Filmmaker Aaron Sorkin says casting only gay actors in queer roles is an ‘empty gesture’

Aaron Sorkin attends the premiere of Amazon Studios' "Being The Ricardos" in Los Angeles

Being the Ricardos filmmaker Aaron Sorkin has said that casting only gay actors as queer characters is an “empty gesture” and a “bad idea”.

The comments came on the back of criticism over Spanish actor Javier Bardem being cast as Desi Arnaz, a Cuban actor, in Being the Ricardos. Bardem and his co-star Nicole Kidman portray the iconic I Love Lucy duo, Arnaz and Lucille Ball, in the new film.

Sorkin defended Bardem’s casting in his new movie in an interview with the Sunday Times Culture magazine.

He insisted it was “heartbreaking” and a “little chilling” to see the “artistic community resegregating ourselves” over elements of a character that he believed are “not actable”.

“This should be the last place there are walls,” Sorkin said. “Spanish and Cuban are not actable.”

He continued: “If I was directing you in a scene and said: ‘It’s cold, you can’t feel your face’. That’s actable. But if I said: ‘Be Cuban’. That is not actable.

“Nouns aren’t actable. Gay and straight aren’t actable. You can act being attracted to someone, but can’t act gay or straight.

“So this notion that only gay actors should play gay characters? That only a Cuban actor should play Desi? Honestly, I think it’s the mother of all empty gestures and a bad idea.”

There has been a long-simmering debate over whether straight, cis actors should play LGBT+ people.

It’s a Sin showrunner Russell T Davies has extensively argued in favour of casting queer actors for queer roles. He told PinkNews that he believed casting LGBT+ actors in such roles lent authenticity to their performances.

“Because I think if you’re casting someone, you want an actor who can portray falling in love, or being duplicitous or being evil, or being a drug runner or being a saint, or being ill, or being a bad son or a good son,” Davies said. “That’s what they’re there to portray.”

He also declared that “gay is not a performance” and that “casting gay as gay now is the right thing to do”.

However, others have disagreed with Davies’ stance. Acclaimed actors Sir Derek Jacobi and Stanley Tucci have both stated they didn’t think LGBT+ roles should be explicitly restricted to LGBT+ actors.

Aaron Sorkin also admitted in his interview with the Sunday Times Culture magazine that he didn’t think former Mandalorian star Gina Carano should have been fired from the Disney Plus and Star Wars series.

Carano was let go from the show in February following accusations of antisemitism and transphobia. The news broke after Carano shared a post that appeared to compare being a Republican to being Jewish during the Holocaust.

The actor and former MMA star was also accused of transphobia last year when she added “boop/bop/beep” to her Twitter profile after fans asked if she would display her pronouns as an act of trans solidarity.

Sorkin said he could “rebut some things she said” but ultimately didn’t think “she should lose her job because of it”.

However, the West Wing showrunner admitted that he thought it was a reasonable move if “they’re losing advertisers because she’s on the show”.

“That’s life in a democracy,” Sorkin said. “Also, it’s different if you spread misinformation about vaccines, for instance. Or incite violence.”

He added: “But we’re going to have to start to be OK with having our feelings hurt once in a while.”