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Ben Whishaw: 'I Would Like To See More Gay Actors Playing Straight Roles'

The star of “A Very English Scandal” believes Hollywood could benefit from an "even playing field" for all performers.

Ben Whishaw says he has no problem with straight actors playing gay characters ― so long as a similar range of opportunity is provided for openly LGBTQ performers, too. 

The star of “Mary Poppins Returns” and “A Very English Scandal” has never been one to play it safe, tackling a variety of roles since confirming he identifies as gay in 2013. At the Golden Globes on Sunday, Whishaw was asked about “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” star Darren Criss, who recently pledged to steer clear of queer roles in hopes of creating more opportunities for LGBTQ actors in Hollywood. 

Whishaw, however, told reporters he believes skilled actors should be able to inhabit characters from all walks of life, regardless of their sexuality. 

“I really believe that actors can embody and portray anything and we shouldn’t be defined only by what we are,” he said, as seen in the video above. “I think there was a time when we didn’t know anything about actors, they were very mysterious. But now we know everything.”

"I really believe that actors can embody and portray anything," Ben Whishaw said, "and we shouldn’t be defined only by
"I really believe that actors can embody and portray anything," Ben Whishaw said, "and we shouldn’t be defined only by what we are."

Still, Whishaw said he thinks there’s room for improvement in film and television when it comes to making room for LGBTQ artists. 

“I think there needs to be greater equality,” he said. “I would like to see more gay actors playing straight roles. It needs to be an even playing field for everybody ― that would be my ideal.”

He seemed optimistic that the industry is moving in the right direction, adding, “I don’t know how far we’re away from that.”

Whishaw, who has been married to Australian composer Mark Bradshaw since 2012, nabbed a 2019 Golden Globe for his portrayal of Norman Scott, the ex-lover of British politician Jeremy Thorpe, in “A Very English Scandal,” based on a real-life 1979 case.  

As portrayed on the BBC series, Scott accused Thorpe ― who was the leader of England’s Liberal Party from 1967 to 1976 ― of conspiring to murder him. 

During his acceptance speech Sunday, Whishaw praised Scott as “a true queer hero and icon” who “took on the establishment with a courage and a defiance that I find completely inspiring.”

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