also another film no one saw because it was a student film. He managed a third role in Clubscene, yet another a student film, though this one was at NYU. He is currently in post-production, playing Me1, Me2 and Me3 for a company called "Cobra Death Snake Productions." The only place they show up on the net is in his resume. You have as much chance of seeing his panache as you do seeing him in a role on television: gay or straight.

    Posted by: James Peron | Dec 27, 2012 8:38:16 PM

  13. James, did you miss the part where Brown said he was auditioning for A COMMERCIAL? Millions of actors just in the US, and not all of them get (or even want) TV or film work.

    Posted by: Jerry | Dec 27, 2012 9:17:45 PM

  14. I am glad I am not an actor, because, frankly, I would not want to do a love scene with a woman, or be mistaken for straight - So, I can empathize with him. :-) Since this is not his comfort zone, he should probably avoid auditioning for those parts - but I understand that since the market crash of '08, a tough environment for actors got a lot worse. I would not be surprised if, in time, his feelings change as he matures.

    (For the record, I am a cisgender gay male, in case the screen name is confusing.)

    Posted by: AngelaChanning | Dec 27, 2012 9:26:00 PM

  15. Ha. My thoughts exactly, James Peron. Some nobody being self-indulgent. As someone who has quite a few friends (actors) in this business with actual credits (and who are all straight), auditioning for a gay role isn't a big thing to them. They're more concerned with script, director, and budget.

    Posted by: unruly | Dec 27, 2012 9:26:30 PM

  16. I will keep this nonsensical and antiquated negativity far away from my reality in 2013.

    Posted by: niles | Dec 27, 2012 9:30:36 PM

  17. Oh Please..... Get over yourself Biatch... Actors need to create characters... not views.

    Posted by: John Normile | Dec 27, 2012 9:54:04 PM

  18. That is why most of your best actors are liberal. If you are a conservative, you are simply not willing to actually walk in someones else's shoes, if you don't like them or what they stand for.

    For instance Charlize Theron would never had been able to win an Oscar and a Golden Globe for the movie Monster had she not been willing to totally embrace her character and be willing to "live" in the mindset of the character.

    Posted by: Steve Pardue | Dec 27, 2012 9:59:34 PM

  19. If he was "exploring" how repulsed he was as a straight white man to play opposite a black woman in a role, I think there would be less sympathy. We might be quick to judge as a community, but many of us are also quick to embrace a straight guy who pays us some attention -- even if it's negative in tone.

    While I can TRY to appreciate his honesty, I'm not sure I have much patience left for bigots who think it's okay as long as they preface with a disclaimer, "Of course I just feel terrible for saying this...."

    My response? Then don't say it. These days, bigotry is best left unspoken until it dies from lack of attention. For the record, I don't want to hear how bad a KKK member feels about burning crosses, either.

    Posted by: sparks | Dec 27, 2012 10:00:37 PM

  20. Angel,

    You aren't an actor. No one is asking a non actor to kiss anyone. The point is: This guy IS an actor. So expectations of him are not the same the expectations of you.

    Posted by: nonapologies | Dec 27, 2012 10:38:18 PM

  21. NonApologies, I was making a joke, pumpkin...hence the smiley face emoticon. Thank you for confirming that I don't have to kiss anyone.

    Posted by: AngelaChanning | Dec 27, 2012 11:17:45 PM

  22. Easy solution: Don't play gay.

    Posted by: NE1 | Dec 27, 2012 11:30:49 PM

  23. angel

    1. It ain't about you.

    2. I just thought you were unusually happy to give your opinion about not kissing.

    Posted by: nonapologies | Dec 28, 2012 12:07:48 AM

  24. Nicholas Brown's discomfort as a heterosexual man playing gay is quite understandable, and he should not apologize for it. As a Kinsey 6 gay man I would find it equally or probably more uncomfortable to play a straight man who has to kiss/make out with a woman. He should not let the PC types make him feel guilty about his natural feelings.

    Posted by: andrew | Dec 28, 2012 12:41:39 AM

  25. Just another nobody homophobe trying to generate some publicity for a non existant career. Who knows? Maybe if he aims really high he can be the next Kirk Cameron.

    Posted by: Molc | Dec 28, 2012 1:59:53 AM

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