May 6, 2009 -- In the twilight of his career, "M*A*S*H" actor David Ogden Stiers has finally come out, saying he's no longer afraid to be gay.
In a recent interview, the Emmy-nominated actor, 66, told the Oklahoma City blog gossip-boy.com, "I am [gay]. Very proud to be so."
Ogden Stiers joined the cast of "M*A*S*H" in 1977 as the arrogant but charming aristocrat Charles Emerson Winchester III. In addition to starring in the sitcom, he voiced the characters of a number of Disney movies, including Cogsworth in "Beauty and the Beast" and the Archdeacon in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."
The actor said he kept his homosexuality under wraps for years because he feared coming out would hurt his career. But being that he has not experienced any anti-gay discrimination in the movie industry recently, Ogden Stiers is reconsidering what exactly made him stay in the closet for so long.
"I haven't witnessed such things occurring in a long, long time," he said about anti-gay discrimination, adding that his personal concerns may have clouded his views. "I should say in regards to this that many of my fears were in modern times self-invented. I've been working internally on whether they were the problem, or if I just continued using them as an excuse."
He said he thought staying quiet about his sexuality would keep his income secure.
"I enjoy working, and even though many have this idealistic belief that the entertainment industry and studios like Walt Disney are gay friendly," they weren't always, he said. "For the most part they are, but that doesn't mean for them that business does not come first. It's a matter of economics. ... A lot of my income has been derived from voicing Disney and family programming."
Ogden Stiers also added that the flamboyant nature of some of his animated roles contributed to his decision to hide his sexuality.
"Cogsworth, the character I did on 'Beauty and the Beast,' could be a bit flamboyant onscreen, because basically, he is a cartoon," he said. "But they didn't want Cogsworth to become Disney's gay character, because it got around a gay man was playing him."
Disney is the parent company of ABC News. Asked to respond to Ogden Stiers' comments, a Disney Studio spokesperson said, "Casting decisions are made solely on the basis of who is the best actor or actress for any given role."
What's Odgen Stiers' impetus for coming out now? He's hoping to settle down with someone and make their romance public.
"I wish to spend my life's twilight being just who I am," he said. "I could claim noble reasons as coming out in order to move gay rights forward, but I must admit it is for far more selfish reasons. Now is the time I wish to find someone, and I do not desire to force any potential partner to live a life of extreme discretion with me."
Ogden Stiers Latest Actor to Come Out Late in Life
Ogden Stiers is the latest in a long line of actors to come out late in their careers, though not all of them have been quite as outspoken.
"Frasier" star David Hyde Pierce, 50, was prodded out of the closet in 2007 after an Associated Press article mentioned his partner, Brian Hargrove, and the blog AfterElton.com followed up with Pierce to confirm that he was in fact gay. The actor had previously declined to make any mention about his personal life.
"Lord of the Rings" and "X-Men" star Sir Ian McKellen, 69, revealed he was gay on British radio in 1988 and later said he wished he had come out sooner. He advised others in Hollywood to do the same.
"By the time I came out, I was in my late 40s, and I was fed up with worrying about what other people thought, and confident enough in my career to suspect that it wasn't going to make any difference at all. I was absolutely wrong," he told WENN in 2005. "I became a better actor, and my film career took off in a way that I couldn't have expected. You can't lie about something so central to yourself without harming yourself."
"Doogie Howser, M.D." and "How I Met Your Mother" star Neil Patrick Harris, 35, also made a big splash when he came out of the closet.
"I am happy to dispel any rumors 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," he told People magazine in 2006.