When he’s not auditioning for acting gigs, Nicholas Brown writes about his life for several high-profile outlets. This week, in an item on The Atlantic blog, he ruminates on his admitted discomfort in booking a particular commercial.
Knowing more than a few thespians, we’re shocked any actor would balk at a paying gig that didn’t involve hardcore sex. In this instance, though, it was a kiss that set Brown off—a kiss with another male actor in a AIDS-awareness PSA:
I am not gay. I have no shortage of gay friends. My uncle is gay. I’ve marched in a gay pride parade. More than half of the roommates I have lived with are gay. I support marriage equality.
So it comes as a shock to me when I realize that, actually, if I am honest with myself, I’m not comfortable with kissing another man on camera. I really don’t want to book this part.
I don’t want people to think I’m gay. And I’m even more uncomfortable because that isn’t a thought that I want to have.
We can understand (not condone) Brown’s paranoia—the impression an actor gives his audience is basically what defines an actor. But the days of assuming any performer in a gay role is a homosexual in real life are long gone, aren’t they?
I ask my theatrical agent if there is any industry stigma about doing a gay role. “No,” he says, “not since Will & Grace in the ’90s.”
I call my commercial agent to ask him the same question. “No,” he says. “Ikea was doing ads with gay couples in the ’90s. Will & Grace really changed things.” “But you had to ask me two times if I was comfortable,” I protest. “We would do that on any spot where you have to kiss,” he tells me.
Gigi Nicolas, the director of on-air promotions at Logo, tells me that at least I was not alone in my discomfort. “We had to do a second round of casting,” she says. “Far fewer people auditioned than I expected. Most of my top choices just didn’t show up.”
Setting aside the fact that we’ve come a long way since Will & Grace, something doesn’t quite add up: Was it the gay kiss that set Brown and the others off—or was it being associated with AIDS? While there’s no indication the characters in the ad were HIV+, the mere mention of the virus can send people scurrying.
Brown apologizes for his reaction—in fact he apologizes for “the whole ugly human history of slights and hate crimes and exclusion”—but do you think he’s being homophobic, realistic or foolish?
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