Bridgerton star Jonathan Bailey thought he ‘needed to be straight’ to be happy

Jonathan Bailey shirtless in Bridgerton

Jonathan Bailey thought he “needed to be straight” to be happy as he opened up about the pressure to hide his sexuality to make it big in Hollywood as a gay man.

During pilot season, when studios create samples of new shows, the British Bridgerton actor was given insensitive advice from an actor friend to suppress who he is early on in his career.

“There’s two things we don’t want to know,” the friend told him, Bailey recounted to GQ Hype, “if you’re an alcoholic or if you’re gay.”

The words, he said, haunted him for years. After joking that he finds it “cringe” to be considered a sex symbol, Bailey said he grappled to reconcile his acting career with his personal life, having already come out to friends and family in his 20s.

The 33-year-old said he had reservations about publicly coming out as gay – which he did in 2018 – as he was wary of casting directors shunning him or pigeonholing him, something he was long warned about even by gay men.

Jonathan Bailey thought he ‘needed to be straight’ to be happy as a young gay man

“All it takes is for one of those people in that position of power to say that and it ripples through,” Bailey said of the damaging effect the so-called advice had on his mental health. “So, yeah, of course, I thought that.

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“Of course, I thought that in order to be happy I needed to be straight.”

Over time, Bailey began to shrug off his friend’s words and let his own happiness guide him in life. Choosing to be open about who he is and live life on his own terms, even if that meant something as simple as using his own photograph for his Tinder profile.

“I reached a point where I thought, ‘F**k this,’ I’d much prefer to hold my boyfriend’s hand in public or be able to put my own face picture on Tinder and not be so concerned about that than get a part,” he explained.

Bridgerton Jonathan Bailey
Jonathan Bailey in Netflix’s Bridgerton. (LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX © 2020)

Bailey, who plays the womanising Anthony Bridgerton in the hit Netflix show, went on to pick up roles in Doctor Who and Broadchurch before finding his break on the stage. Starring alongside Ian McKellen in 2017’s King Lear as well as Patti Lupone in the West End revival of Company, which he won a Laurence Olivier Award for his role as Jamie.

Coming out as gay was a moment of relief for Bailey and, he said, actually made him a better actor because staying in the closet had taken a toll on his health.

Bailey previously told McKellen for Attitude magazine: “I was coming to terms with my own sexuality, I hadn’t necessarily hidden it, but I’ve never been not honest about it.

“It’s just there had never been a need to talk about it. There’s a sense of shame, I think, that’s palpable throughout gay men within the industry.”

It comes as, after what felt like an eternity, the second season of Bridgerton is finally dropping in March. Netflix released a teaser trailer Wednesday (9 March) and it, of course, features a wet Bailey in a white shirt coming out of a river because that is what we deserve.