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Kristen Stewart has weighed in on the ongoing controversy over straight, cisgender actors playing LGBTQ roles, calling it a “slippery slope” to require lived experience in order to portray a character.
In an interview with Variety, Stewart said that the issue was something of a “gray area.”
“I would never want to tell a story that really should be told by somebody who’s lived that experience,” the bisexual actress 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.”
Both LGBTQ activists and those working in Hollywood have been urging greater representation in front of and behind the camera, and there has been growing backlash over non-LGBTQ actors accepting LGBTQ roles.
Halle Berry recently said she would no longer consider a role as a trans man in an upcoming film, saying “the transgender community should undeniably have the opportunity to tell their own stories.”
And Darren Criss, who won an Emmy for playing a gay spree killer in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, said he would no longer play gay characters “to make sure I won’t be another straight boy taking a gay man’s role.”
Stewart told Variety that she didn’t have a “sure-shot answer” for the issue. Instead, she said that actors “need to have our finger on the pulse and actually have to care.”
“You kind of know where you’re allowed. I mean, if you’re telling a story about a community and they’re not welcoming to you, then fuck off,” she said. “But if they are, and you’re becoming an ally and a part of it and there’s something that drove you there in the first place that makes you uniquely endowed with a perspective that might be worthwhile, there’s nothing wrong with learning about each other. And therefore helping each other tell stories.”
Stewart currently stars in lesbian holiday rom-com Happiest Season as Abby, a laidback, lovestruck lesbian whose uptight live-in girlfriend, Harper (Mackenzie Davis), invites her to spend Christmas with her family.
In September, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced major changes for the annual Academy Awards, requiring greater LGBTQ representation both in the narratives depicted and in those working in front of and behind the camera.
The rules require producers to make diversity and representation a priority for future productions by hiring more LGBTQ people, women, people of color, and those with cognitive or physical disabilities.
Gay director Greg Berlanti, known for Love, Simon and his commitment to including LGBTQ representation in his other work such as casting TV’s first trans superhero in The CW’s Supergirl, last year revealed that gay studio executives often won’t let him cast gay actors in straight roles.
“Early on in my career there were gay execs and gay casting people who were the least likely to let me cast an actor they knew was gay in a straight part,” Berlanti said. “These were the individuals who knew how important it would be.”
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