Russell Tovey defends Jack Whitehall as gay Disney character: ‘Just let him act’

Russell Tovey

Russell Tovey has defended the casting of Jack Whitehall as Disney’s first gay character, saying: “Just let him act.”

Whitehall received a mixed reaction from the LGBT+ community when he was cast as Disney’s first ever gay character in upcoming movie Jungle Cruise in August.

Now, openly gay Tovey, who is currently starring in two plays at the West End’s Harold Pinter Theatre, has weighed in on the debate in a new interview with The Telegraph, backing Whitehall.

“If you’re an actor, you’re an actor,” Tovey told the paper. “The whole thing with Jack playing a gay character… I’m like, just let him act. It’s like me saying I could never play a straight character because I am not going to know a straight person’s thoughts.

“I’ve always been out, and happy with the range of characters I’ve been offered. I’ve had the most amazing opportunities.”

Other actors, including Idris Elba, have defended Whitehall for playing the role.

Speaking to Time Out London about the dispute, he said: “Artistic licence is artistic licence. If an actor has the attributes to do something, they should be able to do it. They’re acting.


Actor Jack Whitehall. (Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for BFI)

“You don’t necessarily have to be gay to play a gay character. Though you do have to be black to play a black character.”

Recent polling also found that despite concerns within the community, the public at large doesn’t object to Whitehall’s casting.

YouGov poll in the UK looked into the debate, asking: “A heterosexual actor has been cast as the first major gay character in a Disney film. Which of the following statements comes closest to your view?”

The polling found that 70 percent of people believe “it is acceptable for a heterosexual actor to be cast in this part,” while just 12 percent believe “a gay actor should have been cast in this part.”

Idris Elba recently supported Whitehall in his role. (Stuart C. Wilson/Getty)

18 percent answered “don’t know,” possibly inflated because the question did not provide for people who don’t think the part is acceptable.

Jungle Cruise, which is based on Florida’s Disneyland ride of the same name, stars Dwayne Johnson as a boat captain taking two siblings on a mission into the jungle to find a magic tree. It will also star Emily Blunt.

According to reports, Whitehall is set to play the brother of Blunt’s character, who is a “hugely effete, very camp and very funny” figure that “makes clear he has no interest in women.”

The comedian said: “I’m so honoured to be part of this epic adventure.

“Filming is underway and I am having the time of my life with my amazing co stars.

“It’s so cool to be part of something of this scale and also as possibly one of the biggest Disney nerds on the planet so exciting to be working on a project with this much history.”

If true, it will be Disney’s first foray into LGBT+ characters in film, having relaxed its long-standing policy that prevented LGBT+ content.

Several shows on the Disney Channel have had LGBT+ characters since the abrupt change in 2014, but it has taken longer for Disney’s film output to show any signs of becoming LGBT+ inclusive.