The film industry has been greatly changing over the past few years. Many of these changes have occurred as a result of conversation over representation/ inclusion, both behind and in front of the camera. Lately there's been a more specific debate around casting straight actors in LGBT roles, given how few and far between these characters often are. And now Big Bang Theory alum and queer actor Jim Parsons has weighed in.
Jim Parsons came out of the closet in 2013 in the midst of his wildly successful run as Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory. He's since collaborated with Ryan Murphy in bringing iconic gay characters to life in the film adaptations of both The Normal Heart and most recently Netflix's The Boys in the Band. Parsons recently spoke to the ongoing conversation around LGBT representation, as well as straight actors playing roles like in Brokeback Mountain. In his words,
There’s definitely this spectrum: I think the fight, as it were, is not about having only gay people play the gay parts but to ensure that all parts are open to all actors. It’s important that gay characters are portrayed as well-rounded and completely human individuals.
That's certainly one way of looking at it. While Jim Parsons understands the importance of telling LGBTQ+ stories and have well-rounded queer characters, he doesn't necessarily feel that straight actors can't play queer characters. And if there were simply more queer stories being told, it wouldn't be such a race to land one of those coveted roles.
Jim Parson's comments to LA Times came as the ongoing debates about onscreen inclusion focused on the concept of straight actors playing gay roles. This most recently made its way around the Twittersphere after Ryan Murphy's The Prom was released on Netflix. Some advocates and LGBTQIA+ took umbrage with James Corden's casting as Barry, especially as the late night host/actor put on a lisp for the role.
Later in that same interview, Jim Parson went on to speak specifically about the universally acclaimed 2005 drama Brokeback Mountain. Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger are both straight men, who were acclaimed for their performances as Jack and Ennis. As Parson put it,
And there are plenty of straight actors who have played gay characters brilliantly. I think Brokeback Mountain is one of the most touching gay movies and love stories I have ever seen, and those two straight actors [Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal] were the best choices for those roles.
Clearly it's a delicate situation when handling LGBTQIA+ stories, either for the big or small screen. And while advocates will continue to call for these stories to be portrayed by queer actors, Jim Parsons doesn't seem to believe in being a hard and fast rule. Citing Brokeback Mountain specifically, the 47 year-old actor seems to think the best actor should get the role--regardless of their sexual identity.