Jack Quann
Jack Quann

16.22 12 Jan 2021


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A British screenwriter has said only gay actors should play gay characters.

Russell T Davies is best known for his work on 'Queer As Folk'.

Speaking to the UK Radio Times, Davies said: "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.

"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", he added.

He was speaking after British actor James Corden received backlash for his portrayal of a gay character in the Netflix film, 'The Prom'.

Paul Hayes is the director of An Táin Arts Centre in Dundalk, Co Louth.

He told Lunchtime Live he disagrees with Davies.

"I think a straight actor can play a gay character, and I also think a gay actor can play a straight character."

'Negate the need to act'

He said this conversation has happened a lot in theatre "over the last few years".

"I think it stems back to a change in how acting and actor's methods have changed."

Citing an example of 'method acting' - "the idea that you become the role, that you embody the role" - he said Daniel Day-Lewis, who played a wrongly-convicted prisoner in 'In The Name of the Father', would have spent some time in prison to prepare for the role.

"But if you take that to it's logical conclusion, the only person who should have played that character in 'In The Name of the Father' should have been a prisoner - because that's the only person who was in prison".

He said such pigeon-holing would negate the need to act at all.

"Maybe the writer of 'Prom' didn't think that Corden's performance as a gay character was very good - that's a whole different critique.

"But the idea that a gay man can only play gay roles for the rest of his life, or indeed a straight man or woman can only play straight [roles] for the rest of their lives kind of forgoes the whole acting element".

"In acting you don't want to be stereotyped as a certain thing, and sexuality is one of those stereotypes on a stage or a screen that you want to try as many roles as possible."

"I suppose its fraught with problems in now, today in our more PC world."

Admitting he's not an 'expert' on this, he suggested: "It's definitely linked to the cultural misappropriation of roles by someone who may not be of that [ethnicity]... and this is next kind of area for that to be".

"Acting is about putting on a character, at least that's my philosophy".

Main image: Meryl Streep (left) and James Corden (right) in a scene from 'The Prom'. Picture by Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix © 2020

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An Táin Arts Centre Gay Actors Gay Characters James Corden Lunchtime Live Paul Hayes Prom Queer As Folk Russell T Davies The Prom

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