Queer Character, Queer Actor
When the actor cast to play a queer role identifies in the same way as their character; i.e. Gay men played by gay men, lesbians by lesbians, transgender people by transgender people, and so on. Typically with the exception of bisexuals, who are rare, for some reason
This may have been in the past because straight actors didn't want to perform as gay characters. Whilst casting people of any sexuality or identity is now more common, it's not untrue that actual queer people usually can just perform as more queer than straight/cisgender people can. Casting somebody who identifies in the same way as their character probably means that they'll be more comfortable in the role than other actors may be.
This then extends to usually either all
queer characters in a work are portrayed by queer actors, or none are at all. If you've got one actor who's gay you've got to make sure that the representation is equal and the audience aren't going to find holes in some 'gay' portrayals and some 'straight' within the same work. There's (or there used to be) also some straight actors who would be fine with performing homosexual scenes with somebody else straight, but not when they think that the other actor might enjoy it or be taking advantage of them. Thankfully, the Unfortunate Implications
seem to have been discredited by The New '10s
in most Western countries.
The casting directors may not have been actually looking for someone queer to play such roles, but the actors were deemed best for the roles which may be because of the genuine portrayal. Note that though the actor and character may both be queer they may not identify the same way. In this way the trope may be downplayed or sometimes invoked because of the casting directors wanting an actually queer actor in the role and settling for whatever they can find. Queer actors playing a character who is queer but identifies differently than themselves is becoming more common. This is perhaps because of the "find anybody queer" rush to hit an unspoken quota, or because more actors are now out.
However, it is actually illegal
in California for casting directors to seek out actors of a certain sexual orientation, or to even ask about it. This is due to the state's employment discrimination laws (though such practices previously worked against queer actors for decades). When this trope is in effect, it's usually because gay actors seek out these roles and can apply their personal experience to the part.
Of course, this also works in the reverse: queer actors playing straight/cis characters, though this is rarer than its inverse, which leads to some questioning of Hollywood standards (queer people can only play queer, but straight people can play anyone).
Aversions are a very sensitive issue with transgender people; any cisgender actor playing a Cross-Cast Role
for a trans character is likely to be criticised (as it conflates them, and by extension actual trans people, with crossdressing characters
). Cisgender women playing trans women and cisgender men playing trans men tend to be better received (but may still be criticised for taking the role from the pool of trans actorsnote
Interesting instances arise when an actor comes out once already an established character within a universe, and then their character's storyline follows suit
There is large real life debate over several occurrences mentioned above. Please do not inject opinions regarding such when writing examples.
of Disabled Character, Disabled Actor
, and there may be overlap - but queerness is not
Related to Actor-Shared Background
. See also: Camp Gay
, Straight Gay
, Camp Straight
, Macho Camp
, Lipstick Lesbian
, Badass Gay
- Orange Is the New Black features lesbian Samira Wiley as Poussey, and Laverne Cox as a trans woman. Then in season 3 Ruby Rose plays a lesbian though she is gender fluid (but uses female pronouns and dates women).
- Glee has gay Chris Colfer playing Kurt. There are also other queer roles played by queer actors who identify differently: bisexual Naya Rivera plays the lesbian Santana, the gay male Alex Newell also plays straight trans girl Unique, and the lesbian Dot Marie Jones plays gay trans man Beiste.
- John Barrowman is gay, and tried out for the role of Will in Will & Grace but the producers thought he was "too straight". His best known role is as Extreme Omnisexual Captain Jack Harkness on Doctor Who and Torchwood.
- Trans woman Rebecca Root plays trans woman Judy on Boy Meets Girl.
- Mrs. Hudson from Elementary is a trans woman played by Candis Cayne, who is trans.
- Buck Vu from The OA is a trans man played by Ian Alexander, who is trans.
- When George Takei came out as gay, a lot of people assumed that his most famous character, Hikaru Sulu of Star Trek: The Original Series was also gay. However, Takei has always adamantly denied this, and Sulu was portrayed as not only straight, but happily married to a woman and, in Star Trek: Generations, the father of a grown daughter who had followed in her father's footsteps. In the rebooted Star Trek film franchise — albeit after the dimensional... shift — Sulu is shown with a husband and daughter (Sulu here portrayed by John Cho).
- TV's first nonbinary character, Taylor Mason, is played by the openly nonbinary Asia Kate Dillon in Showtime's Billions.
- The show Hedwig and the Angry Inch has the titular character of Hedwig who is possibly a trans woman but could also be a very effeminate gay man. Hedwig is usually played by gay or effeminate males because of this. In fact, when the rather masculine Taye Diggs took over the role he was ripped to shreds by critics.