Coming out in general and coming out in public are two very different things for celebrities. Not all celebrities ever want to disclose information about their orientation because of how it may impact their career. Not all gay actors believe that the effects of public knowledge are harmful to their careers, but some see it as having a limiting effect on the types of roles made available to them. For this reason, some choose not to open up to the press and the public about their private life. Sadly, when you live your life in front of a camera, it can be difficult to have full control of your own truth, so many gay actors are outed without their permission. Well, we will not be outing anyone today. We will, however, be looking at actors who played gay roles before coming out in public or before they were outed by someone else.
While many of these stars had come out in private to their friends and family, their s*xual orientation wasn’t known, or at least confirmed, publicly. Some actors were known to be gay in Hollywood circles and/or many fans suspected it, but for whatever reason, the actors chose not to open up about it. Even if this doesn’t change anything, it is interesting to see which actors played characters close to their heart before we, the audience, were fully aware of who they were. Some of these characters might have even helped the actors playing them come to terms with their own truth. Who knows? So, let’s take a look at when gay actors first came out publicly and when they first played a gay character on screen.nHere are 15 Actors Who Played Gay Characters On Screen Before Coming Out.
15. Neil Patrick Harris – The Next Best Thing
It wasn’t until 2006 when Neil Patrick Harris came out in the public, but it was a long-held rumor in the industry before that. When he did release the statement, NPH said, “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.” Before that reveal, NPH had played a couple of gay characters on television and in film. One was in 2000 in The Next Best Thing, where NPH played a gay character named David. That same year, Harris played an ex-gay man in Will & Grace. It was around this time that many of the rumors about NPH’s sexuality started. These lasted for six years until the truth was made clear by the man himself. Now, he’s one of the most famous gay men in the world.
14. Sean Hayes – Will & Grace
Sean Hayes was almost always known to be gay, but he had never confirmed it. It wasn’t until 2010 that the Will & Grace alum officially announced it to the public. He did this is an interview when he stated, “Really? You’re gonna shoot the gay guy down? I never have had a problem saying who I am. I am who I am.” He then went on to say that despite his relative secrecy, he feels that he “contributed monumentally to the success of the gay movement in America, and if anyone wants to argue that, I’m open to it.” We won’t argue that at all because it’s absolutely true. Hayes played the flamboyantly gay Jack on Will & Grace for nearly 10 years beginning in 1998. He made the character one of the most lovable gay men in the history of television and helped smash through the mainstream barrier for other characters like him.
13. Luke MacFarlane – Brothers & Sisters
Luke MacFarlane has had a solid career in the industry, but his biggest role to date was when he played Scott “Scotty” Wandell in Brothers & Sisters. This role is interesting because Scotty was a gay man, but the actor playing him, as far as we knew, was not. Back in 2006, when MacFarlane first took on the role, he was not “out” in the public eye. It wasn’t until 2008 that MacFarlane officially came out in an interview with The Globe and Mail. Since then, MacFarlane has taken on several other gay roles, including the role of Rick Lincoln in Night Shift.
12. Daryl Stephens – Noah’s Arc
Even though Daryl Stephens has never hidden his gay life, he was quiet about it for a while. Back in 2005, when Stephens was cast in Noah’s Arc, his character was gay, but he had not necessarily announced his s*xuality to the press. In fact, he still keeps rather quiet about it. While he has discussed it, he tries to avoid it whenever possible as he feels people make character decisions based on what they know about the actors. Since 2005, Stephens has played plenty of gay characters. In fact, most of his characters are gay. When he talks about his decision to come out later in life, he said that he didn’t really have the option as a younger person. “The culture is changing a lot,” he said. “You are seeing 12…13-year-olds coming out. There is no way I could have come out when I was that age.”
11. Nathan Lane – The Birdcage
Nathan Lane came out to his family in the late ’70s. In public, though, it wasn’t until much, much later. That being said, Lane being gay was the worst-kept secret in Hollywood. Still, he didn’t publicly announce that he was gay until after the death of Matthew Shepard inspired him in 1998. After the brutal murder of the young Shepard, many gay celebrities spoke up against homophobia and violence towards gay people throughout the world. Lane too used this moment as a chance to allow the public into his own private life. You’ll likely be aware that 1998 was after Lane’s very famous and very gay role in The Birdcage. Though Lane’s versatility as an actor has allowed him to transform himself into many different character types, his turn playing the very flamboyant Albert Goldman in The Birdcage is still one of (if not the) most memorable character he’s ever taken on.
10. Charlie Carver – Teen Wolf
When Charlie Carver first broke in to the industry, it was with Desperate Housewives playing Porter Scavo with his twin brother, Max. Later, both the Carver brothers joined Teen Wolf. Charlie took on the role of Ethan, a gay character. This was back in 2013 and 2014, which was several years before Charlie officially came out. He came out publicly through an Instagram post, writing, “So now, let the record show this — I self-identify as gay. And does that really matter anymore? As a young man in Hollywood to say that — and without being a d-ck about it, I owe it to myself, more than anything, to be who I needed when I was younger…and let the record show my twin brother is just as cool for being straight.”
9. Zachary Quinto – So NoTORIous
Zachary Quinto may be one of the most well-known gay actors today, but he didn’t come out publicly until 2011. He chose to come out when he did after the suicide of teenager Jamey Rodemeyer. Quinto said “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.” Though Quinto had never hidden his life away completely, he didn’t acknowledge being gay to the press. Back in 2005, Quinto played his first gay character on film or television in So NoTORIous, which led people to start wondering if he was also gay in real life.
