Ahead of his run at Edinburgh Fringe in true-crime story turned comedy Lottie Plachett Took A Hatchet, we sat down with Tom Lenk of Buffy The Vampire Slayer fame to discuss straight actors in gay roles, Zendaya as the new slayer (Zenslayer, perhaps?) and why he loves his new play.
Initially, we asked Lenk about the obstacles that LGBTQ actors face getting into the industry:
“From my experience at the time, people would be like you’re really talented and funny, but you’d get feedback like ‘nope, too gay’. Or they wouldn’t say it outright, but you’d be like, ‘OK, got it’.
“And even though there were gay casting agents at the time, and it’s still happening, you’d be like, ‘oh really? The gay casting agent is only bringing you in for gay roles. And what makes that frustrating is that there’s only a small amount of roles, and you’d be like, but I want the same amount of opportunity that these straight guys are having. And my straight friends would get to go on auditions for both the straight and gay roles.
“We just want opportunities, hire us.”
However, on whether straight men should actually turn down the opportunities to play gay characters, Lenk says that he’s conflicted.
“When that Stanley Tuuci and Colin Firth movie (Supernova) came out, I was like ‘Oh God, not these two straight guys playing gay again’. But then I was also like, ‘OK, but it’s a big movie and they need big names to get it made. And the story is being told, and it’s out there.
“It’s a movie for straight people to step outside their comfort zone’. But then part of me thinks that by not hiring two out gay actors, who careers were affected by coming out, you’re just not supporting the community in the way you could be. In reality you want the person who’s best for the role.”
He continued, “I’m not interested anymore in watching straight people in the Oscar-bait movie, but I understand that those films are not being made for me”.
Regardless of whether straight men continue to accept roles that could have been played by queer actors, Lenk goes on to highlight that directors, agents and producers continue to be problematic, mentioning specifically one of the roles he took on more recently.
“I did a role more recently, on American Housewife where I played Sara Rue’s husband, and he’s definitely a man who’s in the closet, and it’s like yeah I wanna work, so I’ll take the part, but it’s already bordering on a gay trope. And the directors – at least one of which was straight – were giving me directions on how to be gay, and what they wanted was this very over the top, and it just felt so uncomfortable. And when you’re a guest star on a show you have no power to say I’m not comfortable doing this. And it was a potentially recurring role too, so there’s that”.
“It felt like straight people making fun of gay people to me”, he added.
Lenk also said that he backed Sarah Michelle Gellar’s suggestion for Zendaya to play Buffy in the series reboot, “I support that, whatever SMG says goes! I think I would watch that.”
His new show, Lottie Plachett Took A Hatchet follows the 1892 infamous American murder case in which Lizzie Borden’s father and mother-in-law were axed to death; and if that sounds a little dark for EdFringe, fear not, it’s been transformed into a musical comedy!
“It’s so funny and stupid, but it also points out what women and queer people in the late 1800s and what they’re going through now in America, with the overturning of Roe vs Wade and the Don’t Say Gay bill. What I love about this play is that it points that out in a funny way. And something that many queer people have in common is that you learn to use comedy as a defence mechanism”.
You can enjoy Lottie Plachett Took A Hatchet at Assembly Roxy (Upstairs), 8.35pm, now-27 August (not 17th). Tickets here.