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The West Wing’s Aaron Sorkin calls gay actors playing gay roles an ’empty gesture’

The creator of A Few Good Men said playing gay or straight was not "actable".

By Alastair James

Words: Alastair James; pictures: Wiki

The American director and playwright, Aaron Sorkin, has called casting gay actors in gay and queer roles an “empty gesture” in a recent interview.

Promoting his latest film, Being the Ricardos, Sorkin, who’s known for works such as A Few Good Men, The West Wing, and The Newsroom, was asked about the controversy over Spanish actor Javier Bardem being cast as the Cuban actor, Desi Arnaz.

Bardem stars as Arnaz alongside Nicole Kidman, who plays famed American actress Lucille Ball, in Being the Ricardos

“Gay and straight aren’t actable”

Speaking to the Sunday Times Culture magazine about the film and casting Sorkin says the current debate about representation was “chilling”.

“This should be the last place there are walls,” he goes on to say. “Spanish and Cuban are not actable. If I was directing you in a scene and said: ‘It’s cold, you can’t feel your face.’ That’s actable. But if I said: ‘Be Cuban.’ That is not actable.”

Continuing he says the same applies for sexual orientation and gender identity. “Nouns aren’t actable. Gay and straight aren’t actable. You can act being attracted to someone, but can’t act gay or straight.

“So this notion that only gay actors should play gay characters? That only a Cuban actor should play Desi? Honestly, I think it’s the mother of all empty gestures and a bad idea.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Sorkin and the interviewer discuss actress Gina Carano, who was dropped from the Disney show, The Mandalorian, after expressing doubts over Covid-19 and accusations of transphobia. 

“I could rebut some things she said, but I don’t think she should lose her job because of it,” Sorkin says.

He adds: “On the other hand, if they’re [Disney] losing advertisers because she’s on the show, that’s different. That’s life in a democracy. Also, it’s different if you spread misinformation about vaccines, for instance. Or incite violence.

“But we’re going to have to start to be OK with having our feelings hurt once in a while.”

Counter to views such as Sorkin’s is those of people like It’s a Sin creator, Russell T. Davies, who said in an interview with the Radio Times this year, “It’s about authenticity.”

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