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“Mad Men” creator says openly gay actors, even Neil Patrick Harris, can expect limited opportunities

http://sarxos.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/neil_patrick_harris.jpgMad 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.”

http://www.jewishjournal.com/images/bloggers_auto/fashion_weiner_02.jpgAs 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.

Comments

(All comments are reviewed before being published, and I review submissions several times per day.)

35 Remarks

  1. While I absolutely understand his point, let me just add that I, as a very straight woman, have always been strongly attracted to NPH in a highly sexual way. And for what I know, I am not alone with this. There are even some celebrity women, who have openly admit to that – for example Olivia Munn and Stacy Keibler.

    The only reason why NPH may not get spots as a leading man e.g. in a comedy romance is because people like Mr. Weiner keep saying he can’t and therewith influence the business’ point of view.

    I dare someone to give Neil a leading spot in a mainstream movie as a heterosexual man, and they will be proven wrong.

  2. Heterosexual female here seconds everything Nimi said. If an actor such as Neil Patrick Harris were given a lead part in a rom-com, it would additionally create a buzz *because* some people hold the same opinion as Mr. Weiner. I firmly believe that Neil Patrick Harris could draw gay and straight audiences alike into theatres with such a role. Hollywood needs to test out Matthew Weiner’s theory, methinks.

  3. Well it’s obvious that Bryan Batt is not coming back as “Salvatore” on Mad Men because Matthew Weiner wasn’t aware that he was openly ga and has been for years. Learning the truth must have been devestating for a Truly Concerned Liberal like Weiner who now has my permisssion to TAKE THE FUCKING GAS PIPE!

    As for “nimi” pushy fag-hags like you are no more welcome than Weiner – STEP OFF!!!!!

  4. Weiner is right, that’s the reality of the industry.

    He’s also right that it shouldn’t be that way, but don’t mistake his acknowledgment of reality as an endorsement of it.

  5. David, what makes you think Weiner didn’t know Batt was gay when he cast him for the gay role in Mad Men?

  6. Weiner’s opinion would mean something if it had any basis in reality, but it doesn’t. In fact, all available evidence says that he’s wrong.

    He believes his opinion will be proven true “in the future”. That’s cute. If he said he believed that Martians would enslave the human race “in the future” would anyone listen to this fool?

    The very fact of what’s actually happening — that more and more actors are living their lives in exact opposition to the way Weiner believes that they should — proves Weiner wrong and will prevent this “future” he’s so convinced is coming. His self-fulfilling prophecy of deciding that out actors as a problem will be erased by actors refusing to play along with him and contiuing to come out.

    Just goes to show once again that being successful in Hollywood doesn’t mean you’re a genius.

  7. I didn’t see where Weiner said they ‘should’ live one way or another, I simply saw him acknowledging the reality of what actors face when they come out. Lets not pretend like homophobia is dead in Hollywood.

  8. Obviously Weiner didn’t know Bryan Batt was out, because if he did he wouldn’t have hired such a “failure.” Being in charge it made it possible for Weiner to write Batt out of the show and thus save himself further “embarassment.”

  9. The reality of what actors face when they come out is best exemplified by Neil Patrick Harris.

    The reality of what actors face when they stay in is best exemplified by Kevin Spacey.

  10. Sal was not fired “for being gay.”

  11. Dear David,

    your comments speak for themselves. Cheer up, or try at least to be decently mature when trying to make a point. Thank you.

  12. David, from what I’ve read, Bryan Batt was hired in part because Weiner thought a gay man would be better able to convey the subtleties of closet gay life in the 1960s.

  13. Then why is Weiner turning on gay actors? Don’t give me “Oh he’s only explaining how the industry operates” crap! If he really cared he’d back gay actors up, instead of telling them they’ll ruin their careers by coming out.

    Wiht “friends” like Weiner who needs enemies?

  14. David Ehrenstein, you know nothing about whether Bryan Batt will return. How could Matthew NOT know about Bryan Batt? Such a ridiculous post.

  15. He should not be led by what “people will accept”. He should educate them about is acceptable. This happened with actors with dark skin playing romantic leads. What once was thought to be impossible is now completely normal.
    It is self-fulfilling prophesies like Mr. Weiner’s that stand in the way of progress. “Gee, we sure wish our hands weren’t tied like this, but we could never cast a gay man in a heterosexual romantic lead because of what we know other people will think.” “I don’t personally have a problem with same-sex marriage but I know it bothers a lot of other people so I will vote against it so as not to make anybody uncomfortable”

    It’s a cover for bigotry.
    Thanks for nothing.

