Metro Weekly

Darren Criss has been ‘s**t on’ for debating straight actors in gay roles

The Glee star found global fame playing a gay character, but said he would stop accepting gay roles

Darren Criss
Darren Criss

Darren Criss says he has been “s**t on” when engaging in the debate over straight actors taking gay roles.

The straight actor found fame playing gay character Blaine on Glee, before going on to win an Emmy for his portrayal of gay spree killer Andrew Cunanan in The Assassination of Gianni Versace.

When the ongoing debate over whether straight, cisgender actors should take LGBTQ roles erupted in Hollywood a few years ago, Criss became a target of criticism. He later said he would stop playing gay character “to make sure I won’t be another straight boy taking a gay man’s role.”

However, in a recent interview with The Independent, Criss said that when he has tried to engage in the debate, he has been “shit on.”

“No matter what I say, I’m going to get into the same mess that I’ve always gotten in, which is me being what I believe is very fair and diplomatic, but nobody’s interested in that, because compassion is not currently in vogue,” he said. “So I don’t know what to say.”

He added: “I’m making it sound like I have some controversial thing to say, which I don’t. What I say is very normal.”

Criss said he doesn’t want to “shy away” from the debate, saying, “I think for any role that you’re up for, you want to know if you add value to it, right?”

“There are so many performances that are either straight roles given by queer actors or queer roles that are done by straight actors that are so beloved, that we just don’t talk about those,” he added.

“But if they’re done poorly, we get up in arms and we blame it on the fact that this person isn’t queer, this person isn’t straight, as opposed to maybe they just weren’t the right person for the job?”

Criss also touched on the impact that his role in Glee had on LGBTQ people. After being introduced in the show’s second season, the character went on to become a love interest for Chris Colfer’s Kurt, with the pair eventually marrying.

Darren Criss
Darren Criss and Chris Colfer in Glee – Photo by Adam Rose for FOX

“I have a lot of queer folks that come up to me, particularly older folks, that will say how much that relationship meant to them,” Criss told the Independent.

“They’ll say, ‘When I was growing up, I didn’t really ever get to see that on TV’…and then I always remind them, neither did I…. As a cis straight man, I also didn’t see that,” he continued.

“And while I have not grown up as a queer person, I’m a lifetime subscriber, man. I’m a season ticket holder to the queer experience,” Criss added. “I grew up in San Francisco in the 90s; these are people that raised my cultural awareness…[so] also it means a lot to me.”

Debate continues to rage in Hollywood over whether straight and cisgender actors should take on LGBTQ roles.

Gay actor Andrew Rannells said last year that he goes “back and forth” on the issue after he was cast in The Prom, which featured Rannells playing a straight character and straight actor James Corden playing a gay character.

RelatedBilly Eichner’s rom-com Bros will have an all-LGBTQ cast

Kristen Stewart, who is bisexual, said last year that only requiring LGBTQ actors to take LGBTQ roles was a “slippery slope.”

“That means I could never play another straight character if I’m going to hold everyone to the letter of this particular law,” she told Variety last week. “I think it’s such a gray area.”

However, It’s A Sin creator Russell T Davies disagreed in an interview earlier this year, saying he doesn’t cast people to “‘act gay’ because ‘acting gay’ is a bunch of codes for a performance.”

“It’s about authenticity, the taste of 2020,” he continued. “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.”

Last year, Halle Berry announced that 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.”

In 2018, Scarlett Johansson pulled out of biopic Rub and Tug after backlash over her casting as its trans male lead — criticism that heightened after she initially dismissed the controversy.

Both LGBTQ activists and those working in Hollywood have been urging greater representation in front of and behind the camera.

Last year, 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.

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