Sean Maher Discusses Joss Whedon, Gay Adoption And The Impact Of Coming Out


When actor Sean Maher, idolized by sci-fi fans as Dr. Simon Tam in Joss (The Avengers) Whedon’s cult series Firefly, came out publicly two years ago, he was naturally (and frequently, he recalls) asked if he feared being typecast. What he wasn’t able to discuss then was that he’d already been cast as a villainous ladies man Don John in Whedon’s filmed-in-secret adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing (now playing in theaters). The 38-year-old veteran actor, who with his longtime partner is the father of two adopted children, chats with Queerty about working with Whedon again, the possibility of another Firefly project, and why he’s a tireless advocate for gay adoption.

Everyone in Much Ado About Nothing seems to be  having a blast. How much fun was it to play Don John?

It was my first villain and first Shakespeare. I had so much fun and am so grateful. I’d auditioned for villains many times in the past. I’m so grateful Joss thought of me for this. I love the character. He isn’t just plain mean, he’s very calculating and manipulating. He’s earnest to your face while he screws you over.

Joss did some gender bending in his adaptation [Conrade, traditionally a male character is now female] and a seduction scene was added. Was there ever discussion of keeping Conrade a male and adding the seduction scene?

Oh, that’s funny. I didn’t think of that. I don’t know if that was discussed.

You must appreciate that your first part since coming out publicly is as a villainous ladies man.

It’s funny that this was the first role after I came out. The question everyone kept asking was if I was going to be typecast so actually… [Laughs] My next project had me rolling on a bed with a woman.

Much Ado is a reunion not only with your Firefly creator Joss, but with Nathan Fillion, your costar in the series, and many of the crew members. What’s the likelihood of another Firefly sequel [the first, Serenity, was released in 2005]?

I honestly don’t know. If there is a status I’m not privy to it. I get that question all the time. I’m as baffled as the next person. I always hoped there’d be another movie. The only thing I’ve heard discussed is the possibility of an animated series. It’s very unofficial.

It’s been a decade since the show was canceled and fans are still devoted to it. Last year you and the cast made a splash at Comic-Con. How do you account for the show’s continued appeal?

More and more I’m starting to feel that there was an essence of having something taken away before its time. Obviously the story is wonderful and the characters are extraordinary. This world that Joss created was so universal and resonated with so many people. Now 10 years later I think this notion of nostalgia and having something that was snatched away commits to the continued dedication of the fans. I don’t think anyone’s giving up hope that there’ll be another life for it somehow.

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  • BECQueerty

    Sean was great playing the stoic Dr. Tam. I was ecstatic to learn about his coming out and him being a father.

    Now, I haven’t seen ‘Much Ado…’ (2013) yet, but I hope Sean brought his ‘A’ game when it came to acting ‘Don John’. I mean, really, he has some big shoes to fill since Keanu Reeves played ‘Don John’ in 1993. :-)

  • Cam

    He came out during his career, not after, much respect to him!


    Being left-handed – being black or being gay is just as natural. It is a sometimes rare occurrence to fall in Love and to hold that person in your heart and be loved in return … it is something that should be celebrated! If it is love between two guys or two girls … all the better … it takes even more courage to defend that LOVE!

  • daniwitz13

    @MACDONALDBANK: The corundum. I can tell by what he is doing to know that a person is left handed or Southpaw hitter or boxer or writer and more so see if a Person is Black. Could you have picked out Sean years ago? Like the commenter above was ecstatic, meaning delightfully surprised. Meaning, like you, did NOT know. You have to admit that even Parents, siblings, twins, friends, relatives, fiance’, teammates, etc, etc. all did NOT know. Homosexuality is an unknown entity in the Individual. Born with it is difficult to prove under these examples. They have to come “out” to be known. Sometimes young,teens, mid age, old age, etc. Can it be found in a dead body? No. It is just a “claim to be” entity. You are dead blind not to ‘see’ this. Pity.

  • Gordon

    Will there ever be a time when the sexuality of someone is not important. The man is a good actor and his sexuality has nothing to do with that.

  • gayjim1969

    @daniwitz13: To answer your question; yes, I could and did “pick out Sean years ago.” I’m sure others did too. You say that “homosexuality is an unknown entitiy in the individual.” Just because some people may not pick up on it in certain individuals, does not make it and “unknown entitity,” whatever that means.

    I had my first crush between the ages of 5 and 6, and it was with one of my best friends of the same age. I didn’t “come out” to anyone until I was 20. Yet, I knew I was different from a very young age, and so did a lot of the kids around me. Much of the bullying I endured was based on my sexual orientation, and it began early in elementary/grade school.

    You ask if homosexuality can be found in a dead body. Can handedness be found in a dead body? Can proof of being a writer be found in a dead body? There are many things about a person that can not be found or proved medically beyond a doubt yet, but it doesn’t mean they’re not real, nor does it mean they’re not at least partially innate to an individual. All you have to do is look at the research of the past half-century regarding the topic to find that it points to at least a partial medical explanation for sexual orientation.

  • daniwitz13

    @gayjim1969: You are saying that you knew about yourself. You are the one that knows your ‘feelings’ and if you ‘display’ some of those feelings, other will guess that you are and tease. But as I’ve said, even parents are surprised as the commenter above. More so, you are saying that you recognized someone like you. Sure, it is like recognizing yourself. The left handed or writer is know when they display themselves. otherwise unknown. When they display, i’ll know. When they come “out” I will know. Otherwise it is ALL unknown. Simple question? Can a person lie that he is Gay? Yes. Can anyone prove he is or isn’t? No. Research will say it exist, yes. It is like I say that God exist. Can I prove it? No. Vegetarians exist but can I point one out? No. After all these years on the subject, Zero proof is given. If it’s there, why not bring it out by experts for the Gay movement? There is none. Pity.

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