  16. Clearly you are unacquainted with irony, “Jack.”

    You are also unacquainted with homophobia.

  17. You seem so upset, David. Calm down.

    But I agree, if he cared, he should be willing to back them up, just saying actors will have limited opportunities is not really helping to remedy the problem.

    Why don’t we have a discussion about THAT–ok, there’s obviously a problem here, what can we do to fix it.

    The reason NPH is doing so well is because the public took a real liking to him, it certainly wasn’t Hollywood.

    That said, there seems to be a queue of personalities coming out one by one. Is this why he and Rupert are talking now–sounds like they are worried. And not about gay actor’s ability to get roles…just saying.

  18. Wow David makes a lot of valid points it does seem as if he doesnt care he seems more concerned about gays staying in the closet then he does about them being true to themselves and living their lives freely . He seems like most closeted homophobes made that one up only concerned with himself and how HE feels not how others(gay americans) feel about it.I am sure Bryan Batt would be most disheartened to know how his former creator feels about gays being open in the media or entertainment industry.

    Besides if they WERE given limited opportunities or roles it certainly wouldnt be their fault for coming out it’d be the homophobic neanderthal directors creators and so ons fault.

  19. There goes my interest in Mad Men!

  20. Rupert Everett has been out for years. He destroyed his career all by himself. After the success of “My Best Friend’s Wedding” there were countless offers — every one of which he skunked. One of them was “The Next Best Thing” — which he produced. Madonna co-starred and John Schlesinger directed. His diva-like behavior ruined the project and some say led to Schlesnger’s death.

    The one redeeming scene of that disaster was a scene in concerning a young gay man who was prevented from attending his lover’s funeral by his lover’s family. The young man could only sit at a distance and watch, and speak about his loss movingly to his friends.

    And the actor who played that young gay man?

    Neli Patrick Harris.

    Weiner’s “Don’t EVER Come Out!” crap is typical of Hollywood Power players. Adam Shankman and Don Roos have said the same thing — and their both openly gay!

    Why are they so SICK? Ask them. I’m too tired.

    I am 62 years-old and have been a gay activist since Stonewall (wasn’t there on The Day, but hung out the rest of the week, which was quite something) I joined the Gay Activist Alliance and worked on the Media Committee with Vito Russo. Our biggest fight was trying to get more people to Come Out. That was quite an avant-garde thing to do in those days. Less so today. All it takes is guts. It’s better to live free in the open air than locked in an airless closet.

    Weiner should be encouraging actors to follow Bryan Batt’s example. Why is he supporting a failing status quo?

    It’s truly disgusting!

  21. ‘Limiting their future career choices’ to what exactly? Straight, [usually] white protagonists in cookie cutter mold that is just more of the same from last years crop? I never will really understand that argument especially since it was made this time around during a panel featuring the few series that are a break from said mold.

    It’s a shame that Weiner is possibly throwing out what is one of the more interesting aspects of his show.

    That said, I can’t for the life of me see where Weiner states “Don’t EVER Come Out!” and to say this article say such, imo, is a knee jerk reaction.

  22. 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’

    TRANSLATION: “Don’t EVER come out!”

  23. Jesus. First off, as a heterosexual woman, I find NPH and loads of other gay men attractive, and have no difficulty buying them as heterosexual characters. It’s called “acting”. Secondly, it’s totally irresponsible for people like Matthew Weiner, who are in a position to change attitudes towards homosexuality by casting gay actors in a variety of roles, gay and straight, to claim that there are limited opportunities for them. Opportunities are limited because they are MAKING them limited. If creators and producers would stop letting their own prejudices get in the way and just cast gay actors, I think these “issues” would all disappear. Take a page from Bway, where half the actors seem to be gay and no one worries about whether or not Cheyenne Jackson will be a convincing straight love interest (he is! Shocking)

  24. You’re a horrible translator, David, especially since you cut his statement off in the middle of a thought. Immediately following your quote is this:

    “…We struggle with it – obviously, it’s wrong. It shouldn’t be that way.”

    He added: “It was extra brave that [NPH] 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 was not saying this is the way it should be. In fact, he specifically spoke against that reading. He was saying that (in his opinion) audiences still have a problem recognizing a gay man in a straight romantic leading role and producers still react to that by refusing to cast gay men in those roles. That’s it.

  25. “(in his opinion)”

    Love the parenthesis! What a steaming pile! Audiences have taken NPH to their hearts. Adam Lambert as well. And that’s not to mention Bryan Batt.

    “It shouldn’t be that way.” For whom? Certainly not for audiences. Definitely for Weiner and his ilk.

