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Kristen Stewart Doesn’t See a Problem With Straight Actors Playing Gay Characters

SNL / Screenshot

We just saw a whole raft of voice actors abandon animation roles where the character was a different race than they are which many people feel was completely unnecessary and has already lead to decreased diversity on The Simpsons. Yeah, turns out Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer don’t get a separate paycheck for every voice they do so it’s cheaper just to let Apu and Dr. Hibbert and Judge Snyder fade into the background than it is to hire a new voice actor. Not every minor character is as important as Carl Carlson.

One question this has put in a lot of minds is should straight actors be taking gay roles (and vice versa, presumably).

Kristen Stewart stars in this year’s best Christmas movie, Happiest Season, about a heroic lesbian woman who inexplicably agrees to go back in the closet around her partner’s parents despite the fact that her partner objectively sucks the entire movie. The main problem with the film was Mackenzie Davis, as both her character and performance were weak points and many critics, myself included, have pointed out that Kristen Stewart had much better on-screen chemistry with Aubrey Plaza than she did with Davis.

Now Mackenzie Davis is not a lesbian, but that’s got nothing to do with why she was bad in the movie, that was a combination of the writing and a wooden performance. My best guess is she was intimidated by how skilled the rest of the cast was and that some storylines got cut for time that may have painted her in a better light.

When asked if only gay actors should play gay characters by Variety, Stewart called it a “gray area.”

I would never want to tell a story that really should be told by somebody who’s lived that experience. 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. There are ways for men to tell women’s stories, or ways for women to tell men’s stories. But we 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 f**k off. 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. So I don’t have a sure-shot answer for that.

We know that Wentworth Miller only wants to play gay characters, but that’s not true of every gay actor. Stewart mentions lived experience, but part of being an actor is convincingly portraying experiences you haven’t lived through.

I think the real bottom line is there are a lot more straight characters in television and movies than gay characters, which makes sense because there are more straight people than gay people in the population. Of course, there are more bisexuals than any other LGBT orientation and I dare you to name one bisexual male television character. Did you say John Constantine? Did you incorrectly pronounce it “Constanteen?” He’s the only one I can think of, and the writers of his NBC show weren’t allowed to mention it.

If we make some kind of unwritten rule that gay actors must play gay characters, it’s going to cause a lot of issues because sexuality is a spectrum. What if a straight character comes out? Does he need to be recast? What if it’s meant to be something the character struggles with realizing, won’t the audience know how it resolves based on the sexuality of the actor playing the role? What if an actor playing a straight character comes out, should that character be recast?

Actors play people that are different from who they are as people. It’s what acting means. And policing the sexuality of actors and characters is just asking for unintended consequences to blow up in your face.

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