Russell T Davies: Straight actors should not play gay characters

The award-winning writer spoke out amid a fierce debate in the entertainment industry.

Straight actors should not play gay characters, acclaimed TV writer Russell T Davies has said.

Davies, known for his work on Queer As Folk and Doctor Who, returns to the screen with It’s A Sin, a Channel 4 drama exploring the HIV/Aids crisis in 1980s London.

He cast Olly Alexander, the openly gay singer from pop group Years & Years, in the lead role.

Russell T Davies
Russell T Davies believes straight actors should not play gay characters (Jane Barlow/PA)

Amid a debate over who should be allowed to play what roles, Davies compared a straight actor playing a gay character to black face.

He told the Radio Times: “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.

“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.”

High-profile examples of straight performers playing LGBT characters include Rami Malek’s Oscar-winning portrayal of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody and Taron Egerton’s turn as Sir Elton John in Rocketman.

Both castings attracted criticism from some quarters.

And James Corden was accused of “gay face” in December following his role in Netflix’s musical comedy The Prom.

Those who support an actor’s freedom to play any role they wish include Cate Blanchett.

The Australian actress played a lesbian in 2015 drama Carol and said she will “fight to the death” to defend the right of straight actors to play gay characters.

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