Jim Parsons. (Frazer Harrison/Getty)
Jim Parsons has gracefully waded into the long-simmering debate over whether straight, cisgender actors should play LGBT+ people in film and television.
Parsons, 47, reflected in an interview with the Los Angeles Times newspaper on his role in The Boys in the Band, the Netflix flick with an all-queer cast that centred on the lives of a group of gay men in pre-Stonewall-era New York City.
But how would the film have played out with a patchwork cast of non-LGBT+ and LGBT+ actors? Parsons offered a vastly pliable response to the issue of queer representation.
“There’s definitely this spectrum,” Jim Parsons, who plays Mart Crowley in the film, mused.
Jim Parsons: Filmmakers must ‘ensure that all parts are open to all actors’
“I think the fight, as it were, is not about having only gay people play the gay parts but to ensure that all parts are open to all actors.
“It’s important that gay characters are portrayed as well-rounded and completely human individuals.
“And there are plenty of straight actors who have played gay characters brilliantly.
“I think Brokeback Mountain is one of the most touching gay movies and love stories I have ever seen, and those two straight actors [Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal] were the best choices for those roles.”
The turbulent, decades-long trajectory of queer representation on the small screen has gone from flat one-episode secondary players to fully-fleshed characters central to storylines.
Indeed, the amount of queer characters on our screens has consistently hit new heights each year, according to annual reports by GLAAD.
But Hollywood has remained hobbled by how it, year after year, casts straight, cisgender people in LGBT+ roles, with the sluggishness of the film industry to change that routinely fuelling disappointment among queer moviegoers and film critics.
Seemingly typifying the anger against filmmakers giving straight actors queer roles was the move to cast James Corden, a professional straight man, to play Barry Glickman, an ailing gay Broadway star in Ryan Murphy’s The Prom.
Murphy’s casting choices have long been ribbed by viewers for being white, tall, often square-jawed men, but critics had little patience for Corden’s performance, branding it “gross and offensive“.
His performance drew the frustrated ire of critics for his overblown, camp portrayal of a gay man, with Erik Anderson, founder of AwardsWatch, dubbing it “gayface”.