24 gay or bisexual actors who played straight characters
Hollywood is often called out for casting straight actors in LGBTQ+ roles.
While the industry has plenty of work to do when it comes to championing LGBTQ+ talent, sometimes queer actors have made their name playing high-profile straight roles in film and TV.
Check out this list of gay and bisexual actors who played iconic straight characters on the big and small screen.
1. Jane Lynch
Well known for playing Sue Sylvester the sadistic coach on the hit show Glee, Lynch is a strong supporter of LGBTQ+ rights.
She played a lesbian on-screen 2000’s Best in Show, but has also played an array of straight characters.
From Paula in The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) to Julia Child’s sister Dorothy in Julie and Julia (2009), this out gay actor has her fair share of straight roles under her belt.
2. Luke Evans
Out gay Welsh actor Luke Evans has made the transition to Hollywood leading man over the last decade and in 2017 he played the villainous Gaston in Disney’s live action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast.
The star also played the boyfriend of bisexual actor Michelle Rodriguez’s character in the Fast and the Furious franchise.
He has also starred in hit films like The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) and The Raven (2012).
3. Rosie O’Donnell
The comedian, actor and presenter came out publicly in 2002 and has since been a vocal champion of LGBTQ+ equality and a vocal critic of former US president Donald Trump.
She married her wife Michelle Rounds in 2012 but has played straight on the silver screen a number of times.
O’Donnell played Doris in A League of Their Own (1992) and Betty Rubble in The Flintstones in Viva Las Vegas (2000).
4. Wanda Sykes
Comedian and actor Wanda Sykes came out publicly after marrying her wife Alex Niedbalski in 2008.
She has appeared in a number of big screen and TV roles, playing straight characters such as Biggie Shorty in Pootie Tang (2001).
Sykes also appeared alongside Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez in Monster-in-Law (2005) and has been a fierce advocate for LGBTQ+ rights through her comedy and campaigning.
5. Jim Parsons
At one time rumoured to be the top paid out actor in Hollywood, Parsons played Sheldon Cooper on the The Big Bang Theory for 12 seasons from 2007-2019.
Parsons’ character was in a relationship with Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik) for several seasons.
But in reality, Parsons is an out gay man and married his long-term partner Todd Spiewak in 2017.
6. Sarah Paulson
The American Horror Story actor has played a number of straight characters in Ryan Murphy’s hit FX anthology series.
She also played a Christian who believes homosexuality is a sin in the short-lived 2006 TV drama Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, starring Friends’ Matthew Perry.
She dated actor Cherry Jones from 2004-09 and since 2015 has been in a relationship with actor Holland Taylor.
7. Michelle Rodriguez
The Fast and the Furious star played straight character Letty in a number of the franchise’s films.
She came out publicly as bisexual in October 2013 and has since revealed that she dated Cara Delevingne.
Rodriguez got into some hot water when she defended her role in 2016’s controversial action film The Assignment, which saw her play an assassin who undergoes a ‘forced sex change’ at the hands of a crazed doctor, played by Sigourney Weaver.
8. Neil Patrick Harris
Neil Patrick Harris has been out publicly as gay since 2006, but it hasn’t stopped him playing straight roles on TV and film.
The star, who has a twin son and daughter with husband David Burtka, famously played straight womaiser Barney Stitson in TV sitcom How I Met Your Mother.
Upon coming out publicly in 2006, Harris said: “I am happy to dispel any rumours or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest and feel most fortunate to be working with wonderful people in the business I love”.
9. Ricky Martin
The Puerto Rican singer and actor came out publicly as gay in 2010 following years of tabloid speculation around this sexuality.
He wrote on his website at the time: “These years in silence and reflection made me stronger and reminded me that acceptance has to come from within and that this kind of truth gives me the power to conquer emotions I didn’t even know existed.”
Martin has played both gay and straight characters on TV. He played straight singer Miguez Morez on General Hospital from 1994-95 and later took on the role of Gianni Versace’s partner Antonio D’Amico in Ryan Murphy’s The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story in 2018.
10. Wentworth Miller
The Prison Break star came out publicly in 2013 when he posted a letter to the GLAAD website declining a place at a Russian film festival over the country’s persecution of LGBTQ+ people.
He played Michael Scofield in Prison Break from 2005-2009 before returning for a revived fifth season in 2017.
Miller has since been a strong advocate for mental health awareness, LGBTQ+ rights and other important causes, revealing in 2021 that he had been diagnosed with autism as an adult.
11. David Hyde Pierce
Pierce played psychiatrist Dr. Niles Crane on Frasier between 1993 and 2004.
By the end of the show, Crane had a son and was married to a woman, but Pierce came out publicly as gay in 2007.
He married his partner Brian Hargrove in 2008, at which point the pair had already been together for 25 years.
12. Cynthia Nixon
The politician, activist and actor played Sex and the City‘s Miranda across six seasons, two movies and one spin-off.
Nixon was in a relationship with teacher Danny Mozes from 1988-2003, with whom she shares one child, who she revealed in 2018 is transgender.
She began dating education activist Christine Marinoni in 2004, with the couple marrying in 2012.
While Sex and the City’s Miranda was portrayed as straight during the series’ initial TV run and first two films, the show’s 2021 revival series And Just Like That… saw the character come to a new understanding regarding her sexuality after beginning a romance with non-binary YouTuber Che Diaz (Sara Ramirez).
13. Maria Bello
Coyote Ugly star Maria Bello came out in 2013, but it never stopped her playing straight roles on the big screen.
