“Will & Grace” Star Eric McCormack Receives Backlash For Defending Straight Actors In Gay Roles

A Will & Grace actor recently weighed in on the debate over whether gay characters should be played by gay actors, citing his own experiences as a straight actor portraying an iconic queer role. An LGBTQ+ charity has since reacted.

Eric McCormack rose to fame after starring as gay lawyer Will Truman on the popular sitcom Will & Grace.

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Nevertheless, the 60-year-old actor, who was married to actress Janet Holden for nearly three decades, shared his opinion about gay characters being portrayed by straight actors, something he did for eight seasons on the sitcom.

Appearing on Monday’s (March 18) episode of ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Eric said he believed the “best person for the role” should be cast in projects, regardless of sexuality.

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

Will & Grace’s Eric McCormack spoke on straight actors playing gay roles, sparking various reactions, including from an LGBTQ+ charity

Image credits: David Shankbone

The Canadian-American talent continued: “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.”

As per Entertainment Weekly, Eric further stated: “So this is what we do.

“I’d like to think that I represent it well.

“I came from the theater, 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.”

Upon being asked if he thought he would be cast if the sitcom was made today, Eric replied: “Well, I guess the answer would be, they’d have to say in the casting room, ‘And you’re gay, right?’ which I don’t think they can say.”

He added: “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.”

Eric McCormack defended his portrayal of gay lawyer Will Truman, emphasizing the importance of performance over sexuality

Image credits: Will & Grace

Will & Grace starred Eric and Sean Hayes as its two main gay characters. Sean, who was not out at the time, played Jack McFarland and was nominated for seven consecutive Emmys, winning one, Out reported.

Meanwhile, Eric was nominated for four Emmys, winning one in 2001.

When it comes to LGBTQ+ characters, leaving aside the sexual orientation and gender identity of the actors behind the roles, film studios are also behind television, NBC News reported in 2021.

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In the 2020 Studio Responsibility Index, the LGBTQ+ media advocacy group GLAAD reported that 22 out of 118 films counted from major studios (18.6 percent) released in 2019 featured LGBTQ characters, with gay male characters representing the bulk, at nearly 70 percent, and no transgender characters.

Nielsen’s inaugural “Being Seen on Screen: Diverse Representation & Inclusion on TV” report found that 26 percent of the top 300 TV programs included at least one cast member who identifies as LGBTQ+.

While straight and cisgender actors are given many opportunities to play roles outside their own gender and sexuality, many gay and trans actors say they are given far less leeway, NBC News stated. This is another reason, in addition to the authenticity factor, that some argue queer roles should be reserved for queer actors.

Will & Grace starred Eric and Sean Hayes as its two main gay characters. Sean, who was not out at the time, played Jack McFarland

Image credits: Will & Grace

“Gone are the days when few actors on the traveling troupe had to play all roles, dressing up as men and women, white or Black, able-bodied or disabled,” Lukasz Konieczka, executive director for LGBTQ+ charity Mosaic Youth, told Bored Panda in an email.

Lukasz continued: “Today, some actors are struggling to find work due to their disability or transgender identity.

“If we want to build a more inclusive society, surely arts should be ahead of its time.

“We should seek actors with lived experience, be it sexual orientation, disability, or gender identity, to name but a few.”

Lukasz went on to highlight the inappropriateness of blackface, as well as the backlash TV shows like Little Britain faced as a result of the outdated and racist practice.

“I am Polish, and I am sick and tired of watching actors who can’t speak Polish pretending they do when even I can’t understand them,” the director said. “All this while Polish actors are being taught to give up their accents to advance their careers.”

He further stated: “Queer stories should be performed by those who are indeed queer, but they shouldn’t be restricted to just those roles either.

“Similar to trans actors playing roles of those whose transness isn’t part of the storyline.

“Black people can play characters that aren’t all just about being Black, same as gay people can play characters whose focus isn’t their sexuality.

“Casting directors need to stop casting as if it were a theatre troupe in the XVI century.”

Eric McCormack’s statement fueled backlash on social media

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