    Anyone in Hollywood in a position of power telling gay actors they should stay in the closet is THE ENEMY!

    No exceptions.

  26. Well I love NPH. Have loved him ever since I re-discovered him as an adult, in Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle. He’s my favorite actor ever, hands down. I don’t give a rat’s ass who he sleeps with. I’ll go see him in ANY movie he’s in, ANY show he’s in.

    I can’t imagine why anyone would care whether an actor — an ACTOR, okay??? who pretends to be a CHARACTER??? hello? — is gay or straight. I know people do, but damn, I don’t get it.

  27. On a panel discussion that was presumably, given the shows listed, specifically about gay actors/characters and being out in Hollywood, Weiner just called it as he sees it, highlighting audience prejudice rather than pretending there’s no issue. He goes on to condemn the situaton and laud Harris and De Generes for their action. Actually, “would rather live his life honestly” implies that he sees the alternative as dishonest, which doesn’t sound like an endorsement of the closet to me.

    Yes, that kind of comment could function as a self-fulfilling prophecy, but he clearly felt (c.f. “let’s not pretend”) that it was important not to brush the knock-on effects of audience prejudice under the carpet — in an open discourse on the subject — and trivialise what out gay actors have to deal with, and the guts it takes for them to do that. It is kinda possible he’s actually discussed this with actors like, say, Batt, knows what being out brings on them in the industry, and doesn’t want to diminish their action.

    Bear in mind that Weiner cast an openly gay actor as a gay guy, and represented the sort of subtle discrimination that led to this character being fired where a straight guy most likely would have kept his job. He tackled homophobia in its sneakier aspects rather than just presenting the bosses as straight-up bigots; that’s pretty valuable when it comes to wising straights up to the fact tha homophobia isn’t just Fred Phelps. And this is presumably why he was on the panel in the first place. I’m a queer writer who agitates for an end to what is essentially segregation in the media, and a mouthy bugger in general, but I really don’t see anything here to throw a hissy fit over.

    Unless you buy into the spin of the article. That “interjected” presents it as Weiner cutting in brusquely, interrupting, but… it’s a panel, a freeform discussion, back-and-forth. The actual quotes sound more like he just picked up as Bays finished off, which is how these things work. And “repeated the conventional wisdom” is a loaded phrase, paints him as dumbly reiterating a reactionary mantra he hasn’t actually thought about. In fact, he’s at most acknowledging the potential of an audience not buying a gay actor playing straight, not asserting the necessity of it — “can be jeopardized” not “can only be”. It sounds like a quite moderate position, and one which opens up a discussion on how far that problem goes — is it changing? how can we make it change faster? Had all of them just sat there saying, “yeah, gay actors should just come out and it’ll all be peachy”… not so constructive.

  28. It’s a wonder that Anthony Hopkins has had a career since “The Silence of the Lambs.” Why would an audience “buy” him as anythign other than a serial killer?

    Love your “Come out and be preachy bit,” KAPO.

  29. If you want to know whether being publicly openly gay causes actors to lose opportunities, ask a gay actor. Neil Patrick Harris is doing well, and thankfully so, since he comes across as a very likeable person, but, let’s face it, he’s not called the “Straightest Gay Guy in the World” for nothing. If he were more the stereotype, he would not be getting the roles he’s getting. Besides, didn’t he only come out when Perez Hilton outed him? We’re all told the same thing, as gay people in entertainment, that audiences don’t want anything gay “forced” on them. So people stay closeted and gay stories are usually told in subtext, such as “Whip It” and the “X-Men” films.
    Someone mentioned Adam Lambert being accepted. Really? Last I heard, he was being called UnAmerican and Peggy Noonan, the former speech writer for Reagan and Bush I, just said Adam Lambert trumps the economy as the issue Americans have the most trouble with. They don’t, according to her, stay up at night worried about feeding their families or paying for health care. They worry about the immoral influence Adam Lambert is having on people.
    Things are better for gays than, say, the 80s, but to join hands and sing a pretty song about how coming out doesn’t affect others in the least is putting one’s head in the sand. And when you do that, you choose not to see or acknowledge the fact that people are being beating, raped, and killed for being gay. And, yes, careers are ending. Straight allies are great, believe me, and very much appreciated, but it would be more appreciated if people would acknowledge the reality of what we face and join in to stop it. And, by the way, I am a writer who has gladly taken on the task of writing positive gay/lesbian characters to not only show us in a much more positive light, but to help gay actors find jobs. And I agree that Mr. Wiener would be a bigger help if he’d do the same.

