The discussions and controversies around LGBTQI representation rage on in 2021 as varied opinions and points of view are presented and we get further into the discussions around this contentious issue, hopefully trudging towards the answer.

Neil Patrick Harris, who has been a part of our cultural conversation since he was a tyke, offers an experienced and differing view as an openly gay actor with a husband and twin children, who has played a variety of roles in his career from that of an absolute pig of a heterosexual man with zero respect for women as Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother, to playing a gender queer character with a complicated past and an “Angy Inch” in Hedwig And The Angry Inch – that’s range!

Neil Patrick Harris’ Views

The versatile actor sat down with The Sunday Times’ Ed Potton for an interview about his new project, It’s A Sin and the topic of conversation turned to representation, “I’m not one to jump on to labelling,” Harris says. “I think there’s something sexy about casting a straight actor to play a gay role, if they’re willing to invest a lot into it. There’s a nervousness that comes from the newness of it all.”

But he insists that it should work both ways and it seems that he intends to continue playing straight roles himself, as well as being open minded when it comes to casting, when he’s in the Director’s chair.

“In our world that we live in you can’t really as a Director demand that [an actor be gay or straight]. Who’s to determine how gay someone is? I would definitely want to hire the best actor.”

Is he right?

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It’s a question that’s asked in myriad forms all over the world every day, definitely at least once a day in my head. What is the right answer here? Is there such a thing as a right answer here?

Compromise, seems like the right answer but who can facilitate that and then work out a system that lets stories be told, but in a way that is respectful of everyone and where everyone is happy with the result.

Missteps Abound

Hugh Sheridan probably thought it was totally ok to portray Hedwig in the Sydney production of Hedwig And The Angry Inch because he identifies as a member of the LGBTQI community but others had a differing view, which eventually saw him removed from the role.

James Corden, a straight actor, was cast in and then hauled over the coals for his straight man’s portrayal of a gay character and his use of “gay face” in the recent Netflix ‘horror’ The Prom, which leads me to wonder if playing a gay character as ‘flamboyant’, even if you are a gay actor yourself, is an option anymore?

There’s such a thing as flamboyantly gay men around and what if that is a character trait called for by the character’s description? The character is a gay actor on Broadway, so surely “flamboyant” should be an option when you’re making your decisions on where you as an actor, hope to take this character.

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 And it’s not only limited to representation of LGBTQI stories. Sia has been in hot water recently, being accused of ableism in her directorial debut movie Music, based around a character on the autism spectrum and her casting of Maddie Ziegler, her neurotypical muse in the main role.

Moving Forward

Do we stop telling stories if the ‘right’ person for a role cannot be filled?

Doesn’t that stop these stories being told altogether, which ultimately dims our awareness of other people’s life experiences?

And so we continue blindly on, hoping that the answer will materialise magically out of the ether but we can take comfort in the fact that the more of these discussions we have, the closer we get to someone having that ‘lightbulb moment’ on what the solution is and that truly is a day to look forward to.

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