Netflix’s Bridgerton may be having some issues with gay representation, or the lack of it, but it does have a gay male lead.
When it was announced that Jonathan Bailey would be playing one of the leading roles in the period piece, LGBTQ entertainment fans were excited. The reason being, Jonathan Bailey is openly gay. But now that Bailey has this spotlight, he’s sharing the truth about his experience of being openly gay in the entertainment business.
As Baily shared in an interview with Attitude Magazine, he has been repeatedly advised to stay in the closet. That is, if he wanted to succeed as an actor. He also revealed that he usually heard this unwarranted advice from other gay people working in the industry.
“The most conservative conversations I’ve had about me being honest about my sexuality in this day and age have come from gay men in the industry, ‘oh no, you can’t come out, you shouldn’t really do that,’” Bailey shared. “They’re either people who work in publicity, or there’s also been casting directors who have put the call into my agent to say, ‘just so that you know, the way that this is going to be sold is that it’s a gay story written by gay writers for gay actors, so by just taking the role…’ This was at a stage where perhaps I was coming to terms with my own sexuality, I hadn’t necessarily hidden it…but I’ve never not been honest about it.”
These are words mirrored by other LGBTQ talents in the entertainment field. Justice League and Fantastic Beasts star Ezra Miller once said that he was also told to stay in the closet.
“I won’t specify,” he told OUT, “[But] I was told by a lot of people I’d made a mistake. Folks in the industry, folks outside of the industry. People I’ve never spoken to. They said there’s a reason so many gay, queer, gender-fluid people in Hollywood conceal their sexual identity, or their gender identity in their public image. I was told I had done a “silly” thing in… thwarting my own potential to be a leading man.”
After coming out, British model Zander Hodgson shared on YouTube that he was afraid to come out because it could harm his career.
“I don’t think there are many opportunities out there for gay men to play straight roles,” he shared. “While I love watching gay films about gay relationships, where straight actors have taken on the role, I’m also questioning more and more why is a straight actor in that role when there are so many gay actors out there?”
He then added, “I want to be able to play all kinds of roles: straight guys; gay guys; criminals; trans; all kinds of characters out there that are juicy and beautiful and so interesting.”
“And if I do get pushed aside because I’m a gay actor now and that’s not marketeable enough, then so be it. I’d rather live a full life. I’d rather be myself. I’d rather go on my journey and not suppress myself any more,” he concluded.
Comedian and actor Billy Eichner also noted how openly gay actors are often regulated to being “gay” actors and not just simply actors.
“We applaud them,” he shared. “We put them on the cover of magazines. We say, thank you for living your truth, and thank you for being brave, and you’re such a role model for our gay kids. And then instantly, that actor gets taken off so many casting lists in the business.”
“I’m doing this rom com, about a gay male couple that I wrote and I’m starring in for Universal, that Judd Apatow is producing,” Eichner said by way of example. “I was privy to casting discussions, and I would see when the casting lists were circulating, about which actors to call in for which role. There were so many straight actors on every list to play gay characters. And then, at the beginning before I raised my voice, for the straight characters in the movie, there were never gay actors on the lists for those roles. I saw it with my own eyes. It’s not a two-way street.”
Perhaps with Jonathan Bailey on a show that made a record-breaking December for Netflix will help to change this reality. But, we can’t say for sure just yet.