Flying in the face of controversy, Neil Patrick Harris says “there’s something sexy about casting a straight actor to play a gay role — if they’re willing to invest a lot into it.”
Above: Neil plays tailor Henry (Credit: Channel 4)
Straight actors playing gay roles has been a controversial topic recently, especially surrounding high-profile LGBTQ films like Call Me By Your Name. But Harris, who is currently starring in Russell T. Davies’ AIDS drama miniseries It’s a Sin now on the U.K’.s Channel 4, thinks that casting shouldn’t be driven by sexual preference and, in fact, that straight actors playing gay can even be “sexy.”
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“In our world that we live in you can’t really as a director demand that [an actor be a given sexual orientation],” he said. “Who’s to determine how gay someone is?”
Harris made the remarks Thursday interview with U.K. newspaper The Times. “I played a character for nine years who was nothing like me,” the 47-year-old actor said of his How I Met Your Mother role as the womanizing Barney Stinson. “I would definitely want to hire the best actor.”
“In our world that we live in you can’t really as a director demand that [an actor be a given sexual orientation],” he added. “Who’s to determine how gay someone is?”
Harris who plays Henry in the series is already being widely praised in the U.K. for his “brilliant” English accent.
#ItsASin finally started on @Channel4 after weeks of trailers, and the first episode was brilliantly funny. Highlight for me: @ActuallyNPH perfecting a posh British accent. Would've loved to see him in future episodes ^VP pic.twitter.com/ZKYkWxU2JN
— Geeky Brummie (@GeekyBrummie) January 23, 2021
Davies (who also created the Queer as Folk ) previously denounced casting straight actors in gay roles.
“You wouldn’t cast someone able-bodied and put them in a wheelchair; you wouldn’t Black someone up,” he told the Radio Times. “Authenticity is leading us to joyous places.”
It’s a Sin, which centers on the AIDS epidemic hitting London in the early 1980s, features a number of gay actors playing gay roles, including Olly Alexander, and Stephen Fry.
Davies concluded, “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. It’s about authenticity, the taste of 2020.”
It’s A Sin will air in the U.S. later this year on HBO Max. Watch the trailer below.