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. People forget how controversial Will and Grace was at the time. I'm not surprised there were death threats. At 27 I had just barely "come out" to myself, I can't imagine the pressure of Hollywood with a career just taking off and threats on top of that. I don't see any reason to second guess Sean Hayes for making the choices he did at the time.

    Posted by: jrex | Oct 26, 2013 10:07:58 PM

  2. I'll speak for myself. You speak for yourself Sean. That's how it is supposed to be.

    Posted by: Tone | Oct 26, 2013 10:32:24 PM

  3. I've met him and seen how he treats people, and I don't care about whether he was out. He was just a jackass. About the rudest celebrity I've ever seen.

    Posted by: Paul R | Oct 26, 2013 10:34:40 PM

  4. I guess half the people on here weren't even alive, or at least not paying attention when Will and grace premiered. The changes in the world since then are drastic. This show was a BIG deal! a gay male character had never headlined a network show before. There were protests, and boycott campaigns, and general hysteria...except the anti gay sentiment was much more prevalent (as a percentage of population) than it is now. To be honest, a lot of progress made in attitudes towards gay people has some source in Will and Grace. people underestimate the impact of a funny show, being welcomed into the homes of millions of people, can have on public opinion.
    We, as a community, owe a little bit of gratitude to everyone involved in that show. They tolerated a lot and took a lot of risks to be part of it, the were activists, just by appearing in the show. I understand Sean's desire to have the focus on the show, and not his personal life. It would have changed the dynamic from a show about a gay man, to the show with the gay actor...and I don't know if that would have played as well.

    Posted by: Chris | Oct 26, 2013 10:35:37 PM

  5. His sitcom is one of the worst I have ever seen. So disappointing because it has a great cast. But sadly Sean is the weak link.

    Posted by: Roche | Oct 26, 2013 10:40:56 PM

  6. Sean should take my approach and just pretend like the mean, annoying people don't exist. When in doubt, just ignore people. It works.

    Posted by: daws | Oct 26, 2013 11:26:20 PM

  7. His new show is as bad as W&G was good. It's misconceived and horribly written and directed. It's not the fault of the actors, including Sean. Except that he thinks it's great and it's all NBC's fault for not publicising it or having other weak shows or something.

    W & G deserved the criticism it got for Will being a kind of not gay gay guy with a primary relationship being with a woman. But that's how they got people to watch it. It ended up in the top ten for years. It had lots of gay material anyway and it was sharp and funny and everything worked. And geing popular it was very important in the progress of gay people in the US.

    Oh, and the reason Ellen's show's ratings went in the toilet after she came out is that the show went in the toilet. Over the first seasons it changed a lot, new characters introduced and others gotten rid of etc, and really improved. It was interesting to see how it changed - like a new play in rehearsals and previews with a good director and the writer working on it.

    Then the character came out and she left the apartment and maybe the bookstore (a sitcom like that needs central places for various characters to interact) and it became all tedious stuff about being a gay woman. Not that that is necessarily tedious, but it was.

    Posted by: emjayay | Oct 26, 2013 11:42:27 PM

  8. Sean's character in Will and Grace was too camp, not too gay. Maybe we were offended by the stereotype of the gay court jester designed to ridicule male homosexuality. Breeders loved him for that reason.

    Posted by: brett | Oct 27, 2013 1:08:13 AM

  9. He was "26 or 27" when "early controversy" about his W&G character hit?

    I'll say this for Sean -- he's a lot funnier as himself than he ever was on TV.

