Image Credit: Full Coverage Communications

Last week, musician Adam Lambert made headlines with his comment on the rumor that The White Lotus: Sicily star Theo James would play the legendary George Michael in a biopic.

And when we say “comment,” we do literally mean a comment: On The Advocate‘s Instagram post about the rumored casting, the American Idol alum wrote, “Yay another straight man playing a gay icon.”

With eight simple words—and a well-appointed eyeroll emoji—Lambert caused quite a stir, reigniting the age-old debate over whether or not straight actors should be able to play gay roles.

Over the weekend, the star was at the Sundance Film Festival in support of his role in the sweet gay period piece Fairyland (his feature film debut!), which happens to star a straight actor—Halt And Catch Fire’s Scoot McNairy—in a gay role.

After the film’s premiere, Queerty caught up with Lambert on the streets of Park City, Utah, and he was more than happy to elaborate on the attention-grabbing comment, clarifying that, no, he doesn’t think straight actors shouldn’t be allowed to play gay—it’s a bit more nuanced than that.

Here’s what he had to say…

I think my comment in no way suggests that I feel straight actors can’t play gay roles, because I think they do it really well. I mean, [in Fairlyand,] Scoot McNairy’s incredible— a soulful performance, really beautiful, I couldn’t see anybody else doing it!

And then also there’s Rami [Malek] in Bohemian Rhapsody, Taron [Egerton] in Rocketman, and they were both great. And Theo James is a great actor, too! For me, the thing that I was trying to say is: It’s definitely a step in the right direction that these stories are being told, but I would just love to see an out actor play an out icon—it’d just be nice, because you don’t really see it.

Like I said, thank god these stories are being told more frequently. But you would think that that would also create more opportunities for queer actors.

And, you know, if you saw Kristen Stewart playing Princess Diana—that was one example of a queer actor playing a straight icon. But you don’t see that very often, either.

So, some of the conversation that came from that headline—which I think is a really good conversation to have—was people responding, “Well, it’s called acting, and they hire the best actor for the job.” And, first of all, we find out this [George Michael biopic] isn’t even a real movie yet, so that’s a moot point.

I understand that viewpoint. But I do think it’s a bit naive to say that that’s how it works. Because we all know, if you’re in the entertainment industry, that there’s a lot of politics that go on into this. It’s actually a combination of talent and marketability and appeal and demographics and what movies they want awards for—you know, it’s hard, it’s political!

So, for me, if it truly was an equal playing field, I probably would feel differently, I probably wouldn’t roll my eyes. But it’s not. And you don’t see a lot of queer actors getting major roles that are not queer. I would just love to see more opportunities—it’s just a fantasy of mine. I’m kind of like, “You know what? Can we just get one, please?”

There’s a common perception that, if a queer actor plays a queer role, then it’s sort of a niche film, right? Whereas the minute a celebrated straight actor plays a queer character, it’s an awards show performance, it’s Oscar-worthy. And it’s like we reward that with, “Oh, they’re so brave for playing this part!”

And in some cases, it is brave, but I also think, what about the people that are brave every day for being that thing. But I also think, what about the people that are brave every day for being that? Imagine the real experience they can draw upon!

Again, I, in no way, think straight people can’t play gay. But do you know what [all the headlines around the comment] mean? It means that it’s a conversation that needs to be had. And, you know what? I love a debate! I love talking about complex sh*t. I’m down to be on the chopping block for a minute if it means we’re gonna have a really good conversation.

There’s just been so many doors close to our community for so long. You’ve got to start somewhere. You’ve got to start giving people opportunities so that we do have big gay movie stars.

Stay tuned for Queerty‘s full interview with Adam Lambert, discussing his work in Fairylandhis upcoming cover album High Drama, his American Idol legacy, and so much more.

Related: Five of the most anticipated queer albums of 2023 (and five artists we’ve got our eyes on!)

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