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Justin Bartha, 'The New Normal' Star, Talks 'Stay-At-Home Dad' Episode And Playing Gay On TV

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JUSTIN BARTHA NEW NORMAL
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Justin Bartha will don a pink feather boa, make-up and even a tiara on a new episode of "The New Normal" which tackles the ever-relevant topic of stay-at-home parenting -- with a same-sex twist.

Set to air Jan. 15, "Stay-At-Home Dad" sees gay dads-to-be David (Bartha) and his partner Bryan (Andrew Rannells) taking turns with 9-year-old Shania (Bebe Wood) in an effort to live out their fantasy of being extremely hands-on parents. As evidenced by David's colorful, gender-bending appearance in the episode's promos, however, things don't go quite according to their plan.

"You'll get to see the juxtaposition between David and Bryan's styles of parenting and what they think they have in store for them," Bartha tells HuffPost Gay Voices exclusively. After describing David as "a confident man who is fairly put together and who happens to have a few preconceived notions of what it takes to be a good father," he adds with a laugh, "He's going to meet his maker this week."

To some fans, Bartha might not seem like the most obvious choice for the role of a mild-mannered, openly gay father-to-be. Unlike his co-star Rannells (who recently described himself as a "purebred gay"), Bartha is straight and perhaps best known for 2009's dude-centric blockbuster "The Hangover."

But when Bartha learned Ryan Murphy ("Glee," "American Horror Story") was searching for his "New Normal" dads, he says he called the writer-director personally, eager to take part.

Though the fact that he's straight "gets brought up all the time," the 34-year-old actor describes the freshman comedy, which also stars Georgia King and Ellen Barkin, as being focused on "a cause that I really believe in. It was a great role...I think Ryan is an important voice in entertainment as he's doing things on TV that are very different."

The difference this time around, Bartha says, was Murphy's instance on portraying David and Bryan "in the most realistic way possible and not holding back. We wanted to get away with as much as we can on a network television series, and we wanted to do it in a way that doesn't dumb the characters down or put Vaseline on the lens, so to speak." As for the show's overriding message, he adds, "The pursuit of happiness is everyone's right. Just because someone has different beliefs, values or sexual preferences doesn't mean they shouldn't have the right to pursue happiness."

Nonetheless, that pro-equality stance has incensed its share of right-wing groups. Last July, One Million Moms urged members to boycott the "harmful" show, which it deemed "damaging to our culture" well before the series premiere had even been aired.

But Bartha says the views of that notorious anti-gay organization, which targeted JC Penney after Ellen DeGeneres was enlisted as the retail chain's spokeswoman last, aren't taken into much account on "The New Normal" set, even though Murphy incorporated a dig at the group into one of the show's earliest episodes.

"I think there are more organic ways to start conversations, of course, but everyone's point of view -- conservative, liberal or whatever -- is valid," Bartha notes. "You can't deny that type of bigotry exists in our world." As a counterpoint, he points to a recent moment he and Rannells shared on the set with Matt Bomer, the openly gay star of "White Collar" and "Magic Mike" who made a guest appearance on the Jan. 8 episode of "Normal."

"Matt just looked at Andrew and me and said, 'It's so amazing that we've gotten to a point where we can have a major TV show that's centered on an openly gay couple, and that I can take part in it,'" Bartha recalls. "It's moments like that which make me proud that we're able to add another drop in the bucket."

Keep laughing with "The New Normal," which airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. EST on NBC.

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