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Russell Tovey reacts to Jack Whitehall Disney gay role controversy: ‘Just let him act’

"If you’re an actor, you’re an actor."

By Will Stroude

Russell Tovey has defended the casting of Jack Whitehall as Disney’s first ever gay character, saying critics of the decision should “just let him act”.

The gay star of Looking, 36, said the fact Whitehall is straight shouldn’t prevent him from taking on the role of a gay man in the studio’s upcoming adventure film Jungle Cruise.  

“If you’re an actor, you’re an actor,” Tovey told The Telegraph.

“The whole thing with Jack playing a gay character … I’m like, just let him act.”

Russell, who made his name playing straight characters in shows such as Him & Her and Being Human, continued: “It’s like me saying I could never play a straight character because I am not going to know a straight person’s thoughts.”

He added: “I’ve always been out, and happy with the range of characters I’ve been offered. I’ve had the most amazing opportunities.”

Whitehall, 30, was revealed to be starring alongside Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson as Disney’s first explicitly gay character last month, but the decision to cast a straight man in the groundbreaking role was criticised by some who believed it could have been an opportunity to promote diversity in an industry where discrimination against gay actors remains widespread.

Whitehall’s casting has been defended by stars including Idris Elba, who told TimeOut last month that “artistic licence is artistic licence”.

The Luther star said: “If an actor has the attributes to do something, they should be able to do it.

“They’re acting. You don’t necessarily have to be gay to play a gay character – though you do have to be black to play a black character.”

Whitehall previously said he was “honoured” to be taking on the role in Jungle Cruise, which is slated for release in October 2019.

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Tovey, meanwhile, will next be seen on the London stage in Pinter, a collection of one-act plays by Nobel Prize-winning British playwright Harold Pinter.

The former Quantico star will be appearing in both ‘The Lover’, in which he plays a husband whose sexual role-play with his wife (Hayley Squires) gets out of hand, and ‘The Collection’, where he takes on the role of a sexually-ambiguous man who takes out his insecurities on his older lover (played by David Suchet).