News | Sean Hayes

Sean Hayes: 'I Always Felt I Owed the Gay Community an Apology for Coming Out Too Late'

Sean Hayes tells the L.A. Times that early controversy over his Will and Grace character Jack McFarland being "too gay" made him go back into the closet with the media:

HayesI was so young. It made me go back in the closet [with the media] because I was so overwhelmed at 26 or 27. I didn't want the responsibility, I didn't know how to handle the responsibility of speaking for the gay community. I always felt like I owed them a huge apology for coming out too late. Some people in the gay community were very upset with me for not coming out on their terms. They don't stop to think about what's going on in somebody's personal life, and the struggles that they're having. It was all very scary. We got death threats. It was a really rough time for me, but I was also having the time of my life.

Hayes eventually came out publicly in March 2010.

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  1. What you have to realize about celebrities is that it's always -- always -- about them.

    Posted by: Richard | Oct 26, 2013 4:48:11 PM

  2. Death threats? For not coming out? Seems legit.

    I don't need an apology. It's too late, really. Just do good work.

    Posted by: Randy | Oct 26, 2013 5:23:02 PM

  3. wait... Sean Hayes is gay?? He doesn't just play it on TV?? SHOCKing!

    Posted by: dj | Oct 26, 2013 5:30:34 PM

  4. That explanation makes no sense - He was out even earlier way back in Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss days - so several YEARS later he goes back in? Whatever dude - still not watching your lame sitcom.

    Posted by: warmsun | Oct 26, 2013 5:30:38 PM

  5. I don't blame Sean at all. In his case, waiting may have been the best decision not just for him but for gay rights.
    He and Eric McCormack were playing the two most visible gay characters on TV from late 1998 to 2006. The fictional version of Ellen had been the most visible gay character for 1997.
    Ellen probably could not have made the same impact if she had come out as gay earlier (because she would not have been given a chance as a gay actress or to create a character who was known to be gay from the start. She established a following (some of which started out as homophobic), and THEN came out once the viewers knew and loved both her and the character. Some people think tgat the dhow didn't last much longer because at that time a gay character played by a gay actress doing gay storylines was too much "gay" in one show for Americans who were just only starting to realize that gay people exist.
    Likewise, two gay characters on Will and Grace was enough to make half of the South's heads explode in 1998. We didn't need to add a gay actor onto W&G's credentials for it to make its impact.

    Posted by: GregV | Oct 26, 2013 5:41:23 PM

  6. People should be able to come out on their own terms. It's nobody's damned business but their own. I'm really tired of "they need to come out to inspire young people." Leave people alone to be who they want to be in the place that they are.

    Posted by: Joseph Singer | Oct 26, 2013 5:51:30 PM

  7. Cut him some slack. I can believe he was getting death threats for being on “Will & Grace.” Oh, and since when is every gay actor - closeted or not - required to be a spokesperson?

    Posted by: colin | Oct 26, 2013 6:02:15 PM

  8. As others have pointed out, he was out before he was in. When he could have spoken out, he had money and resources to get all of the psychological help he needed to deal with any issues he had.

    Remember, Will & Grace was on for EIGHT years.

    The only reason he's speaking out now is to try and get us behind him to help keep his show on the air.

    Posted by: Eric | Oct 26, 2013 6:19:26 PM

  9. Sadly, many gay people have no empathy. Not everyone is mentally and emotionally able to handle being an activist. Colin is right...being an actor (or an Olympic athlete) does not mean a person has to become an activist.

    We've come a long way in a short time. Perhaps people forget that. If Mr. Hayes were out during "Will and Grace", his orientation would have the topic of every interview. (It's important to note that interviews are part of an actor's, that's a situation he could not avoid.)

    Through work, I've met quite a few actors. Many have seemed quite insecure, which is not a good trait for an activist. Leave activism to people that excel at it: folks like Dan Choi or Chris Kluwe.

    Posted by: alex | Oct 26, 2013 6:25:02 PM

  10. I love the guy. He is incredibly talented. The writing and delivery on his new show is top-notch. I know when a show is good when I laugh and keep laughing. I want the show to work, to continue so we see more of Sean. He has a wit that comes along only every once in a while. He never had to come out to me - he was always out.

    Posted by: Mike Ryan | Oct 26, 2013 6:27:11 PM

  11. Sorry but can he just fall off the media radar?

    I lost all respect for him when he tried to blame NBC for his flailing sitcom. Take some responsibility Sean. Your sitcom sucks. Stop trying to pass the buck to someone else.

    Posted by: Michael | Oct 26, 2013 6:42:18 PM

  12. He owes no body an apology for when he decided to came out. It is a personal decision and anyone saying he should have come out early is an idiot.

