The Director Told The Actors ‘Don’t Panic When You Read It!’

Jonathan Bailey and Taron Egerton announced to play the West End in "Cock"
Jonathan Bailey and Taron Egerton

Taron Egerton (Rocketman) and Jonathan Bailey (Bridgerton) have been announced to star in a play titled “Cock” in the West End.

Bailey’s most recent appearance on the London stage was in the revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Company for which he won an Olivier Award. The production will mark Egerton’s West End debut. 

When director Marianne Elliott first approached Bailey about the role, she told him, “‘Don’t panic when you read it!'”

In the play, the duo play a longtime gay couple who are forced to explore questions of sexual identity and labeling when one of the characters, John (played by Bailey), meets “the woman of his dreams.”

While Bailey is an out gay man, Egerton (who won a Golden Globe Award for playing Elton John in Rocketman) has clarified that he’s straight. The casting news for the play has reinvigorated the debate about straight actors playing gay roles.

Some folks point to Egerton’s star power and talent as justification for taking on the role. But others say out actors are afforded fewer starring roles, and casting a straight man in the role is one more lost opportunity.

Bailey offered his opinion on the subject last year in an interview with Digital Spy saying, “I think it shouldn’t matter at all what character people play, but of course there is a narrative that’s very clear, that openly gay men aren’t playing straight in leading roles.”

“And also, there’s a reason why gay characters are so interesting,” he continued. “Because much like the women in Bridgerton, there are a lot of hurdles and there’s a lot of self-growth, and there’s a real strength to gay men.”

 Bailey then added, “But wouldn’t it be brilliant to see gay men play their own experience?”

The play, originally produced in 2009, also has some objectors as the drama seems to present John with the task of “choosing” his sexuality. But Bailey disagrees.

“The fact is, he doesn’t need to make a decision,” Bailey told the Daily Mail. “People identify themselves differently than they did 12 years ago. It was ahead of its time.”

“Cock” will run from March 5, 2022 to June 4 at the Ambassadors Theatre in London’s West End.

(source: The Daily Mail) Photo credits – Jonathan Bailey (via IMDB) Taron Egerton (Gage Skidmore/FlickrCC license)

19 thoughts on “The Director Told The Actors ‘Don’t Panic When You Read It!’”

  1. When gay guys who are femme presenting IRL start getting casted to play butch straight dickheads, then we can all partake in the “actors can play any role” idea. As it stands, femme gay guys, trans people, people of color, disable people… they’re still not casted to even play themselves let alone people that aren’t exactly like them.

    I dont know why this is so hard to understand, its been talked about for decades now.

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  2. Having done a lot of acting, an actor plays what the part calls for. If it’s a murderer, then he plays a murderer. Let’s get real. That’s what actors are trained for. If one is hired for a new job, it may not be what he is trained for, but he does it. Go for the experience. What should anyone care who the actors go home to at night? Too many people are so into themselves that they can’t believe that not everyone “acts” like they do. I know the straightest people imaginable who go home to their own private life. We have to get over ourselves. The ones who complain the most wouldn’t have gone, anyhow. Just go, enjoy it, and have a good POSITIVE (you know what this is!) time.

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  3. No problem here. Taron did an excellent job playing Elton. Jonathan did a great job playing it straight as a Bridgerton .

    This silliness about roles only being played by certain types of actors is foolish. Vivien Leigh wasn’t an American from the south, yet she won the Oscar twice for playing Scarlet and Blanche. Heath Ledger was a straight Australian, Jake Gyllenhaal is straight. John Barrowman was a straight villain on Desperate Housewives, Matt Boomer a straight, hot con man on White Collar. The late Willie Garson was great in SITC as a gay guy, also as Mozie in White Collar , straight.

    2 problems with Bohemian Rhapsody. Malek’s acting was just ok, IMO. He didn’t sing, whereas Taron sang and sounded exactly like Sir Elton. IMO, Taron should have won the Oscar

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  4. I think Taron will be great in this. He does play a lot of roles where he is gay(rocketman,Teddy Smith in Legend,The devil within) He’s an actor he plays the role well. Give him a chance and see the play first.

