Billy Eichner on Gay Roles In Family Films

Billy Eichner (right) and Seth Rogen voice the iconic duo Timon and Pumba in the live-action remake of “The Lion King.” / Images via YouTube @BillOnTheStreet and Walt Disney Studios

Billy Eichner says he’d be thrilled to see more LGBTQ characters in family-friendly movies.

While talking to Buzzfeed, the “Different People” star shared his thoughts on being a gay actor in the Disney film The Lion King. Eichner shares that he’s happy to have access to a new crowd of fans and to take on the role of Timon, which was once voiced by comedic legend Nathan Lane.

“I’m glad that [director] Jon Favreau kept the tradition of Timon being played by a gay actor, with a certain type of comedic sensibility, alive,” Eichner said.

Eichner was then asked for his thoughts on how some fans of the original animated film pegged iconic villain Scar as being a gay coded character.

“Gay people always had to sort of search for the closeted gay character, because there were no openly gay characters, and we were so thirsty for them,” he said. “People are always trying to find the gay character in animated movies. I think the way to correct that is to actually put gay characters in animated movies. … One of the last frontiers for LGBT representation is animated family films.”

Eichner then added that he hopes to see entertainment characters in mainstream movies openly discussing and expressing/exploring their romantic desires/feelings.

“I would love to see a world where we don’t have to argue about, you know, whether what’s his name in ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is gay or not. I don’t want it to be subtle or a question mark. It just should be gay,” he said. “There should just be existing openly LGBT characters so that we don’t have to keep arguing about Bert and Ernie. I don’t care if Bert and Ernie are gay. I want to see actual gay people that are not a mystery. The way to move on from all those debates is to just create openly gay characters in children’s programming and family entertainment.”

That said, Eichner doesn’t want people to think Timon and Pumba are a Bert & Ernie situation.

“I didn’t think about him being gay so much as I thought, Well, I’m gay, and I have what some may consider a gay sensibility, and I’m going to bring that to the table, just the way that Nathan did. I’m certainly not going to shy away from it.”

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