I was listening to Howard Stern interview Zachary Quinto recently. Quinto played Spock in the 2009 Star Trek and also in the 2013 Star Trek Into Darkness. He also came out of the closet in 2011, announcing that he is gay.
I don’t find Quinto particularly interesting, or the fact that he’s gay. What was interesting was the discussion that ensued with Stern about the tendency to not cast gay men into leading man roles. Stern’s a fairly big liberal, so it wasn’t surprising that he thought such a bias unreasonable.
Sticking with the Star Trek theme, let’s think about Captain James T. Kirk, played by William Shatner. The Captain Kirk character is basically a stud, a ladies man, a manly man. He’s not afraid to go after the girl, seduce her, and leave her wanting more. His attraction is so strong that women leave their men for him.
When we watch movies or TV shows, we want to get into the action and identify with the characters. Today they call it “immersive”. We learn to love some characters and hate others. We imagine their pain and revel in their happiness. A successful actor makes their character come to life, and makes them believable. Wouldn’t it have been hard for Shatner to make us believe he was really a studly womanizer if we knew in real life he was gay? In the back of our minds, when Kirk was kissing some woman, we’d know that the Shatner part of him wasn’t enjoying it at all.
Can a gay actor do a good job acting straight? I’m sure he can, just as a straight actor can do a good job acting gay. But if you’re casting someone for a straight leading man, wouldn’t you choose the MOST believable actor to play the part?