    Posted by: Mark | Oct 27, 2013 1:58:18 AM

  10. We love you and we forgive you, Silly Sean. Now go back to Broadway to sing for your supper.

    Posted by: Sam | Oct 27, 2013 2:22:07 AM

  11. So many ridiculous comments I don't even know where to start. Yes, there are brave teenagers today...but times, while still difficult, are marginally easier to come out young as it was in the 1980's.
    And my name is Sean...I attended Illinois State University-same school, class as Sean Hayes..I vaguely remember him. I also grew up in the same region as Sean. It was the 80's, there were not that many people in the Midwest that were out. And like Sean, I waited until only a few years ago to come out publicly. And like Sean, it wasn't really a surprise to anybody, so what's the matter here?
    No, I'm not a celebrity, but I also was overly concerned with my own reputation. Celebrities don't owe me anything-the people closest to me do.
    Like Sean, I regret it, but it was my personal decision and is not for anyone else to judge-I can judge myself pretty harshly on my own, thank you.

    Posted by: Sean | Oct 27, 2013 2:44:06 AM

  12. Nobody speaks for "the gay community" Sean. We're individuals. Just like straights -- nobody speaks for them.

    Posted by: Knock | Oct 27, 2013 4:11:25 AM

  13. 26 or 27?? LOL!! Who is he kidding? He was 28 when the show started and 36 when it ended.

    Posted by: Nellie | Oct 27, 2013 7:01:35 AM

  14. So many nasty judgemental American trolls.

    Posted by: Betty Treacle | Oct 27, 2013 7:13:10 AM

  15. How judgemental of you Betty.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Oct 27, 2013 9:38:24 AM

  16. Thanks, Sean. Apology accepted, sincerely.

    Posted by: Ken | Oct 27, 2013 9:56:56 AM

  17. who cares?

    Posted by: dandiwer | Oct 27, 2013 11:07:45 AM

  18. Don't worry, Sean. We do what we gotta do. It probably was overwhelming and many of us don't want to be a "spokesperson" for a community whose own diversity is so great that it is nigh impossible for there to be "one voice" that can speak for us all.

    Posted by: jamal49 | Oct 27, 2013 12:28:28 PM

  19. Agree in part with awesome posting and quoted

    "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 ... " previous post by Michael Oct 26


    Posted by: RichB in PS | Oct 27, 2013 12:35:23 PM

  20. I can understand not being out when the show was first on. But once it was an established hit, and Sean hit his 30s, there was no reason to stay in the closet. And it wasn't just a glass closet, he held himself out as a straight man playing a gay character.

    Posted by: Clem | Oct 27, 2013 2:09:43 PM

  21. Apologize for The Three Stooges.
    Then we'll talk.

    Posted by: Gymbo | Oct 27, 2013 2:09:48 PM

  22. Selfish is not him deciding when he was ready to come out (whether it be a personal, professional, or financial reason). Selfish is other people acting as the moral compass of when and why people should come out. Mind your own business and let people live their own lives like you want anti-gay people to mind their own business when it comnes to you.

    Posted by: Carl | Oct 27, 2013 2:22:39 PM

  23. I never understood the criticisms of Jack McFarland being "too gay" - Will & Grace was a show I watched as a teenager. Know what I saw in Jack? What I wanted to be - a gay man who lived and experienced everything with an ebullient sense of joy; bursting from his every pore. That's what I saw. Not a caricature. Not a mere "Stereotype" - but a gay man living his own gay life on his own gay terms, no concessions to the world of anti-gay bigots and their baseless illogical demands for behavior or appearance.

    Some people see a stereotype and have a knee-jerk negative response to it. As a teenager, I saw what I wanted to be: someone who burst with the life I was at the time trying to hide.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Oct 27, 2013 2:37:57 PM

  24. You wanted to be a vapid, shallow, self-obsessed leech? The character was hilarious at times, but nobody should be emulating him.

    Posted by: Knock | Oct 27, 2013 6:52:56 PM

  25. I am sick and tired of the gay community putting pressure on people to come out as if this will make people like us. Really, really like us.
    Also the old stand by that gay youth will feel empowered.
    The problem is and will always be the church and their teachings and individuals who use gay people to get ahead in politics.
    I find many gay people to be suspect in urging others to come out. It's as if they think they have a disease and they want to find comfort in others who suffer the same faith or they are resentful that someone wants to be a success in their chosen career.

    Posted by: Herman | Oct 27, 2013 9:02:15 PM

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