actresses Straight Actors Describe Their Experiences Playing Gay Characters  

Donn Saylor
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Straight actors are often cast as gay characters, even though in the early days of film, gay plot lines were largely off limits. However, as both Hollywood and the larger public have evolved, more same-sex stories have appeared on the big screen.

There has been a push for openly gay actors to be cast in gay roles, but an overwhelming amount of straight actors still land these parts. Some of those heterosexual actors talked about playing members of the LGBTQ+ community. Some eagerly embraced the challenge; others were hesitant.

Straight actors used to be persecuted for playing homosexual characters. Society seem to be beyond those dismissive behaviors, though. If anything, straight actors have been lauded for portraying characters with different orientations than their own. And now, the actors who played gay characters have a lot to say.


Benedict Cumberbatch is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Straight Actors Describe Their Experiences Playing Gay Characters
Photo:  The Weinstein Company

"For me there’s explicit love in the film, and the fact of his sexuality being homosexual doesn’t make any difference. If it would have added to the film, we’d have done it. I’d have no qualms about filming those scenes, expressing that side of a character’s relationship to his body."

- Benedict Cumberbatch, The Telegraph

Age: 41

Birthplace: Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom

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Meryl Streep is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Straight Actors Describe Their Experiences Playing Gay Characters
Photo:  The Hours/Paramount Pictures

"To me, I mean, Angels is such an important piece of history, and I felt really lucky to be part of that because I don’t think there was anything like it before. It really felt like being at the Democratic National Convention in the moment that Hillary shattered the glass ceiling – a big deal. The Hours was important too. And of course I got to kiss Allison Janney, which was a perk!...

[When I got Manhattan], I thought, 'Well, this is a one-off; they’ll never ask me [to do another movie] again.' I was fine with that. I was happy in the theater. And in the theater I had lots of gay friends and my longtime collaborator Roy Helland is gay. I’ve grown up with gay people and been in love with gay people."

- Meryl Streep, PrideSource

Age: 68

Birthplace: Summit, New Jersey, United States of America

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Heath Ledger is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Straight Actors Describe Their Experiences Playing Gay Characters
Photo:  Focus Features

"It was certainly a surreal moment the first time I had to kiss Jake [Gyllenhaal], but once that was done, I quickly realized that it didn't make me want to run out and do it again. And you think, OK, what's the next shot? Those scenes were just a small part of the package."

- Heath Ledger, The Guardian

Age: Died at 29 (1979-2008)

Birthplace: Perth, Australia

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Daniel Radcliffe is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Straight Actors Describe Their Experiences Playing Gay Characters
Photo:  Sony Pictures Classics

"People express love differently, person to person, but it’s not gender or sexuality related. The only difference it made was obviously the actual sex scene, of course... I was talked through it by the director. He would be telling me what I would be feeling in each take. Basically, gay sex, especially for the first time, is really f*cking painful. And [the director] said that he had never seen that portrayed accurately on film before. He wanted it to look like an authentic loss of virginity."

- Daniel Radcliffe, Flaunt

Age: 28

Birthplace: Fulham, London, England

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