Nathan Lane: Straight actors can play gay roles, too

Jul 23, 2014 at 8:48 a.m. ET
Image: Joseph Marzullo/

Two-time Tony Award-winning actor Nathan Lane believes gay actors shouldn't have complete control over gay roles and that the most talented actor should get the job.

The The Lion King star, who is gay and has played both gay and straight roles, was discussing the PBS' presentation of the Broadway play The Nance on Tuesday when TV critics asked him if he believes gay actors should be the only ones to play gay roles, Deadline reports.

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"No", the star replied. "We just had The Normal Heart [an HBO AIDS drama] (with) Mark Ruffalo, fantastic job. I think who's right for the part and most talented" should be hired, Lane said.

"I certainly don't think that," Lane continued. "That way only madness lies. Only gay actors can play gay parts and straight actors can play straight — then I wouldn't have played Nathan Detroit — one of the great joys of my life — or Max Bialystock."

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Lane was referring to his role as Bialystock in the Broadway performance of The Producers, a role which he won a Tony Award for. He also won a Tony for his role as Detroit from Guys and Dolls.

Things in Lane's career are certainly going from strength to strength, and another critic at the Television Critics Association wanted to know what being nominated for another Emmy for his role as Pepper Saltzman in the hit sitcom Modern Family has meant for his career.

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"It's a tribute to those writers. … They've been able to maintain the quality, which is not easy. I can only say it's been a great pleasure. … I have just to go and play with them a couple times a year. And stuff like an Emmy nomination is always icing on the cake."

"I'm hoping I'm a sentimental choice, since I've been nominated six times and never won," Lane joked.

The Nance airs as part of PBS' Live from Lincoln Center and premieres on Oct. 10.