Playboy Club actor Sean Maher: I'm gay

Sep 26, 2011 at 5:02 p.m. ET

After hiding his sexuality for many years, Playboy Club actor Sean Maher says he is gay and has been in a relationship with his partner Paul for nine years.

Sean Maher Playboy Club

Playboy Clubstar Sean Maher is relieved to finally be open about his sexuality, after hiding it for 14 years.

"This is my coming out ball. I've been dying to do this," Maher tells Entertainment Weekly. In fact, his character on Playboy Club mirrors his real life, as he plays a gay man who is in the closet and married to a lesbian Playboy bunny, played by Leah Renee Cudmore.

"I was working on other stuff, and then this role came up, which was like a light bulb going off," he said. "I was like, this is perfect. I want to do this, and I want to use it as a platform to come out."

Maher, 36, has been in a relationship with his partner, Paul, for nine years and they have two children together – Sophia Rose, 4, and Liam Xavier, 14 months.

The Firefly actor said pressure from his agent and publicist kept him from coming out in the past. "I kept thinking, this is my first show, I don't want to get fired," Maher reveals. "I'm thinking, what is the potential that if they caught wind that they had cast a gay lead actor that they would fire me? I was young, I was 22. I didn't know anything. So that sort of started the idea of, okay, well, I'm working a lot, I guess I'll just keep that gay part of my life on the back burner for now. I went so far as to sleep with women a couple times. It was a very confusing time for me."

He said that having a family gave him the push he needed to be open about his sexuality. "I have these beautiful children and this extraordinary family and to think in any way shape or form that that's wrong or that there's shame in that or that there's something to hide actually turns my stomach."

Photo: Getty