8. Kristen Stewart – The Runaways
In July of 2016, Kristen Stewart made headlines when she acknowledged that she had a girlfriend. This was quite the news for many as Stewart had a very public relationship with Robert Pattinson and a very public affair with director Rupert Sanders. Though Stewart admitted that she and her girlfriend had been together and broken up a few times already before the announcement was made, it was the first time she officially said something about it. Interestingly, back in 2010, Stewart played the s*xually-ambiguous Joan Jett in The Runaways. In that film, Stewart and Dakota Fanning had a little tryst which resulted in a romantic kissing scene. Though we don’t know for sure if this was Stewart’s first kiss with a female, it did take place before she was officially dating women.
7. Bella Thorne – The Babysitter
It wasn’t until late in 2016 that Bella Thorne revealed on Twitter that she was bisexual. It was noteworthy because of the way it all took place. Quite simply, a fan tweeted, “Are you bisexual? @BellaThorne.” To this, Bella responded, “Yes.” Well, that was easy. This all stemmed from a series of pictures that showed Thorne and another woman in a very close situation. Before this reveal (though the film didn’t come out until the next year), Thorne had filmed a really sexy scene for The Babysitter that had her and Samara Weaving share a very passionate kiss. The sexual orientation of Thorne’s character, Allison, in the film is not made clear, but it seems likely that she is bisexual like Thorne.
6. Daniel Fanzese – Mean Girls
When Daniel Fanzese first took on the role of Damian in Mean Girls, he was gay. He wasn’t out publicly, but he wasn’t hiding it either. After that role, however, Fanzese became more sheltered about who he was. This was because of the reaction that Fanzese got for playing the character. In his coming-out letter written in 2014, Fanzese addressed his former character, writing, “Damian, you had ruined my life and I was really pissed at you. I became celibate for a year and a half. I didn’t go to any gay bars, have any flings, and I lied to anyone who asked if I was gay. I even brought a girl to the Mean Girls premiere and kissed her on the red carpet, making her my unwitting beard. Meanwhile, I was still in the closet. Deleting tweets that asked if I was gay, scrubbing IMDB Message Boards for any indication.”
5. Jussie Smollett – Empire
In March of 2015, Jussie Smollett was on Ellen, and he spoke about his life and how his character on Empire, Jamal Lyon, related to him. This was an opening that Ellen DeGeneres seemed to encourage Smollett to walk through. It was obvious at this moment that Ellen and Smollett had agreed to discuss the actor’s personal life. While he did hint toward the fact that he is gay, it was not made explicitly clear during the talk. Later, the two spoke again to clear matters up. It was here that Smollett eliminated all doubt in the public’s mind. Now, this all took place after his character, Jamal from Empire, was revealed to be gay, so that likely helped Smollett address his own private life.
4. Blake McIver Ewing – The Little Rascals
Although it’s unknown when Blake McIver Ewing officially came out and regardless of whether he’s ever been totally “in the closet,” it’s clear that he was not known to be gay by the public in his younger acting days. We decided to include him in this list because many of his early characters were kind of gay. On Hey Arnold, Ewing voiced Eugene Horowitz, a character described as “proto-gay.” He also played Waldo on Little Rascals, a kid who, despite his outward interest in females, was gayer than a picnic basket. Even without a public announcement, these characters predated the public knowledge of Ewing’s private life.
3. Bryan Batt – Jeffrey
Most of Bryan Batt’s best-known characters have been gay, but several of them were shown to the world before the actor publicly announced being gay. Much of the secrecy, if we can call it that, was because Batt feared it would limit his career. His first gay characters in the films Jeffrey and Kiss Me, Guido were done while he was still thought to be straight by the public. Of this time, Batt said, “When I played the lead in Sunset Blvd., the movie of Jeffrey was coming out, and I was petrified. Back then, every agent told you that if you want to play a straight role, you don’t come out. This was before Ellen [DeGeneres] came out. But now I couldn’t give a rat’s a*s. It’s normal to be gay.” It’s because of things like this that many gay actors keep their private life private.
2. Ezra Miller – Perks Of Being A Wallflower
In 2015, when Ezra Miller was asked about how he would identify, speaking to the rumors that he was gay, the actor said, “The way I would choose to identify myself wouldn’t be gay. I’ve been attracted mostly to ‘shes,’ but I’ve been with many people and I’m open to love wherever it can be…a lot of really wonderful friends who are of very different sexes and genders. I am very much in love with no one in particular.” It may seem that this is describing bisexuality, but who can say for sure? We won’t call Miller anything he doesn’t call himself, but it’s clear that he is fluid and open with his s*xuality. Before he addressed this, Miller played Patrick in Perks of Being a Wallflower back in 2012. In the film, Patrick was a young man coming to terms with his own s*xuality. Looking back on that role now, there are some similarities between the character and the actor.
1. Victor Garber – Will & Grace
In 2013, Victor Garber was speaking about his sexuality when he said, “I don’t really talk about it, but everybody knows.” This is true. Everyone did kind of know without him saying anything. Though he did briefly mention being gay in a 2012 interview, there is very little public discussion from him otherwise. At the time of his “public” coming out, Garber had been living with his partner for more than a decade, so he really wasn’t hiding anything. He just chose to be private. Now, you may remember Garber on Will & Grace when he played Peter Bovington, a gay man. Garber earned an Emmy nomination for the role which was, back in 2005, a full seven years before addressing it publicly.
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