Monday October 24, 2011
Zachary Quinto comes out in the open
By Elizabeth Tai
Zachary Quinto has come out of the closet. And he did so at the right time.
A FEW days ago, actor Zachary Quinto told the world that he was gay. To be more specific, he told New York Magazine.
This was a brave move on Quinto’s part, especially since one doesn’t know how this is going to affect his still-developing career. And in the capricious world of the entertainment business, one really doesn’t know.
Will he be marketable as a leading man in a romantic comedy or in a macho action flick? Does Hollywood consider him a good enough draw for the female demographic? It seems tasteless to reduce Quinto’s talent to mere dollars and cents, but alas, this is how Hollywood rolls. Now, it is up to Quinto – and his cadre of publicists – to play their cards right, and to make his talent matter more than his sexuality.
The actor, who caught our attention as super-powered villain Sylar in TV series Heroes and later made us love him as Spock in Star Trek, told Access Hollywood that “it was my time.”
“I felt like it was a week of declarations for me. I’m declaring that I’m gay, I’m declaring that I want to be a serious contributor to the dialogues that are happening in the world right now. The way that I can do that is creatively,” he said.
Quinto wrote on his blog that he was spurred to do so because of the the bullying and suicide of 14-year-old American Jamey Rodemeyer. “It became clear to me in an instant that living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it is simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality,” he wrote.
Rodemeyer was found dead outside his home last September after sending Lady Gaga (he was a big fan) a message on Twitter saying: “Bye mother monster, thank you for all you have done, paws up forever.”
Although still a risky move, there is no better time for Quinto to come out in Hollywood. After all, these days it is considered a bold, artistic move for straight actors to play gay characters. (Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain, and Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor in I Love You Phillip Morris). Also, openly gay actors such as Ellen Degeneres and Neil Patrick Harris are walking the red carpet with their partners, even if people like them are few.
Many of his predecessors, however, did not feel that they have that kind of freedom.Heartthrob Rock Hudson, who was a leading man in the 1950s and 60s, kept his sexuality a secret from the public most of his life and even married his agent’s secretary, Phyllis Gates, in 1955 for appearances’ sake. (They divorced in 1958.) It was not until 1985, when Hudson was dying of AIDS, that his sexuality became fully public. Ian McKellan, who played Gandalf in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy of movies, only came clean to the public in 1988, aged 49, in a BBC radio programme.
“Good acting is so dependent on projecting sexuality, that American film producers don’t risk confusing an audience’s fantasies by allowing their stars publicly to be anything but straight as Hollywood Boulevard,” he said in an article in Capital Gay magazine on Dec 23, 1988.
Rupert Everett, in a 2009 interview with Britain’s The Guardian, advises young actors from coming out. “The fact is that you could not be, and still cannot be, a 25-year-old homosexual trying to make it in the British film business or the American film business or even the Italian film business. It just doesn’t work and you’re going to hit a brick wall at some point. You’re going to manage to make it roll for a certain amount of time, but at the first sign of failure they’ll cut you right off,” he said.
But perhaps things are not as dire now. A number of celebrities have come out of the closet recently: Neil Patrick Harris (he is raising two kids with his partner), Anna Paquin (she is bisexual), Adam Lambert (not a surprise to anyone) and Ricky Martin (who has been dodging “is he gay” speculations most of his career – we’re glad it’s finally over). All came out with hardly a blip to their careers.
“Over the last couple of years, celebrities both at the top of their careers and at the beginning of their careers have been coming out,” said the president of America’s Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Jarrett Barrios to ABCNews.com.
“All the celebrities coming out now are coming out at a time when a generation ago it meant the end of their careers, but now it can enhance their appeal and expand their fan base.”
I have a feeling that things will be the same for Quinto. It helps that he has not been shoehorned into romantic leading man type roles. Instead, he has played a diverse range of characters that have allowed him to demonstrate his acting range. This allows people to remember that Zachary Quinto the man is a different creature from his roles, and allows Quinto to be who he is – an actor.
Elizabeth Tai is glad that Zachary Quinto is brave enough to be himself, no matter what the risk.