Michael Urie Says Hiring Gay Actors To Play Straight Is A “Big Risk,” Endorses Hollywood’s Glass Closets

1.165705Despite playing an extremely flamboyant and openly gay character for four years on ABC’s Ugly Betty, Michael Urie tells Frontiers this week that he was instructed to personally stay in the closet during his tenure at ABC over fears that being openly gay in Hollywood would damage his career.

“When I first started Ugly Betty in 2006, things were very different,” the 33-year-old actor told the magazine in an interview about his new stage production Buyer and Cellar. “Even though I was playing an openly gay character, we thought we might want to keep the mystery of what I do behind closed doors.”

Urie doesn’t mention who, exactly, urged him to stay in the closet. But it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume the terrible advice came directly from ABC, a network that has dipped its feet in the cool waters of homophobia more than once before.

Urie came out to little fanfare on his blog in 2009, and discovered that his sexual orientation really wasn’t that big of a deal. He goes on to describe hiring a gay actor to play a straight role as a “big risk,” and urges other gay actors considering coming out to “think about [it]” first:

“Unfortunately, I think coming out is still something actors known for certain kinds of roles have to think about. Audiences sometimes have a better sense of suspension of disbelief than people making the casting decisions do, though I can’t blame them for not taking big risks.”

Finally, Urie explains that coming out has “aided” his career, and his being pigeonholed into gay roles has ultimately been a blessing:

“It might not be good for everyone, but I have gotten to play so many wonderful roles. If I at any point decide not to play gay characters anymore, I would work a lot less. To me, it’s way better to have jobs and get great parts. I got to do [gay roles] in The Temperamentals and Angels in America, and now Buyer and Cellar.”

The next generation’s Rupert Everett?

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  • hyhybt

    You’d think Barney/NPH would have settled that question.

  • Lefty

    NPH got the role of Barney before he came out, though.
    Matt Bomer is probably the best example of someone who has come out and still had a successful career of playing breeders. Urie’s comments seem like straightforward, uncontroversial advice to gay actors.

  • Cam


    And exactly what advise did he give? Stay in the closet or you’ll be pigeonholed.

    If we were having this discussion about ANY other industry or corporation there would be lawsuits and people demanding an investigation.

    MANY stars have said over and over that they were TOLD, or ordered to stay in the closet, or told they could be fired if they came out.

    Why aren’t the attorney’s general of multiple states investigating studios? You have had MULTIPLE people within the industry confirm this practice and yet everybody just sits back and pretends there is nothing wrong here.

  • badtungsten

    Come on Queerty, based on the quotes you included in this article it appears that you are sensationalizing what he said in order to demonize him. Michael Urie must have done something on the scale of Darienne Lake to warrant this type if sniping from Queerty.

  • Lefty

    @Cam: It’s pointless comparing it to any other industry for what I assume are obvious reasons.

    “And exactly what advise did he give? Stay in the closet or you’ll be pigeonholed.”

    There’s really no need to distort/paraphrase Urie’s advice; it’s up there in plain enough English. And it’s fairly straightforward, uncontroversial advice. At no point does he advise staying in the closet.

  • frshmn

    Ehh, how is it different to restricting actors of color from playing stereotypical roles? Sure they get work, but it’s unfortunate when they do have the talent to portray a broad range of roles.

  • skylerbound


    I’d add that a lot of really good notable gay roles are given to straight actors over a gay actors, which I DO consider an issue. I don’t mind the gay roles going to gay actors, to me that’s not pigeon holing an actor… however. if every role is basically the same character(as far as personality and storylines) that’s a different story.

    We don’t say straight roles given to straight actors as them being pigeon holed because they play a variety of different types of characters. So I’d argue gay actors should get a variety of options with queer characters.

  • robirob

    Hollywood (studio execs, talent agencies, managers, PR handlers, etc.) works on an outdated model on purpose. It’s from a time where being gay was such a career killer that it’s perfect blackmail material to keep actors obedient.

    Who relies more on his PR handler. Someone who must keep up his fake image at all costs to have a career or someone who is openly gay and ok with the attention he receives from his work in independent movie projects and TV shows?

    Who do you think has a better chance of being represented by a talent agency. Someone who is willing to do anything for a career as A-List movie star who plays leads in blockbuster movies and is part of movie franchise or some openly gay actor who is ok with offers from independent movie project and TV shows? Remember these guys get a piece of the salary pie of their clients.

    Who will casting agencies rather hire. A closet case who they think appeals to the mainstream public, because of his fake image or some openly gay man who everybody knows is gay and quite content with his choice of being out?

    Who do you think studio execs trust to make them and their studios the maximum amount of profits? A straight/ closeted actor or an openly gay actor as lead?

