“Mad Men” creator says openly gay actors, even Neil Patrick Harris, can expect limited opportunities
Mad Men creator and executive producer Matthew Weiner said Wednesday that despite Neil Patrick Harris coming out and now working more than ever, “let’s not pretend” that openly gay actors are not limiting their future career choices when they go public.
“I’m sure that there are limitations to the kinds of roles that he can get in the future,” Weiner said during the Hollywood Radio and Television Society luncheon at the Century Plaza Hotel. “… He knows that and would rather live his life honestly.”
Weiner’s remarks came during a panel discussion featuring him and the show-runners behind Modern Family, Glee, and How I Met Your Mother on which Harris stars and the womanizing Barney Stinson.
Mother co-creator Carter Bays was asked about Harris’s coming out in the fall of 2006 – during the show’s second season – and he describe it as “a crazy time … it was definitely unchartered water for us as second year show-runners.”
Bays said things worked out well because Harris “is such a phenomenal actor, you don’t care. … He’s such a stable, centered guy. … He’s a poster boy for anything he’s involved in.”
As Bays spoke, Weiner (pictured, left) interjected with these thoughts: “I think it can be a commercially devastating thing.” He repeated the conventional wisdom that if a gay actor is out, he cannot be seen as a sex symbol in heterosexual roles by audiences.
“The viability of you as a character – no matter how good an actor you are – can be jeopardized by this. We struggle with it – obviously, it’s wrong. It shouldn’t be that way.”
He added: “It was extra brave that he did that, it’s extra brave that Ellen (DeGeneres) did that and I’m glad that it turned out the way that it did.”
Weiner cast openly gay actor Bryan Batt on his show as a gay character – a character which was fired from the ad agency depicted on Mad Men, for being gay. The character disappeared after that and it is not known it he will return in season three.
While Mother has provided Harris with a breakout role as an adult following teen stardom as Doogie Howser MD, his career has been in high gear since he acknowledged that he is a gay man.
The 36-year-old actor earned major kudos for hosting this year’s Emmy Awards and also hosted the Tony Awards last June. He starred in the Emmy-winning Internet sensation Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and stars in the upcoming feature film Best and the Brightest, a comedy set in the world of New York City’s elite private kindergartens.
Harris plays a heterosexual.