In order to be a great actor, you need to be able to play a character that’s very much not like yourself. Sure, many actors can have great careers playing characters that are basically just themselves, but in order to have a really interesting acting resume, you have to be willing to go outside the box a bit. Sometimes that means just going against the typecasting you were set up with when you came into the business. Other times it means taking a role that you wouldn’t think to take for whatever reason. However, for a select few actors, playing against type means playing a character that has fundamentally different preferences than you. That’s why there’s a special place in all of our hearts for gay actors who can convincingly play straight characters.
Some of the straight characters played by gay actors aren’t romantic leads. They’re just characters in a story and they happen to be straight and played by gay actors. However, others were romantic leads, some of which were paired with strong partners or were serial daters paired with more than one other person. Some of these actors even went so far as to play straight characters who treated gay people badly and managed to do it so convincingly that the audience believed it a little themselves. Here are 15 fifteen gay actors and actresses who played straight characters so well that we almost believed the actor was straight.
15. Luke Evans: Owen Shaw in The Fast And The Furious
Luke Evans has kind of made a career out of being a major Hollywood heartthrob. He was a fixture on London’s West End for a while before making his big break in Hollywood with the 2010 remake of Clash of the Titans. He’s played parts like Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, Bard the Bowman, and Dracula in Dracula Untold, all of whom are straight characters. Most notably, he played Owen Shaw in the sixth instalment of The Fast and the Furious, who’s both a villain and Michelle Rodriguez‘s love interest. He was open about his sexual orientation from the beginning of his career. Back in 2002, he said, “Everybody knew me as a gay man, and in my life in London I never tried to hide it.” However, he went on to say in 2014 that although he’s proud of being gay and his career has never suffered for it, he’s a bit wary of discussing his personal life with the media.
14. Portia De Rossi: Elizabeth North on Scandal
Portia de Rossi is Ellen DeGeneres’ wife, but she’s also known for playing straight characters really well. She’s Lindsay Funke in Arrested Development and Nelle Porter in Ally McBeal. That being said, I think the most interesting role she’s done in recent years is Elizabeth North in Scandal. Elizabeth North wasn’t just straight, she was a high-ranking Republican hell-bent on enacting a very Republican agenda for America. She managed to turn what could have been a very one-note character into something way more special, to the point where I was actually sad to see her go. I’m not going to lie, it took me a while to register that the actress playing the part was even Portia De Rossi to begin with. She does a great job of disappearing into her roles.
13. Zachary Quinto: Dr. Oliver Thredson in American Horror Story: Asylum
Zachary Quinto has played several straight characters over the course of his career. Most famously, he plays Spock in the current Star Trek movie franchise, and although Spock has a lot of homoerotic subtext with Kirk, he’s dating Uhura in the movies. However, his performance as Dr. Oliver Thredson in the second season of American Horror Story was so good, it earned him an Emmy nomination. Thredson wasn’t just a horrifying villain, he was a doctor working to get lesbian main character Lana Winters (played by Sarah Paulson, a gay woman) to be straight again. That’s a really hard thing to do. Quinto came out in 2011, saying “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 dated Jonathan Groff, another man who made this list, for a while, and is currently dating model and painter Miles McMillan. The two were actually called “a power couple whose domain extends across the film, fashion, and art scene” by Vogue.
12. Sarah Paulson: Harriet Hayes in Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip
Sarah Paulson often plays characters that are gay, but one of the best roles she ever had was on Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. She played Harriet Hayes, one of the major performers on the fictional show in the show. She dated several men on the show, and the character was actually inspired by Aaron Sorkin‘s ex-girlfriend Kristen Chenoweth. Paulson has also played Lana Winters on American Horror Story: Asylum, a woman who gets committed to an asylum for being gay. As for her personal life, Sarah Paulson dated men exclusively and was even engaged to one. She then went public with her relationship with Cherry Jones, which lasted for five years. Since 2015, she has been dating actress Holland Taylor.
