Russell T Davies explains why he won’t change his mind on the gay casting debate

A headshot of Russell T Davies infront of a grey background.

Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies says he’s “absolutely sticking” to his view that gay actors should be cast to play gay characters.

The It’s a Sin writer and producer reiterated that his opinion is unchanged on the much-debated subject at the Iris Prize, the world’s largest LGBTQ+ short film festival, on Saturday (14 October).

“I know a straight actor can portray a gay character brilliantly,” Davies said during a Q&A panel. “I know certainly a gay actor can play a straight character brilliantly.

“The reason why I come out with such a strong unilateral statement is simply to shift the argument.

“There are 57 dramas out there being cast today without me in that room. So, one voice just tilts the argument [and] allows more people to be saying, ‘Shall we cast gay here?'”

Davies said he feels the need to keep advocating for the casting of LGBTQ+ actors it because “no one else is saying it”.

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“I am noisy and I do get listened to,” he added.

Russell T Davies: ‘There’s a lot of hatred in the air’

During the Iris Prize panel, Davies didn’t hold back when speaking to the current climate of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment, due to right-wing politicians, pundits and media outlets leaning on homophobic and transphobic rhetoric.

The Doctor Who icon suggested that he is likely to address this “hatred” and “nonsense” in an upcoming series.

“I think I have done two big pieces, which are Queer as Folk set in 1999, and looked at the world then. And then there was Cucumber, set in 2015,” Davies said.

“I think as I’m getting older now, slowing down, towards the end of my life, I would love to write a third piece that says where we are now.

“I worry about where we are, and I think there’s a lot of hatred in the air, a lot of nonsense in the air, a lot of rhetoric, and a lot of hate-makers stoking up the fires, and I have things to say about that, so I’d be surprised if I don’t say something about that.”

Davies also emphasised the importance of queer representation in modern media, saying”we need to keep including the people we’re including.”

He argued that media is “stepping backwards” in its representation of queer groups, saying that briefly including queer characters isn’t enough.

“Just because you’ve got some queer characters in something doesn’t mean that they’re fixed and established now. You need to keep doing it.”

Casting gay actors to play gay characters is about ‘authenticity’, Davies says

Speaking to PinkNews back in January 2021, Davies made his thoughts on the casting debate clear.

He said: “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 … That’s what they’re there to portray.

“They’re not there to act gay. Gay is not a performance. I don’t think gay is performative. I am not a bunch of performance codes.

“I really, really think now – I genuinely think – that casting gay as gay now is the right thing to do.”

After receiving backlash for his statement, the 57-year-old responded that the decision to cast gay people exclusively in gay roles is “fair as fair can be”.

Davies argued that the debate behind whether straight actors can play queer roles “kind of stopped” after It’s a Sin aired in 2021, as viewers realised the value of “authentic” performances.

“People could see what I meant,” he said. “There was an entirely gay and queer cast doing their stuff, and I think it shines off the programme.

“I think it rises off the screen, I think there’s an energy,” he continued. “I absolutely believe it, it’s my job to believe these things. It’s my show. I think we did a great thing, and I’m so proud of that cast.”