  30. OK, as a gay male actor in Los Angeles who isn’t a celebrity, but who most of you here would probably recognize from my 25 feature films and over 300 television shows, and a 30 year career, I feel I have something to add…

    I am 48 years old. I started working regularly in TV and film when I was 18 years old. I would never in a million years ‘come out’ regarding my sexuality. Because I would never work again. Well, I might work again, but it wouldn’t be playing the police officers, attorneys, football players, politicians, and other types of roles I am used to playing. I would only be considered for the stereotypical effeminate gay male roles.

    I am reluctant to say this, but feel I must to make my point: I am not effeminate. I totally fly under people’s ‘gaydar.’ 20 years ago, my agent ‘invented’ a wife for me that I used to have to mention when asked about my personal life at an audition or on the set. Things were a bit scarier back then. But I did it. Because I needed to work. I think this is really about effeminate gay men. (Who take the brunt of society’s abuse.) And if I were to come out publicly, heterosexual America would immediately strip me of my masculinity. Even though I am more stereotypically ‘manly’ than most straight men. Even though many of you have lusted after me for 30 years as the ‘straight man’ you perceive me to be. (Once, I even made it into one of those ‘who would you want to sleep with’ polls. And I actually WON. And was terrified that the press would start snooping around my life.)

    I am not closeted in my personal life – everyone who knows me knows that I am gay. But you must keep in mind that we live in a country where in 2009, I can still be fired in 30 states for being as I was born.

    Straight folks, you simply have NO idea the hell that you put gay Americans through. No idea.

    So while it sickens me to not be able to be open about my humanity, this is a heterosexual character-flaw that must be dealt with. And we really wish that you would stop trying to make this OUR issue. It’s not.

    I often feel like a huge hypocrite. Because I have made a lot of money the last 30 years. But I was not able to do so being true to myself. And if I had been open about myself, I never would have booked the kinds of roles that I did. Some call me an Uncle Tom Faggot. But really, I am just another gay American who is trying to do the best he can in a world that wishes him nothing but pain, harm, and misery.

    I wish heterosexuals would try and do better. I know you can.

  31. Neil Patrick Harris was out and about all over town quite visibly with his sweetie David Burtka LONG before Mario Laundry elected to copy an item from a Canadian newspaper. NPH simply hadn’t done “The Full Oprah.”

    Now he doesn’t have to.

    If you think Peggy Noonan is the All High Poobah of American Culture then there’s really no help for you. She’s a joke.

    “Things are better for gays than, say, the 80s, but to join hands and sing a pretty song about how coming out doesn’t affect others in the least is putting one’s head in the sand. And when you do that, you choose not to see or acknowledge the fact that people are being beating, raped, and killed for being gay.”

    Things are beter for gays that say the 50′s! (The 80′s were Paradise by comparasion.) And we’re talking about show business, not ordinary everyday life where a man or woman can get killed.

  32. I couldn’t disagree more with those who say gay actors should stay in the closet. The more gay people that live openly and honestly make it more acceptable to the majority–regardless of the profession. I think a handsome, sexy man is appealing regardless of his sexual orientation and most women don’t care. In fact, handsome, hot, sexy men who are open about their sexuality are probably more appealing than the sexless closet cases who won’t come out, or hide in phony relationships with women.

  33. January 24th, 2010 at 1:20 pm
    Engineer Dad says:

    Oy vey! Do we still afflict audiences with blackfaced actors as Africans or fu Manchu mustached, yellowfaced actors as Chinese?

    Then why annoy straight audiences watching romantic comedies and dramas with gay actors as romantic leads or womanizers? Which producers or directors are so arrogant to assembles a caste to insult the ‘clueless straights’?

  34. Every time I watch funny “How I met your mother” I never keep thinking “look that gay guy playing straight”, I just completely forget the guy is gay while I’m watching it. I believe he’s as straight as anyone else in the show. I guess NPH is a great actor and does not carry any “gayish” to his character, which makes it totally believable. I guess it will depend on how good the actor is to prove he can be anyone and involve anyone into the plot. But if people who’s got the money insist on saying openly gay actors ruin their careers, well, they are the ones who do that. for fear or/and prejudice. The same happens when the make people believe that not-so-good-and-not-so-good-looking actor/actress is the best. Media has this skill, talk anyone into what they want them to believe.

  35. Neil is done. After his current show goes off the air he will slowly fade away. Is it right? Maybe not. It’s it fair? Probably not. But be honest, ask your friends to be HONEST, very few people will pay to see an openly gay actor has a leading man/woman. It was painful watching Ellen D kiss men when she used to act. I don’t watch How I Met Your Mother – It’s just not my kind of thing, but people will look back and note that it was one of the last major roles NPH ever had.

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