Kit Harington defends straight actors' right to play LGBTQ roles: 'Where's that going to end?' (exclusive)

Hanna Flint
Kit Harington and Xavier Dolan defend straight actors’ right to play LGBTQ characters
Kit Harington and Xavier Dolan defend straight actors’ right to play LGBTQ characters

There’s been a big conversation taking place about representation in Hollywood especially when it concerns straight actors taking LGBTQ roles.

There was mass criticism over Scarlett Johansson signing on to play a trans man, which she subsequently dropped out of, while Disney was condemned for casting Jack Whitehall as a gay man in Jungle Cruise, a role that is said to be the studio’s first ever openly gay movie character.

Kit Harington has joined the conversation of late, as he promotes his latest movie The Death and Life of John F. Donovan at the Toronto International Film Festival. The actor plays the titular character who is a closeted gay TV star struggling to control both his public and private image.

He recently asked why there hasn’t been an openly gay Marvel actor or character so far in the superhero genre, though when speaking to Yahoo Movies UK he defended his and other straight actors’ right to play LGBTQ roles.

“It’s an interesting conversation that needs to be happening, that should be happening,” the Game of Thrones star said. “if you’re asking me if I think that this part should have been played by a gay actor I’d have to disagree.

Kit Harington and Xavier Dolan at “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan” premiere party in Toronto.
Kit Harington and Xavier Dolan at “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan” premiere party in Toronto.

“We’re actors we play different things. I don’t necessarily think that because John F. Donovan is gay in the movie he has to be played by a gay actor. I have some problems with that kind of argument.

“As actors we play all sorts of different characters,” Harington continued, “we don’t have to be the thing, the subject that we’re playing in the film. Where’s that going to end?”

His director Xavier Dolan is an openly gay filmmaker and says that the conversation surrounding LGBTQ roles and representation for actors is “tricky.”

“I have empathy and understand the ends of the spectrum in this conversation but I have a hard time with people by prescription and by nature being entitled to certain roles and some are not,” the Canadian filmmaker explained. “Of course, the truth is LGBTQ actors, queer artists have had much fewer opportunities than straight actors in the past and straight actors have often portrayed beautiful gay roles and that is, in itself, that can be condemned.

“Acting in roles is about becoming someone else and if you cannot be, or hope to be considered, for a part because you’re not the same sexual orientation because the opposite is also true. If I’m gay and should be entitled to gay roles than straight people should be entitled to straight roles and I can never be an actor and be straight on screen.

Harington plays a closeted TV star in Xavier Dolan’s latest film (Shane Laverdière / eOne Films)
Harington plays a closeted TV star in Xavier Dolan’s latest film (Shane Laverdière / eOne Films)

“I find that there is a legitimate need for representation for minorities,” Dolan added. “Whether it’s the transgender community or just the queer community at large when they say that they need to be doing those parts, and there are more parts so more opportunities, I understand that.

“On the other hand, I’m wondering what does it mean to them, as actors, if we now decide that we cast roles based on sexuality and identity rather than talent.”

Harington also discussed how much his onscreen persona shares similarities with his real-life experience as an actor.

“In some ways, it’s very very close and in some ways, it’s quite far away and that was always the interesting challenge with this character,” the British star explained. “He’s in a big TV show, a big TV star, some of the whirlwind that is his life I can very much put my experience to but also relate to having a secret life.

“I have my own life, my own secrets, my own personal privacy and things that are mine and personal to me but I’m not a gay man who is hiding his sexuality and that’s who John is and what tears John apart by the end of the film.

“That’s the great tragedy of [John]…he’s been forced to hide a very essential part of him and who he is,” Harington said. This movie is about many things, but for me, it’s about a normal guy going through an extraordinary situation.

“It’s about privacy and it’s about the sides of us we choose to show and what we choose to hide, and when that becomes destructive.”

Privacy is something the actor takes very seriously and is the reason why he is not on social media of any sort. He also believes that people like him should refrain from using such outlets.

“I’m very much in the camp in that I have no social media,” the actor said. “I think it’s very important to me that I don’t because it can snowball quickly from you being what your job is, which is you an actor playing a character, to you being some personality and celebrity and I’ve never aimed to be a celebrity.

“There’s a muddying of the waters with actors at the moment, I personally think we shouldn’t be celebrities,” Harington continued. “Look if I wasn’t an actor would I be on social media? Probably, but I think I speak about myself enough on a day-to-day basis doing stuff like this why the hell would I want to go speak about myself on a social media platform?

“It would drive me mad.”

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