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Sean Penn won an Oscar for portraying gay icon and activist Harvey Milk, Matthew McConaughey received the same honor in portraying an icon of the AIDS movement, and Benedict Cumberbatch is looking to join the ranks through his performance in The Imitation Game. Kevin Hart, however, will not be joining the club of straight actors playing gay characters. But before you start attacking the comedian, you should hear him out.
Hart hit up New York’s Power 105.1 radio station to promote his new film The Wedding Ringer, during which time he was asked whether he would ever play a gay character.
I can’t. Not because I have any ill will or disrespect. It’s because I don’t think I’m really going to dive into that role 100 percent because of insecurities about myself trying to play that part. Does that make sense?
Given the context, it doesn’t seem as though the actor has any sort of anti-gay sentiments in taking this stance. He also followed up his response by saying, "as people, I love you." The question came up after Kevin Hart revealed that he was up for the role of Alpha Chino in Ben Stiller's Tropic Thunder. After reading a draft of the script, he told the radio show hosts that he just couldn’t do the part, describing it as "real flagrant."
In Tropic Thunder, which starred the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black and Ben Stiller, a group of actors filming a war movie are forced to become the soldiers they are portraying. Percy Jackson star Brandon T. Jackson ended up playing Alpha Chino, a closeted gay man known for his Booty Sweat energy drink and his over-the-top sexual lifestyle.
Though the LGBT community is more accepted in mainstream society than ever, Hart’s comments come at a time when homosexuality is still a stigma in the African-American community. The openly gay Lee Daniels knows this all too well, and he’s trying to break down this hostility with his hip-hop industry drama Empire. As he said during a recent Television Critics Association panel, he wants to "blow the lid off of homophobia" in the African-American community. In his show, the lead character, played by Terrence Howard, is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and is trying to decide which of his children should take over his music empire. He’s particularly aggressive with his gay son, as depicted during a scene in which the father stuffs him in a trash can after he catches him trying on his mom’s high heels. As quoted by The Associated Press, Daniels said:
I'm glad that I can show the African-American community that this is what you're doing to your son, this is what you're doing to your nephew, this is what you're doing to the kid down the street.
Kevin Hart’s statements, though arguably difficult to swallow, are at least admirable. There are plenty of actors out there who refuse to tackle such roles and tell these stories because of homophobia, but Hart’s candidness is appreciated and respectable. You can watch his entire interview below.
As he says, he might change his mind years from now, but he’ll need more acting experience before doing so.