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The Walking Dead’s Lennie James enters debate over gay actors playing gay roles

The British actor has offered his thoughts.

By Alastair James

Words: Alastair James; pictures: Wiki

The Walking Dead star, Lennie James, has entered the debate about who would be playing queer roles in TV and film saying there needs to be a conversation and that he would question why gay actors haven’t been considered previously for gay roles. 

The British actor, known for his role as Morgan Jones in the post-apocalyptic series, The Walking Dead, has been speaking as he prepares for his latest role in the Old Vic Theatre’s production of A Number in the West End. 

The debate over who should play roles has gathered pace in recent years with many arguing for LGBTQ roles to be given to LGBTQ actors, while some argue this is not necessary.

“That absolutely should change”

In an interview with the BBC ahead of A Number, Lennie says: “Where gay actors have not been given the opportunity to play gay parts, or disabled actors have not even been considered for the opportunity to play disabled parts, in that situation then I would 100% be part of the conversation of saying, why not? That absolutely should change.”

But he also said he would be wary of saying only certain people can play certain roles to make an authentic portrayal of a character. He adds that casting choices should be on a “case by case basis”. 

Recently, Dame Maureen Lipman questioned the casting of Dame Helen Mirren in the role as the former Israel Prime Minister Golda Meir in an upcoming film claiming “The Jewishness of the character is so integral,” in an interview with the Jewish Chronicle.

In the LGBTQ sphere, shows like It’s a Sin have helped push the conversation forward, with writer Russell T. Davies arguing for gay actors to inhabit gay roles. British actor, Ruper Everett disagrees with this position saying, “acting is acting”.

More nuanced positions have come from actors such as Cruella‘s Jon McCrea, who says it’s more about having “equal representation”.

Tom Prior, who starred, produced, and wrote the Soviet-era gay romance thrilled, Firebird, told Attitude that while representation is important and necessary, there could be a backlash if people think actors are cast in roles solely to check a box.

“If the performance doesn’t hold up, that’s when people get upset. So, that’s the struggle which is going on. I think it’s necessary to put in diversity standards. But I think it must be as equally balanced with the talent and the truth.”

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