In a recent interview with The Sunday Times, Paul Mescal shared his perspective on straight actors portraying LGBTQ+ roles in film and television.
Historically, queer storylines have been written by straight cis writers and performed by straight cis actors. This decision resulted in LGBTQ+ experiences being largely misinterpreted and misrepresented on the screen, especially when portraying genderqueer experiences.
When it comes to creating authentic, multi-dimensional LGBTQ+ characters, some actors assert that queer talent needs to be cast in those roles. Others believe that authentic performances can be achieved as long as LGBTQ+ writers and directors are involved in creating the parts.
Paul Mescal addressed this by saying, “It depends who’s in charge of telling the story. The issue is that there have been so many queer performances in cinema that have been offensive, but that’s because the filmmakers and the actors have been careless.”
Regarding the release of his gay romantic fantasy film All of Us Strangers, Mescal added, “I don’t think this film exists in that conversation whatsoever.” From Mescal’s perspective, it’s acceptable for straight actors to embody LGBTQ+ roles as long as they are working alongside queer creators to tell the stories.
Similarly, Mescal’s All of Us Strangers co-star, Andrew Scott, recently talked about the importance of considering an actor’s overall attributes during casting, instead of solely focusing on their sexuality.
“As much as I feel like representation is important, so is transformation,” he said.
“I don’t love the idea of being cast for something purely for my own sexuality — you’re not just playing ‘gay’, you’re playing the attributes of the character. I don’t want a totalitarian regime — we have to look at each individual story we’re telling and what’s right for that.”
Not all actors align with this way of thinking, particularly in the case of cis people being cast in trans roles. For example, cis actor Eddie Redmayne acknowledged that it was a mistake for him to play a trans character in The Danish Girl back in 2015. He said that in hindsight, even with the best of intentions, he was unequipped to embody a trans experience.
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