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  5. If a straight person can’t play a gay character, it stands to reason a gay person can’t play a straight character. This whole argument is so incredibly limiting to anyone who knows anything about the craft of acting. It’s all about playing someone you usually aren’t.

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  6. Hey AV… you state: “When one can play a negative character in a movie whilst being nothing like that in real life?” Interesting that you label the gay character as “negative.” Nice going… you agreed with the homophobes who see the gays as negative. Isn’t acting all about playing a role? A good actor does not need to be in real life that which he/she portrays in an acting role.

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  7. Why can’t a straight man play a gay character? When one can play a negative character in a movie whilst being nothing like that in real life ? Why do we gay people have to have issues and trying to always justify ourselves, we have come so far just embrace the diversity of everything , just tired of every one trying to justify their sexuality or ethnicity , let the straight people embrace our sexuality, u never know , this is where every sexuality comes to understand each other, if gay characters are played and portrayed by gays then it will be seen only by gays , are we not moving on ?

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  8. “The fact is, he doesn’t need to make a decision,” Bailey told the Daily Mail. “People identify themselves differently than they did 12 years ago. It was ahead of its time.”

    I had a feeling this was going to happen. We have come full circle. It’s this whole “self-identification” craze that’s going on. Not only do our social institutions have to be “all-inclusive” but now everyone in their own personal and private lives have to be. Very soon gay men will be bullied an harangued for not sleeping with women and straight men will be harassed for not sleeping with men. Already both groups are being shamed if they don’t want to be with trans individuals. So, instead of right-wing Christians trying to change our sexual orientations to fit a divine plan, it will be left-wing secularists doing the same thing to fit a “more-inclusive” social justice plan. Same hatred, different bigotry!

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    • I’m not quite sure what you are arguing for exactly, however, I think that as the world evolves, these issues will fade away in the background — assuming the extreme evangelical “fake Christian” right wing doesn’t succeed in turning back the clock.

      Increasingly, young people are open about flexible sexual identity. This is a good thing.

      The struggle for racial equality led to women’s movements which led to gay movements which led to trans movements. With token representation at first, then more wide-spread representation, the increased visibility that the gay movement brought to sexual identity/behaviour also illuminates more subtle shades on the spectrum. It’s not immediate, and each step forward comes with hateful, fearful right-wing outbursts.. but still, the younger generation is becoming more progressive about these issues.

      But, please reconsider your “same hatred, different bigotry” comment. While not everyone on the “left” isn’t perfect, there is a huge difference between the behaviours of progressive/conservative folks. The odd ignorant comment can come from the “left” but that is usually as far as it goes.

      Right-wing Christians ARE passing anti-gay, anti-trans legislation. They are responsible for violence against the LGBTQ+ communities.

      There is a big difference and a different level of hatred. Even self-hating LGBTQ+
      people can be part of the problem—but again, their private identification does not match their public views/comments/behaviour (ie. Log Cabin Republicans).

      Specifically, you make disagree with Bailey’s comments, but he is a gay man who is open about his own experience and I don’t see how this leads to any sort of “craze”.

      Finally, I don’t know any gay men who are being bullied for not sleeping with women, etc. And if certain straight men are being pressured to sleep with other men, it’s not by general society, rather by horny gay men who fixate on straight men, as illustrated in the “gay for pay” porn genre. Or perhaps in some cases, women who are tired of being asked to have FFM threesomes by their male lovers and want to flip the script on them.

      Either way, with the evolution I mentioned at the top of this comment and acceptance of a wider sexual spectrum, I believe that eventually that the gay/straight divide will also weaken as more people become increasingly open about falling somewhere in between.

      Ultimately, all movements for equality are still important and have further to go — but the world has still changed quite a lot in a short time. Until we reach a perfect society where people’s race, sex, sexuality, etc, are not used against them and accepted as being merely a statistic, we will still have bigotry and injustice—but the more public representation becomes fair, media celebrates all types, and people like Bailey are publicly open, then we are moving towards a more just and better society.

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  9. Seriously doubt this is something that I would enjoy watching….so tired of movies trying to change a guys sexuality to appeal to a wider straight audience.

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