As the conversation continues about whether actors can be out in Hollywood and still be cast in roles that are either LGBT or straight, the answer is ‘yes’ for out actor-comedian Jason Stuart. He guest stars tonight on TNT's hit The Closer as the owner of a storage facility that discovers a dead body.
A character actor, Stuart has been showing his range lately: He will pop up in an upcoming episode of the FX series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia as an event director, and later in the Catherine Hicks/Greg Evigan thriller The Truth About Layla as a police officer.
Given the challenges faced by actors who choose to live openly and honestly, Stuart created and is national chair of the Screen Actors Guild LGBT Actors Committee. The committee encourages the auditioning and casting of out actors while offering a network of support to these actors.
In an exclusive interview, Stuart spoke to glaadBLOG about being an out performer in 2009.
Does being an openly gay actor in Hollywood hinder the chance of lucrative career?
A big fat no. I have been out for 16 years and just played a half dozen really different roles in the last year, such as a priest, an event manager, a male nurse, a cop, and of course the manager of a storage unit business on The Closer. So the climate has changed from my experience pre-Ellen. Yes, there are certainly challenges at times, but to me it’s a dream come true to get to be working actor at a business I love.
Have you noticed a disparity between roles written for gay men opposed to openly gay women?
There does seem to be more gay male roles than lesbian roles. But I think that also reflects that there always more roles for men than women period. This is an issue the SAG LGBT Actors Committee addresses. We need to support our out lesbian sisters in getting more roles and having more visibility.
Do gay decision makers in Hollywood support out gay actors?
Regardless if they’re gay or not, I think there are decision makers who don’t care if actors are gay and they just want to make a great film or TV show. There are 500 channels on TV, let’s show the powers-that-be that gay means ratings and money in their pockets.
Now that the climate seems better for character actors to be out, when will it be okay for out leading men?
Pre-Ellen I couldn't get arrested as a character actor in TV or film. I would work maybe once or twice a year as an actor, and I was lucky to be a stand-up comedian in addition to being an actor. From stand-up I learned first hand the mainstream public just wants to laugh and see good stories. Now I am fortunate to work all the time.
Why can’t we just fast forward and support the leading man or woman who chooses to come out and make him or her the next big thing? After a while it will not matter. History shows this. Twenty years ago you would never see a Black woman as a judge on TV, now it’s common place. Lets learn from the past.
With actors feeling more comfortable being out in the workplace, and our increased visibility in the media, are we edging closer to equality?
We’ll have equality as soon as we as gay Americans stand up and be counted. I’m not talking about the upcoming U.S. Census, but that’s also a start. I’m talking about living our lives openly and honestly and showing the world who we are. At lunch last week, my best friend Alexandra Paul—my Grace—kissed her husband hello in a public restaurant. She didn’t have to look around first to see who was watching. I’ve learned to act the same way with my boyfriend. Well, I will as soon as I get one!
For more information about Stuart and a list of his upcoming stand-up performances, check out http://www.jasonstuart.com