Michael Urie: 'I Was Encouraged To Stay In The Closet' When Starting 'Ugly Betty'
Michael Urie, best known for his delightful role as Marc St. James on Ugly Betty, initially was encouraged to stay in the closet publicly. Urie spoke with Frontiers LA:
Amid gay actors who struggle when coming out publicly, Urie enjoys a flourishing career. Yet he doesn’t believe problems have gone away for all gay actors. He confides, “When I first started Ugly Betty in 2006, things were very different. I was encouraged to stay in the closet. This was before Neil Patrick Harris had come out. Even though I was playing an openly gay character, we thought we might want to keep the mystery of what I do behind closed doors. But, for me, coming out has only aided my career. It might not be good for everyone, but I have gotten to play so many wonderful roles. If I at any point decide not to play gay characters anymore, I would work a lot less. To me, it’s way better to have jobs and get great parts. I got to do [gay roles] in The Temperamentals and Angels in America, and now Buyer and Cellar.”
Urie points out that these well-received portrayals led to his being cast as heterosexual characters in The Cherry Orchard and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Yet he adds, “Unfortunately, I think coming out is still something actors known for certain kinds of roles have to think about. Audiences sometimes have a better sense of suspension of disbelief than people making the casting decisions do, though I can’t blame them for not taking big risks. Will & Grace, Ugly Betty and Modern Family have helped progress the gay rights movement, and those wouldn’t have been possible without gay people in show business.”
Things have definitely improved within the industry as more and more actors have chosen to be open about their sexual orientation. Hopefully we'll see more individuals behind the scenes showing a willingness to take "big risks."