    Posted by: Perry | Oct 26, 2013 6:42:40 PM

  13. I love the holier-than-thou on here. Guys who have nothing at stake are acting as if they are superior for being out (if they really are). Although I was out in 1974, I would have done exactly what he did - and what he did was great for the gay community. Sometimes when I read these comments I totally undestand where zombie movies come from.
    No one thinks about results or solutions but just how to judge someone else and feel superior. Whenever you're feeling superior stop and think - you're probably missing the point.

    Posted by: Markt | Oct 26, 2013 6:42:42 PM

  14. Who cares...really?

    When wasn't he an out obviously GAY MAN?

    Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss and Will & Grace wasn't even acting.

    Gurlina please...the gay lisp out of his mouth and fem mannerism were not acting either...they are and were a part of his personality and who he is and who he always has been....A GAY MAN!...geez...DUH!

    This just sounds like PR crap to get attention for his new failing boring lame ass show.


    Posted by: Bigun | Oct 26, 2013 6:58:48 PM

  15. Everyone needs to come out on their own terms, in their own time. When someone comes out, there is nothing owed to anyone else, it's a journey of self.

    Posted by: Christopher | Oct 26, 2013 7:05:49 PM

  16. Good on ya, Sean - I don't think anyone could comprehend the ride you and the others were on during W&G. I believe you did the best you could at the time.
    But your new show sucks. You need to put a stake in it and start over.

    Posted by: bozemanmontana | Oct 26, 2013 7:07:24 PM

  17. I don't recall any incidents of him ever saying anything negative about being gay or about other gay people. I only have problems with closeted people who use their non-out status to attack or work against gays or gay rights.

    He's fine. Nice of him to share this now, though. It's not required, but it's classy.

    Posted by: Lymis | Oct 26, 2013 7:34:14 PM

  18. "Everyone needs to come out on their own terms, in their own time."

    So how does tat work with him? He was out when he made "Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss" then when he was cast on "Will & Grace" he was in the closet. Now with this new failed sitcom he's out again.

    Some "terms"!

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Oct 26, 2013 7:38:16 PM

  19. It may seem silly now but W&G premiered the season after Ellen came out and then her show tanked, got canceled, and her career imploded. She came out of that okay but it took awhile. Meanwhile no doubt everyone around him was telling him not to be out. Actors are still being told that coming out will ruin their careers. It's easy for me to second-guess what he should have done but I'm not sure I wouldn't have done the same thing.

    Posted by: Houndentenor | Oct 26, 2013 7:42:09 PM

  20. Really you know 90% of people have never heard of Sean pre Will and Grace or ever heard of Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss?

    Posted by: Kelly | Oct 26, 2013 7:48:38 PM

  21. A lot of people including myself lost a great deal of respect for him when he lied about not being gay after staring in a long-running hit show playing a gay character. It was a missed opportunity in which instead of being an example of self-esteem, he showed shame for being an effeminate gay man.

    Effeminate guys are just as hot as the masculine ones, I'm sick of all this shaming out there. It's worse when gay men enforce this shame upon each other.

    Also, I agree 100% with Richard's comment: "What you have to realize about celebrities is that it's always -- always -- about them." SO true.

    Posted by: Ulu | Oct 26, 2013 8:15:34 PM

  22. I always take "a walk in my shoes" attitude about such things. What happens after someone comes out is far more important, because then you have the potential to be a role model for a whole new generation.

    Posted by: Fox | Oct 26, 2013 8:48:04 PM

  23. I like Sean but seriously... at 26 or 27 he didn't want the responsibility? Sure glad the teenagers standing up for themselves and other LGBT aren't waiting until they're middle-aged to take some responsibility.

    Posted by: sparks | Oct 26, 2013 8:58:50 PM

  24. Oh how convenient.. His new sitcom is tanking and he's suddenly dropping a personal bombshell.. Someone's PR team is working overtime. BARF..

    Posted by: Scott Jake | Oct 26, 2013 9:07:34 PM

  25. @Ulu: You look like you're basing your opinions on some comments made by some anonymous poster who was making assumptions.
    I have never seen ANY believable source claim that Sean has claimed not to be gay or has belittled effeminate men of any orientation.

    I also find it very telling that the critics who say a celebrity is not "out" enough are almost universally people who speak anonymously.
    A commenter who is unwilling to sign his/her posts with a real first and last name with a link to his/her own Facebook profile or blog has no business telling someone else that he is too closeted.

    Posted by: GregV | Oct 26, 2013 10:03:03 PM

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