Suranne Jones: Straight actors are singled out when playing LGBT roles

Suranne Jones at Gentleman Jack New York Premiere

Suranne Jones has said that straight actors are singled out for criticism when playing LGBT+ roles.

Jones stars in the new BBC historical drama Gentleman Jack about Anne Lister, often referred to as ‘the first modern lesbian.’

In an interview with the Radio Times, quoted by the Telegraph, Jones said that people should think “more intelligently” about criticising straight actors for taking LGBT+ roles.

“Actors are just the face of a project. On this job, there were a lot of gay, lesbian and straight people giving their input, and I think people forget that when they point the finger at actors and say that only straight actors should play straight parts,” Jones said about Gentleman Jack.

“No-one ever points the finger at directors and writers, which I find odd. I think that’s because we’re the face.

“If people thought about it a little more intelligently, the question wouldn’t come up so much.”

Suranne Jones plays ‘the first modern lesbian’

Anne Lister, born in 1791, wrote her diaries in code, and they were only deciphered and published in the 1980s. Her diaries became famous as the first written account of a lesbian having affairs with women.

Sophie Rundle, who is also straight, plays opposite Jones as Lister’s love interest Ann Walker, and Walker and Lister even became “wife and wife.”

Rundle told the Radio Times: “All Anne Lister wanted was a wife, and the other liaisons couldn’t commit, but Ann Walker did. She took sacrament with her and they became wife and wife.”


Suranne Jones played Britain's first lesbian Anne Lister in Gentleman Jack (Matt Squire/BBC One)

Suranne Jones played Britain’s first lesbian Anne Lister in Gentleman Jack (Matt Squire/BBC One)

The issue of straight actors playing queer roles has become more prominent on social media, with some using the word ‘gayface’ to describe a straight actor in an LGBT+ role.

Among those criticised was Taron Egerton, who was cast as Elton John in Rocketman.

Jones describes her character as a fascinating subject who just happens to be a lesbian.