More often than not we hear stories of straight men and women playing LGBT characters in movies and television. For some reason when this happens there is a percentage of people who come out against a straight person playing the role of a LGBT character. My question to them is this. Why?
One of the biggest complaints I have seen is that it takes jobs from LGBT actors. This is probably one of the oddest statements I have ever heard. When it comes to rolls for LGBT people I would be far more worried about playing a stereotype character than not getting a role just because I am what the character is. Up till the last few years. Trans people in cinema and television have typically been street walkers and jokes. While these rolls still happen they would be the last I would want to play. As an actor it is typically far more interesting to search for rolls that expand and stretch our capabilities. Not fit us in to the easy out rolls.
I think one of the best examples of this is the wide work of Neil Patrick Harris. Since his re emergence on the hollywood scene he has played all sorts of different types of characters. Most notably being his character on How I Met Your Mother. He played the roll of Barney quite well and created a stir of fans that loved the insane antics of this womanizing character. All the while living his happily out life with his partner and kids.
Sometimes the casting can work well though. Laverne Cox in Orange Is The New Black was a great casting choice and I couldn’t imagine a straight person (male or female) playing that role nearly as well as she did.
Then there is Jeffrey Tambor in the TV show Transparent. While most of the show is utter garbage and its characters the worst examples of the rich crying because they can. He stands as a great example of a straight man playing a LGBT character and doing it really well. Despite the shows flaws I often understood the emotions he conveyed and it really felt as if he as the character felt everything that was happening to him. Very rarely could I even find fault with the character until the late second season.
One of the funniest complaints I have heard as of late is with the revival of Rocky Horror Picture Show. I do not understand at all the point of casting a transgender person as a transvestite. Especially a male to female Transgender person. It violates the concept of the role. Yes I am walking in to a double standard here but even I am guilty of it. Unless they plan on playing Frank N Furter as a woman dressing as a man. Then I would think the role would work.
I would like to reverse this as well. Why wouldn’t a LGBT actor want to play a straight character? Just because that isn’t who they are off-screen doesn’t mean it will effect them in any way. A role is a role. Especially if it lets you expand the characters you play. No one realized Ellen Degenerous was a lesbian back when she had her 80’s sitcom. Amanda Bearse lasted for years as Marcy on Married With Children as the annoying neighbor who fell for one man after another.
In the end the argument over whether LGBT rolls should go to LGBT people or just anyone is ridiculous. Everyone can try out and anyone can get the part. Granted I am sure there are behind closed door things that happen that I am not aware of. I can only speak for the obvious. Limiting an actors abilities to their personal gender or identity is still trying the hands of the artist. Something I am firmly against.