    You have a career in Hollywood when you make other people a ton of money. You can be anything your want (behind closed doors) as long you make other people a ton of money. You fall out of favor when you no longer make other people a ton of money.

  • TVC 15

    Zacchary Quinto is an out gay actor playing a heterosexual in the “Star Trek” reboot films. An actor plays a character on film or stage, they are NOT the character on film or stage. If people can’t separate the two, they got some issues with reality.

  • Amalgamate

    Lets be honest here-Urie was NEVER in the closet-his orientation is visible to people in Europe

  • Amalgamate

    Most gay actors cannot hide their gayness-its in mannerisms, their face, etc. Rupert Everett is a good example-hes clearly gay and struggled playing straight parts. Now hes a bitter old queen!

  • Cam

    @Lefty: said….

    “@Cam: It’s pointless comparing it to any other industry for what I assume are obvious reasons”

    1. People only say “Obvious reasons” when they are not able to articulate their point.

    2. Actually the argument that Hollywood is different is B.S. yes, actors are considered independent contractors, but guess what, if Wal-Mart, Disneyland, Carnival Cruises, etc… had multiple employees coming forward stating that they were TOLD not to let anybody know they were gay, hispanic, a woman etc… lawsuits would be filed in a second.

    You have had dozens of employees of all areas in Hollywood make these statements. Urie says plainly “I was told”. In a typical investigation he would be interviewed and asked “Who told you this?” If it was his manager, they would then approach the manager “Why did you tell him this?” If it turns out the manager was approached by ABC who told him not to have Urie come out…there you go.

    Not sure of your agenda, but you seem desperate to absolve Hollywood of their bigotry. Reminds me of when HRC was SCREAMING at gays not to “Bother” our friends in Congress, and not to fight for DOMA repeal, Marriage, or DADT repeal but to shut up. Nobody listened, and thank goodness we didn’t. If Studios, and agencies knew they had to abide by the same anti-discrimination laws everybody else does, we wouldn’t be hearing people like Urie having to talk about deciding between being out and playing a wide variety of roles.

  • Alan down in Florida

    I love Michael Urie but he needs to make as much as he can now because those great gay roles will dry up in the next decade or so as he reaches middle age.

    But to some degree he might be correct. I watch a lot of gay films on YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Prime and it seems that 99% of the time when I check an actor whose performance I enjoyed they have either no other credits or occasional appearances on small network TV or college shorts. Maybe appearing in a gay role is the kiss of death for a non-nelly gay actor.

  • Cam

    @Alan down in Florida:

    You know, I’m curious if the roles for gay actors will get older because people in the gay community are not all dying at such a young age.

  • Cam


    You know it’s funny, I always thought Urie came off SO douchey and aweful a few years ago, the way he would dance, avoid the issue etc….

    Now that he has stated he was told to stay closeted the irritation I had towards his behavior just turns to anger at the homophobic pricks in Hollywood. The same F*****S who claim gay movies wouldn’t make money even though Brokeback Mountain outperformed Scream. Scream gets multiple sequels and knock-offs and not a single major studio did another gay themed fiction movie.

    So they’ll spend $120 million on Enders Game written by a virulent homphobe but don’t want to risk 10 million on a gay themed movie like Brokeback.

  • tricky ricky

    I don’t know who this guy is. and if I don’t know who he is he’s a nobody so his opinion really doesn’t matter.

  • lykeitiz

    Who is she kidding? Only the most naïve people on the planet wondered about Sean Hayes during Will & Grace. Those days are long gone. Nobody who watched Ugly Betty wondered.

    He words himself very carefully, but to say that he “can’t blame” casting directors for not taking risks is just pandering to the ‘phobes, plain & simple.

  • pierrot

    Oh come on Queerty, Michael Urie simply told us the way it really is in the industry. And the reality as of now is that it is indeed a “big risk” to hire gay actors to play straight roles because of the current stigmas and stereotypes.

    However, just because it is a big risk, it doesn’t mean that some studios/directors won’t take that chance. If you are a gay actor and you are good at what you do, you’ll get the roles you want. No need to feel discouraged!

  • James Hart

    You mean there were people who didn’t know he is gay???

  • Cam


    It is the way it is because people accept it just the way you did.

  • Polaro

    @Cam: Sadly, again, Cam, you mistake what happens in your head with reality. Sadly, also, you seem to really think you run Qweerty comments. Real life…try it.

