Despite 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?