11. Wentworth Miller: Michael Scofield on Prison Break
You’ll recognize Wentworth Miller as Captain Cold on the CW series The Flash, but those of us who were watching TV in the early to mid-2000s know him as Michael Scofield, the main character of Prison Break. You might also recognize him as the love interest in Mariah Carey‘s single “We Belong Together.” He actually denied he was gay back in 2007, but came out in 2013 via a letter on GLAAD’s website. He was declining an invitation to go to Russia to a film festival in St. Petersburg because he didn’t want to go while people of his sexual orientation were being oppressed there. Miller wrote that he “cannot in good conscience participate in a celebratory occasion hosted by a country where people like myself are being systematically denied their basic right to live and love openly.”
10. T.R.Knight: George O’Malley on Grey’s Anatomy
T.R. Knight is best known for playing George O’Malley, but he has also been a fixture on Broadway for a really long time. He was on Grey’s Anatomy for five seasons, but left before season 6 due to a “breakdown in communications” with show creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes. The whole thing was about Knight’s lack of screen time and, yes, the fact that he’d recently come out. The whole thing really went south when Isaiah Washington got into an argument with Patrick Dempsey and referred to Knight using a gay slur. That was when Knight asked to be let out of his $14 million contract a whole three years early. His death on the show is still considered among the most tragic. He married ballet dancer Patrick B. Leahy in 2013. Katherine Heigl, who played Izzie on Grey’s, went to the wedding, referring to Knight as one of her best friends. “T.R. is my best friend. I will throw down for that kid. I will beat you up. I will use every ounce of energy I have to take you down if you hurt his feelings.”
9. Jim Parsons: Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory
Jim Parsons had his big break playing Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory, and it’s the role he’s known best for. He impressed creator Chuck Lorre so much, he had to audition twice to see if the first audition was a fluke. Sheldon Cooper works mostly because of Parson’s performance. Very few people would be able to pull a character like him off. Parsons also makes over a million dollars per episode for playing Sheldon, not to mention the spin-off about him as a child — which no one really asked for but a bunch of people will still watch. Jim Parsons is also gay, and his husband Todd Spiewak has actually shown up on the show before. In October 2013, Parsons called their relationship “an act of love, coffee in the morning, going to work, washing the clothes, taking the dogs out — a regular life, boring love.”
8. Neil Patrick Harris: Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother
Neil Patrick Harris is known for a ton of roles. He’s currently playing Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events, played the title character on Doogie Howser, and played the title character in Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, a three-part web series that’s also a musical that you should really watch right now. However, he’s probably most famous for playing straight playboy Barney Stinson for 9 seasons of How I Met Your Mother. Harris confirmed his sexual orientation in 2006, saying: “I am happy to dispel any rumors or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest and feel most fortunate to be working with wonderful people in the business I love.” He became engaged to longtime partner David Burtka in 2011, following the passage of marriage equality in New York. They married in 2014 and have 2 children together, with whom they have adorable Halloween photos.
7. Cynthia Nixon: Miranda Hobbes on Sex And The City
Cynthia Nixon played Miranda Hobbes on Sex and the City, a show that’s famous for being Girls for older, straight women. She’s had a huge career in theater and on the small screen, but this is arguably her most famous role. For 15 years she was in a relationship with a male schoolteacher, with whom she has two children. When they broke up, she started dating Christine Marinoni. They dated for five years before getting engaged in 2009, then married in 2012. Regarding her sexual orientation, Nixon remarked in 2007: “I don’t really feel I’ve changed. I’d been with men all my life, and I’d never fallen in love with a woman. But when I did, it didn’t seem so strange. I’m just a woman in love with another woman.”
6. David Hyde Pierce: Niles Crane on Frasier
Between David Hyde Pierce and John Mahoney, Frasier might actually have one of the gayest main casts of a mainstream show that’s also starring a card-carrying Republican. The role of Niles Crane was actually created for him, and he played it for the show’s 11-season run. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Emmys for all 11 seasons: a record. He actually won four times for the same role during those 11 years: in 1995, 1998, 1999, and 2004. He’s also a pretty prolific voice actor. After much speculation, he came out in 2007 and confirmed that he was with TV writer and producer Brian Hargrove. When he got a Tony Award for his performance in Curtains, Pierce thanked “my partner, Brian, because it’s 24 years of listening to your damn notes—that’s why I’m up here tonight.” He actually married Hargrove in 2008, only days before Proposition 8 was signed, banning gay marriage in California.
