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Neil Patrick Harris says 'there's something sexy' about straight actors playing gay

The out actor is the latest entertainer to chime in on the heated debate over who should play whom in Hollywood.
Image: Neil Patrick Harris attends the 2019 Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles.
Neil Patrick Harris attends the 2019 Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles.JC Olivera / WireImage file

A debate about whether straight actors should still be cast in gay roles has been simmering, and out actor Neil Patrick Harris is the latest entertainer to share his thoughts on the heated topic.

“I’m not one to jump on to labeling,” he said in a new interview with The Times of London. “As an actor, you certainly hope you can be a visible option for all kinds of different roles. I played a character (in 'How I Met Your Mother') for nine years who was nothing like me"

He said if he were the one casting, he "would definitely want to hire the best actor.”

The 47-year-old actor will appear in the upcoming series "It’s A Sin," about a group of young gay men in 1980s England during the early days of the AIDS epidemic. The director, Russell T Davies, creator of the British "Queer as Folk" series, made it a point to cast gay actors in gay roles for the new show.

“I’m not being woke about this … but I feel strongly that if I cast someone in a story, I am casting them to act as a lover, or an enemy, or someone on drugs or a criminal or a saint … they are not there to ‘act gay’ because ‘acting gay’ is a bunch of codes for a performance," Davies told RadioTimes of his casting decision. "It’s about authenticity, the taste of 2020."

“You wouldn’t cast someone able-bodied and put them in a wheelchair," he added. "Authenticity is leading us to joyous places."

On the subject of "Queer as Folk," which was groundbreaking when it debuted in 1999 — and featured mostly straight actors playing gay — Harris said he was a big fan.

“It was one of the real true turning points for me as examples of sexy guys behaving as leads in something of import, not as comic sidekicks,” the "Doogie Howser, M.D." star said. “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. To declare that you’d never do that, you might miss opportunities.”

Out actress Kristen Stewart also recently opened up about the topic of straight actors playing gay, saying she thinks about this "all the time."

“I would never want to tell a story that really should be told by somebody who’s lived that experience,” Stewart said. “Having said that, it’s a slippery slope conversation because that means I could never play another straight character if I’m going to hold everyone to the letter of this particular law. I think it’s such a gray area.”

For Harris, he intends to continue playing characters across the sexuality spectrum.

“In our world that we live in you can’t really as a director demand that (an actor be gay or straight)," he told The Times, adding, "Who’s to determine how gay someone is?”

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