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Will & Grace star on non-LGBT+ actors in gay roles: Best people should get parts

Will & Grace star Eric McCormack has defended non-LGBT+ actors being cast in gay roles.

As gay lawyer Will Truman, McCormack starred opposite Debra Messing’s Grace Adler, a straight interior designer, in the ground-breaking comedy from 1998 to 2006 before returning for the rebooted version in 2017.

McCormack, who is straight, was asked on ITV’s Good Morning Britain about the controversy surrounding actors who are not gay playing characters of a different sexual orientation.

31st Annual People’s Choice Awards – Pasadena Civic Auditorium
The cast of Will and Grace, from left, Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes (Francis Specker/PA)

He replied saying: “That’s a tough one for me, because I didn’t become an actor so that I could play an actor.

“There’s no part I’ve ever played where I wasn’t playing something I’m not. It’s part of the gig.

“And I’ve always said: ‘If gay actors weren’t allowed to play straight actors, Broadway would be over.’

“So this is what we do. I’d like to think that I represent it well, you know, literally, I came from the theatre, and one of my best friends was a gay man.

“So I think I took their spirit and their message in what was otherwise just a sitcom and, represented it, I hope.”

When asked if he could get the Will & Grace role today, the Canadian-born actor said: “Well I guess the answer would be, they’d have to say in the casting room: ‘And you’re gay, right?’ But they don’t think they can say (that).

“So I still think as you say, it’s hypothetical. I would like to think in general that the best person for the role, the one that comes in and knocks it out of the park, is the one that gets the part.”

In 2018, when he was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he said he was grateful to the LGBTQ community “for the rest of my life” for accepting him in the role

McCormack shares a son with Janet Holden, who he married in 1997. They reportedly filed for divorce last year.

He is set to make his West End debut in the musical Wild About You at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in March.

Graham Norton Show – London
Eric McCormack and Debra Messing. (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Will & Grace returned for three series from 2017 to 2020 with the original members Megan Mullally, who plays rich neighbour Karen Walker, and Sean Hayes, who plays Will’s flamboyant friend Jack McFarland, also returning.

The American comedy series has been celebrated for the portrayal of gay characters and attracted big name stars including Sir Elton John and Madonna.

Hayes, who did not come out publicly until 2010, told Playbill in 2016 that the acting industry is different if you are LGBT+ actor, saying Hollywood “shouldn’t be fascinated that a straight man can play gay any more”.

He also said: “(Straight actors) could play gay and be adored and worshipped for it, and I thought, ‘Oh. I’ll just do that. If I just do a good job, I’ll be accepted as an actor, and then I’ll just keep playing any role.

“But Hollywood doesn’t work that way, and audiences don’t work that way because there’s a stipulation that goes with audiences where if they see a gay person playing straight, they go: ‘Yeah right.’”