Neil Patrick Harris is opening up about his thoughts on whether or not straight actors should play gay on television and in film.
“I’m not one to jump on to labelling,” he said in a new interview with The Times. “As an actor you certainly hope you can be a visible option for all kinds of different roles. I played a character (in 'How I Met Your Mother') for nine years who was nothing like me"
He added if he were the one casting, he "would definitely want to hire the best actor.”
The 47-year-old actor is about to be part of an all gay male ensemble in the new series "It’s A Sin," that was directed by Russell T Davies, the creator of "Queer as Folk." Following a group of young gay men in early 1980s England and their experience with HIV and AIDS, Davies made it a point to cast this latest work of his with actors who identify as gay in real life.
“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," Davies said of his casting decision. "It’s about authenticity, the taste of 2020."
“You wouldn’t cast someone able-bodied and put them in a wheelchair, you wouldn’t black someone up. Authenticity is leading us to joyous places."
"There’s a nervousness that comes from the newness of it all."
Neil Patrick Harris
On the subject of "Queer as Folk," the groundbreaking early 2000s drama that featured mostly straight actors playing gay, Harris said he was a big fan.
“It was one of the real true turning points for me as examples of sexy guys behaving as leads in something of import, not as comic sidekicks,” the "Doogie Howser, M.D." star said. “I think there’s something sexy about casting a straight actor to play a gay role, if they’re willing to invest a lot into it. There’s a nervousness that comes from the newness of it all. To declare that you’d never do that, you might miss opportunities.”
But not everyone obviously agrees. Back in November, out actor Wentworth Miller said he wouldn't participate in a "Prison Break" revival, if one happens, because he is done playing straight characters.
"At this point in my life/career, it's what feels interesting, inspiring, right," he wrote. "That said, do I want to see more gay parts played by gay actors? Yes. It makes a difference performance-wise (IMO), but also bec straight actors playing 'gay' centers straightness. Doesn't matter if they're 'acting' — I still know what I'm looking at."
Kristen Stewart also recently opened up about the topic of straight actors playing gay, saying she thinks "about this all the time."
“I would never want to tell a story that really should be told by somebody who’s lived that experience,” Stewart said. “Having said that, it’s a slippery slope conversation because that means I could never play another straight character if I’m going to hold everyone to the letter of this particular law. I think it’s such a gray area.”
For Harris, he intends to continue playing straight characters.
“In our world that we live in you can’t really as a director demand that (an actor be gay or straight)," he said, adding the question: "Who’s to determine how gay someone is?”