5. Ellen Page: Juno McGuff in Juno
Ellen Page is a huge movie star now. She’s a Marvel superhero and has been for over a decade now, has won several awards for acting, and has even lent her voice and body to video game characters. However, her most memorable role is still her breakout role as Juno McGuff in Juno. She plays a teenager who gets pregnant and tries to give her baby up for adoption while navigating high school while pregnant. (If you haven’t seen the movie, you absolutely should.) As for Page’s personal life, she was actually pretty tight-lipped about it until 2014. That’s when she came out as gay during a speech at the Human Rights Campaign’s “Time to Thrive” conference in Las Vegas. After that, she sort of became this huge LGBTQ+ icon. She’s dating artist and surfer Samantha Thomas and has been since 2015.
4. Ricky Martin: Miguel Morez on General Hospital
Ricky Martin is perhaps best known for being one of the major stars of the late nineties to bring Latin influences to pop music, but if you’re a soap opera fan, you know him as Miguel Morez, a singer/bartender on General Hospital in 1994, a few years after Menudo stopped being a huge thing. This was at a time when Hispanic people weren’t really on TV, and he felt like people were treating him really differently because of his heritage and his accent, which he was told he should try and suppress. He had a relationship with a man while he was on the show, but when the relationship ended, he buried himself even deeper into the closer. He recalled, “I already felt it was hard to be a Latino in Hollywood; what could have been more difficult than being Latino and gay?” He would then go on to launch his solo singing career and become way more famous than he would have as a soap actor.
3. John Mahoney: Martin Crane on Frasier
John Mahoney played Martin Crane on Frasier, which is probably where you’d most likely recognize him from. Before that, he was the body double for legend Steve McQueen! He’s done a lot of theater since his time on Frasier, so you might not have seen him on TV unless you’ve got an HBO subscription. In 2010, he made a guest appearance on $#@! My Dad Says, where he played a homophobic military officer. We actually don’t know a lot about Mahoney’s personal life, but we do know that he’s had more than a few relationships throughout his life, but he’s never been married. He’s never actually said he was gay, but it’s basically common knowledge at this point.
2. Sarah Gilbert: Darlene Connor on Roseanne
Sarah Gilbert is probably most famous for playing Darlene Connor, the middle daughter on Roseanne. While Gilbert herself is a lesbian, Darlene is straight and such a big deal that producers on the show went out of their way to tailor the show’s schedule around Gilbert’s schedule as she went to Yale. They would juggle different storylines around and film her on a soundstage in New York rather than the regular set just to keep her on the show as a regular. As for Gilbert’s personal life, she dated Roseanne co-star and future star of the Big Bang Theory Johnny Galecki. This was the relationship where she realized she was a lesbian. She then went to have a ten-year relationship with TV producer Allison Adler, with whom she has two children. She came out publicly in 2010 after not talking about her personal life much, and she eventually went on to marry 4 Non-Blondes front-woman Linda Perry, with whom she has a son.
1. Jonathan Groff: Kristoff in Frozen
Jonathan Groff is an actor who’s known for playing straight love interests as a gay man. He got his big break on Broadway playing Melchior Gabor in Spring Awakening opposite Lea Michele, his real-life best friend. He got a Tony nomination for that. He then went back to play King George in Hamilton, the musical that won every award in existence last year. Between stints on Broadway, he played straight character Jesse St. James, as the love interest for main character Rachel Berry, on Glee, also played by Lea Michele. However, his most famous role would have to be for Kristoff, one of Disney’s newest Disney Princes, from the movie Frozen. He’s been linked to actors Zachary Quinto and Gavin Creel.
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