Since Michael Urie rose to fame playing flamboyant gay character Marc St James on Ugly Betty, his 2009 coming out wasn’t exactly revolutionary or harmful to his career. But despite his success, he still doesn’t think every actor in Hollywood should do the same.
Urie’s latest role is in the play Buyer & Cellar, which makes its Los Angeles premiere at the Mark Taper Forum. In an interview with FrontiersLA.com, he opens up about the pros and cons of being out in Hollywood.
“When I first started Ugly Betty in 2006, things were very different. I was encouraged to stay in the closet,” Urie says. “This was before Neil Patrick Harris had come out. Even though I was playing an openly gay character, we thought we might want to keep the mystery of what I do behind closed doors. But, for me, coming out has only aided my career. It might not be good for everyone, but I have gotten to play so many wonderful roles. If I at any point decide not to play gay characters anymore, I would work a lot less. To me, it’s way better to have jobs and get great parts. I got to do [gay roles] in The Temperamentals and Angels in America, and now Buyer & Cellar.”
Despite having the opportunity to play both gay and straight characters, Urie thinks that “actors known for certain kinds of roles” might want to think twice before coming out.
“Unfortunately, I think coming out is still something actors known for certain kinds of roles have to think about. Audiences sometimes have a better sense of suspension of disbelief than people making the casting decisions do, though I can’t blame them for not taking big risks. Will & Grace, Ugly Betty and Modern Family have helped progress the gay rights movement, and those wouldn’t have been possible without gay people in show business.”
I assume that by “certain kinds of roles,” Urie is referring to actors who play male romantic leads and action heros, the types of characters Hollywood seems to think no one will believe if played by a gay man. Hasn’t Matt Bomer changed that yet? Whether Bomer’s gay or straight (and whether he’s playing gay or straight) is completely irrelevant. Everyone wants him. Don’t underestimate the people’s imagination, especially when talent like Bomer give so much to work with. If an actor is versatile, their sexual orientation isn’t even a question. Just look at Tom Cruise. Movie-watchers manage to stop thinking about him bottoming for Xenu when he plays a leading man, don’t they?