The Queerty Interview

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


How has your life changed since you came out publicly two years ago?

I still look back and think of it as one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. It was one of the biggest risks I’ve taken. It inspired me to take more risks and focus on what is truly at the heart of myself and what are my values and navigate from the inside out. It’s been a very spiritual journey for me. Professional life aside, I knew it would feel liberating.

What advice would you give to closeted actors who are considering coming out?

First, I’d say I get it. I’ve been there and it’s not fun. I’d ask them what they’re risking by staying in the closet and what they’re risking by coming out. What I found was it was a much bigger risk for me to stay in the closet because what I discovered by taking the leap was so abundant for me.

What was the reaction within the industry?

It hasn’t changed that much. There were a few studio heads and heads of casting who didn’t come to me directly, but they reached out to my manager to say, ‘Wow, how brave of him. We’ve always been fans of him and please know that we’ll fight harder for him.’ That stuff surprised me. The rest of it hasn’t changed that much. It’s not as if I’m not being seen for heterosexual roles. I feel like there are a lot more gay roles to go after and sometimes I don’t get them. I’m still auditioning for gay roles. It’s not like I’ve become the go-to guy for gay roles, but I’m not having the door closed in my face for straight roles. I feel like it hasn’t shifted all that much. In the bigger picture my act of coming out has been respected.

Your bio in the Much Ado press notes describes you as an LGBT advocate and mentions your partner and children. Sometimes even the official bios of openly LGBT actors are vague. What went into that decision?

I remember when we changed it. It used to read: Maher is single and splits his time between New York and L.A. It’s liberating to feel that I’ve found my niche in this crazy business. After all the soul searching and becoming a father, I wondered if there was a bigger purpose for me. If I can call myself an LGBT advocate I feel very proud to call myself that.

Do you feel any responsibility to represent or be more politically active?

I wouldn’t say it’s a responsibility, but I definitely feel a desire. Especially being the father of two adopted children, I’m a huge advocate of adoption. Just last week I went back to their adoption agency and spoke on a panel of adoptive parents to represent the LGBT aspect of the adoption process. We feel incredibly indebted to our social workers and the whole process so we do everything we can to educate about adoption. It’s a fine line. I don’t want my children to feel that they’re different. We embrace how special we are as a family and what makes us different is what makes us so special. They’re remarkable children. We’re always being told how confident and fearless and happy our children are. Eventually they’ll know that their family isn’t traditional.

They’re very fortunate to have such committed parents.

Being gay parents is a true gift and we cherish it and take it very seriously. It’s our top priority even when we’re not speaking to each other. [Laughs] Our children are everything and that’s the way we’ve seen it from day one.

Photos: Brie Childers