She has since made appearances in films like The 5th Wave (2016), The Late Blooner (2016) and Lights Out (2016).
Bello has a son with her ex-boyfriend Dan McDermott, but has been in relationships with women including Clare Munn and chef Dominique Crenn.
In 2015 she published a book on the topic of sexuality entitled Whatever… Love Is Love: Questioning the Labels We Give Ourselves.
14. Jonathan Bailey
Jonathan Bailey is best-known for his role as dashing womaniser Anthony Bridgerton in hit Netflix period drama Bridgerton, but the star of Broadchurch and W1A is an out and proud gay man.
After first disclosing his sexuality publicly in 2018, Bailey later told the London Evening Standard: “I’d say I’m not openly gay. I’m just gay.”
The actor continued: “I knew that I wanted to be visible about my sexuality, because in all the territories that Netflix goes out in, there might be a boy somewhere that goes, “Wait, what?” Which is what I didn’t have when I was young.
“All I know is that I’m happy to keep working really hard and if there are opportunities for representation, and to make that point, then that’s something I’ll always strive to do.”
15. Alan Cumming
The bisexual X-Men star married his partner Grant Shaffer in 2007 and the pair renewed their vows in 2012.
Cumming has played a number of straight roles in his career, including Joe Therrian in The Anniversary Party (2001) and Sandy Frink in Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997). But it hasn’t stopped him from being a powerful advocate for LGBT rights.
He has since starred in hit shows like The Good Wife and presented the US edition of hit reality competition The Traitors.
He was awarded an OBE honour by the Queen in 2009 but revealed in January 2023 that he had handed the award back due to the “toxicity” of the British Empire.
16. Jodie Foster
After years of remaining publicly tight-lipped about her sexuality, Foster publicly came out in an acceptance speech at the Golden Globes in 2013.
She told the crowd: “I already did my coming out about 1,000 years ago back in the Stone Age, those very quaint days when a fragile young girl would open up to trusted friends and family and co-workers, and then gradually and proudly to everyone who knew her, to everyone she actually met.”
Throughout her career, Foster has played a number of straight roles, including Annabelle Bransford in Maverick (1994).
17. Zachary Quinto
The out gay star of Star Trek played a straight character in the film franchise, with Spock getting together with Ahura (played by Zoe Saldana).
Quinto came out publicly in 2011 and has played a number of roles in his career.
The LGBTQ+ rights advocate also took to the small screen in multiple seasons of Ryan Murphy’s chilling anthology series American Horror Story.
18. Rock Hudson
Although he didn’t come out publicly in his lifetime, it became well known that Rock Hudson had relationships with men.
He died of AIDS-related complications in 1985, becoming the first major celebrity to die from complications relating to the disease.
Throughout his career, the heartthrob appeared in heterosexual leading roles opposite stars like Doris Day, such as Brad Allen in Pillow Talk (1959) as Jerry Webster in Lover Come Back (1961), and as George in Send Me No Flowers (1964).
19. Portia de Rossi
The Australian-American actress’ most notable TV roles have been in Ally McBeal and as Lindsay Bluth Funke in Arrested Development, where her character was married to a man.
She married Ellen DeGeneres married in 2008 and the couple are still going strong.
De Rossi has also made film appearances in motion pictures such as Scream 2 (1998) and Cursed (2005).
20. Russell Tovey
The out gay British actor played a number of high-profile straight TV roles, including George Sands in Being Human and Steve in Him & Her.
He has been open about his initial struggle to be accepted by his family when he came out in his late teens.
While continuing to land straight roles, such as The Ray in The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, Tovey has also played gay characters in shows like Looking and Russell T Davies’ Years and Years.
21. Lily Tomlin
The star of Grace and Frankie married her long-term partner Jane Wagner in 2013 after more than 40 years together.
On the hit Netflix show, Tomlin played Frankie Bergstein, a woman who strikes up an unlikely friendship woth Jane Fonda’s Grace Hanson after their husbands leave them for each other.
The Emmy, Grammy and Tony Award winner also played Vivian Jaffe in I Heart Huckabees (2004).
22. Matt Bomer
Actor Matt Bomer came out publicly in 2012 and shares three sons with his partner Simon Halls, who he married in 2011.
Prior to coming out, he made film appearances in noughties films including Flightplan (2005) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006).
After opening up publicly about his sexuality, Bomer has continued to play both straight and gay roles, such as in Magic Mike: XXL (2015) and The Boys in the Band (2020).
On TV, Bomer is known for playing Neal Caffrey in White Collar and starring alongside Lady Gaga in American Horror Story: Hotel.
Bomer also starred in Ryan Murphy’s 2014 TV adaptation of Larry Kramer’s classic 1985 AIDS stage play The Normal Heart.
23. Jonathan Groff
Glee star Groff played Jesse St. James, the love interest of Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) on the hit musical series.
After coming out publicly in 2009, Groff dated Zachary Quinto, before the pair broke up in 2013.
He has since appeared alongside Russell Tovey in HBO’s LGBTQ+ drama Looking, and voiced the roles of Kristoff and Sven in Disney’s Frozen (2013) and Frozen 2 (2019).
His most recent big screen appearance came opposite fellow out gay actor Ben Aldridge in M. Night Shyamalan’s Knock at the Cabin (2020).
24. Denis O’Hare
The American Horror Story star married his long-term partner Hugo Redwood in 2011 and the couple has one son.
He appeared in seven seasons of the horror anthology series, and also played notorious homophobe John Briggs in Dustin Lack Black’s 2008 biopic Milk, about San Francisco City Councillor and LGBTQ+ activist Harvey Milk.
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