  • Lefty

    Listen to Cam: he has the answers to all our problems and can teach us all how to live perfect lives in the Cam mold; a world free of homophobia and all bad things; where no one has free will if they’re gay as they MUST come out when Cam deems that they should – FOR (that tired old canard) THE SAKE OF THE GAY CHILDREN!!! [sad face] – or face disapproval of tedious pompous blowhards on Queerty.
    The ‘tut tut’ industry. I disapprove therefore I am.
    They’re all curtain-twitchers. Welcome to the gay bourgeois mentality…

  • Cam




    What I notice is that when you can’t provide an answer to defend your point you simply attack the person on the other side.

    It might make you feel better, but it also simply proves that you cannot explain your own argument.

    You claimed that Hollywood was different “For obvious reasons” I called you on it and laid out how it wasn’t, gave you the perfect opportunity to prove your point, and you couldn’t.

    So you simply stamped your little foot and name-called like a child.

  • MMDD

    I wish the people who write articles about Michael Urie would stop referring to him as gay when in an interview several years back, he made it very clear that he is bisexual, not gay.

  • Cam


    I think I read that he identifies as “Queer” because at one point in the past he slept with a woman/women

  • MMDD

    @Cam: This is true on both counts. He describes himself as being comfortable in relationships with men and women, so by default that makes him bisexual.

  • Cam


    Don’t let the “Label Police” her you say that. ;) lol

  • MMDD

    @Cam: The “Label Police” can take a big smooch, as far as I’m concerned. :-)

  • tdh1980

    Acting is a profession that relies more heavily than most on other people’s perceptions of who one is, and those perceptions color their acceptance of an actor in certain roles. Unfortunately, for many people, an actor’s homosexuality still factors negatively into that impression, which may cause some gay actors to feel the need to hide it, tacitly or otherwise. I personally think one has to consider a performer’s individual career trajectory before saying with any certainly that coming out in any case is either a help or hindrance. As a performer myself, I will say that the desire to “make it” in such a competitive industry will drive people to do insanely self-destructive things, but I’m fortunate to work in theatre where I assume all men are gay until they say something contrary.

  • Cam


    I think also what needs to be pointed out, is that Hollywood will forgive other actors behavior and beliefs in almost any area as long as it isn’t “Gay”.

    i.e. Mel Gibson keeps getting work, Lindsay Lohan keeps getting work, and yet the suggestion is “Nope, you can’t play a straight person because you are gay.”

    I don’t think it’s the audiences perceptions as much as it’s the folks who work in Hollywood.

  • Polaro

    @Cam: actors have agents, stylists and PR people for a reason.they sell image and sex appeal and it is completely unlike any other job. Someone being gay affects that greatly. How can you miss that? You say it shouldn’t, but it does because it actually affects their ability to styli tickets in straight roles. It’s not like an account whose job performance had nothing to do with sexuality. And stop cimplanting about being picked on, it’s just your way of not admitting when you’re wrong.

  • Cam


    No, actually what was stated is that Hollywood is different employment wise and therefore the same lawsuits cannot be brought. I pointed out quite clearly that even independent contractors can and have sued.

    AS for “Complaining” no, I merely pointed out that you both couldn’t respond to the comments constructively so you had to simply attack because you couldn’t defend your point.

    And lastly, if you are going to respond to something you wrote under the other screen name, you may want to switch back to that screename before you do. Just a thought.

  • Lefty


    [weeps for humanity]

  • Lefty

    @Cam: What I notice about you Cam is that you’re very self-effacing with a great sense of humor and you’re in no way pompous or self-important.

    I agree with you: there’s absolutely no difference between being an actor and being an estate agent.

  • Lefty

    Am I the only one who is absolutely furious with this so-called ‘Michael Urie’ for suggesting that actors should consider their options and do what’s best for them?
    I’m shaking with rage right now!!!

  • Cam


    And once again, you were unable to defend your point, so you foam at the mouth and attack somebody who DARES to dissagree. People who can actually defend their opinions do not need to resort to that.

    As for Urie, Funny, my comment was about HOLLYWOOD being homophobic, and you have desperately tried to excuse their homophobia over and over, or at minimum say “Well we can’t do anything about it”

    So nice try. Oh, and when right wingers come in here, you may want to try choosing a less obvious screename than “Lefty”.

  • Lefty

    @Cam: I love the way you always explain to everyone exactly how they’re supposed to read your exchanges on here.

    ‘I said this and he said that and I said this and he FAILED to say this and he disagreed with me therefore he is HOMOFOBE and FASCIST!’

    Not that you’re a self-important and pompous type or nuffink. :)

  • Cam


    And I love the way that you have never once been able to explain or defend your opinion and instead continually lash out at anybody who disagrees with you.

    If being incorrect upsets you so much that you need to behave like a child perhaps you should be more certain that your comments are correct and defend-able before posting them on here.

  • Lefty

    @Cam: “Explain and defend yourself!”

    Nope, nothing pompous about you. At all! No siree.

Comments are closed.