Only gay actors should play gay characters, says Russell T Davies

Only gay actors should play gay characters because you ‘wouldn’t black someone up’, says former Doctor Who screenwriter Russell T Davies

  • Russell T Davies said all gay characters his latest drama are played by gay actors 
  • It’s a Sin follows 3 gay men who arrive in London in 1981, at start of HIV epidemic
  • Davies said directors must cast gay men as you ‘wouldn’t black someone up’

Only gay actors should play gay characters in film and television, critically-acclaimed screenwriter Russell T Davies (pictured) has insisted

Only gay actors should play gay characters in film and television, critically-acclaimed screenwriter Russell T Davies has insisted. 

Davies said all the gay characters in his upcoming Channel 4 drama It’s A Sin are played by gay actors because it is the only way to ensure an authentic portrayal.

The series follows the tragic stories of three gay 18-year-olds who arrive in London in 1981, at the beginning of the HIV epidemic, and its star-studded cast includes Olly Alexander, Neil Patrick Harris, and Stephen Fry.

Davies – who revived Doctor Who in 2005 – said directors must cast gay men to play gay male roles as you ‘wouldn’t black someone up’ in the modern day.

He insisted he’s ‘not being woke about this’ and said the idea of ‘acting gay’ is  just a ‘bunch of codes for a performance’ and is not an authentic portrayal.

Straight actors portraying gay roles have been blasted by critics for years – with several accused of using harmful stereotypes.

The actor most recently in the firing line was James Corden in his role as gay Broadway star Barry Glickman in Netflix’s The Prom.

Straight actors portraying gay roles have been blasted by critics for years – with several accused of using harmful stereotypes. The actor most recently in the firing line was James Corden in his role as gay Broadway star Barry Glickman in Netflix’s The Prom (pictured alongside co-star Meryl Streep)

Davies told Radio Times: ‘I’m not being woke about this but I feel strongly that if I cast someone in a story, I am casting them to act as a lover, or an enemy, or someone on drugs or a criminal or a saint.

‘They are not there to “act gay” because “acting gay” is a bunch of codes for a performance.’

He added: ‘You wouldn’t cast someone able-bodied and put them in a wheelchair, you wouldn’t black someone up.’

Davies said his latest project It’s A Sin – which began filming in October 2019 – is loosely influenced by his own life.

The writer, who is gay, was just 18 when the HIV crisis began in 1981, but he did not contract the disease.

Davies – who revived Doctor Who in 2005 – said directors must cast gay men to play gay male roles as you ‘wouldn’t black someone up’ in the modern day. Other films criticised for actors playing gay roles include Tom Hanks in Philadelphia (pictured)

Queer as Folk – about the lives of three men in Manchester – was Davies’ first gay TV drama – and he cast straight actors in the role.

His 2018 miniseries A Very English Scandal cast Hugh Grant, who is straight, as Jeremy Thorpe while his 2015 series Cucumber also saw a straight actor play a gay role. 

Other films criticised for actors playing gay roles include Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain, Cate Blanchett in Carol, Sean Penn in Milk and Tom Hanks in Philadelphia.

Call Me By Your Name – which received an Oscar in 2018 – featured Armie Hammer as a gay character.

Timothée Chalamet plays his young love interest. 

Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger played gay characters in Brokeback Mountain (pictured)

The films director Luca Guadagnino defended the casting at the time, telling The Independent: ‘I honestly don’t believe I have the right to decide whether an actor is straight or not.

‘Yes, Armie is a straight man with a wife and children and the same can be said of Timothée. 

‘But do I ask them to swear on their sexuality, on their identities, on their desires, before I cast them? I don’t.’

The series follows the tragic stories of three gay 18-year-olds who arrive in London in 1981, at the beginning of the HIV epidemic, and its star-studded cast includes Olly Alexander, Neil Patrick Harris, and Stephen Fry. 

  • It’s A Sin will be played on Channel 4 on January 22

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