Michael Urie and Andrew Rannells on the hurdles they face as gay actors

The stars of television and Broadway talk with Gio Benitez as part of ABC News' #PrideMonth speaker series.
17:37 | 06/18/18

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Transcript for Michael Urie and Andrew Rannells on the hurdles they face as gay actors
If there are no representation. Of the gay characters you think on Broadway. Communicating an expanded you can even expanded to entertainment in general well I think the you know. It's maybe we both experience at some point you know that sometimes the gay characters. Very much the sidekick in this very much. Sort of for tokenism. Is is not sort of well represented. Fully fleshed out human beaten. He's somebody who's there to say sassy things to a girl and the like and the Havoc would be one liners which is all great. Buy it I think now I hope that there are more opportunities as to play. Complex. Characters people I think what you know what we are getting to do and have got to do on Broadway and ports oxygen. Perfect example of that. Is he's just a very complicated that the very complicated guy. And you get to go through a lot of just sort of slice of life. Some big some small. Conflicts within that character's arc there. Arm as we get to do boys in the band and that's really satisfying and I think that's what makes both of these pieces sort of special is that. It's not about like there's one gay character in there. Com saying some funny stuff it's about a whole group of people with complex issues in real life problems and and that we get to be fully fleshed out people so. Think in that respect you know Broadway does maybe offer more opportunity for that type of story telling certainly angels in America is represented that. But we aren't enough due to barter. The two Porter da Gama. Do you. A yup but I think in in the television hopefully there are there are now becoming more opportunities for gay characters just to be people. Let it so what will be there's more gay or presentation and built in boys in the band then. And all of mainstream film yet if you look at the you know like you're here this summer blockbuster. There we have a picture actually we have a picture of the whole cast. If we can popping up there because of all there is on that strangers they're all there to submit. An and then this is probably. The largest number of openly gay characters. And actor Oscars yeah. Yet on Broadway and we are and that is it's an incredible milestone. And an incredible. Goal. For a producer. To set for want for themselves. What what that showed dead from the very beginning. They say we're gonna do this show it's going to be the fiftieth anniversary show and we're gonna cast only. Openly gay actors to play he's gay characters and that is heroic. Because for. Many. And for many openly gay actors or even you know none they miss. Actors who are known to be gay for and by whomever is making the decisions that is. Often not the case. It is there are very often straight actors who get cast in gate rolls over gay actors. And I think that this is systemic problem. As as much as it is a casting problem because. Four. For many many years. Actors like me and Andrew who you know people might have known as gay or or might have seen is gay or or. Actors who were willing to play gay over and over again. And we were we were discouraged or her not past or not given opportunities and have left the business and so there's a casting pool problem I think. Can you find to live. I can you could have experience as a few times particularly on television and sometimes on Broadway as a gay actor. Playing a gay character. You're often cast opposite a straight actor playing gay character on the ballot we can't have two days but bad habits like not unwritten rule that we can't have two gay people playing opposite each other it's very strange. What do you all with we will give you want to give you a line but Indiana found that out which is yeah sort of decline really ID I don't know well I I think I don't know I don't I think it's as I think it's that the casting pool problem my room and I remember it when you were doing the new normal now. I was doing we were there was another what was another gay show on another network. And we both were cast up with strict and I remember before the straight guy has cast opposite the wonderful Brandon Ralph. He played my partner on that show. I remember they were casting an amber asking the creators are you gonna try to cast an actual gay guy in this role and they said it's always our goal. And and and like and I got it I mean they get like like maybe that's as much as they could. They could. Try four is is you know hoping that they'll file I'll find. And I knew gay guys who went in for it down and didn't get it. And and the new normal there's yeah I mean I've ever testing with the actors who work day real gap and it is not yet. And I don't know what that says the were not I'm not accusing anyone of anything you know I mean it also is a strange the decision of many guests me until like you know it's they who would have all these people get together and had how did they that make that decision. And now all that said look I want to be cast based on. My ability right so I eight would like to be cast as a gay person or straight person based on the fact like am I the best person for the job. So if they if it comes down to is he the best person for the job and he happens to be straight but he's playing a part great. Com if it's something else if there are some sort of other like. Pieces it work there that's where it's an odd right sort of topic of conversation but ultimately. Tom because I get asked a lot about what should gay people. Let should only gay people plaguing parts look at the little tricky because in part of me says yes but then part of me is like. Now the best person to stress plays near the dark that's how it should work. And that's why this is this cast this casting pool the keep saying casting pulled and I waited to get dating like a casting counts. Where ever happened at a pool party. But some of my best job. Where gotten in polls but you know but I mean the fellow actors you know like the group of actors for which they look Anna and Anna I've I've pretty good example I think and it's. The guy who plays opposite me in torch song is named ward Horton is so great who is fantastic. And here's the straight guy. And he's playing a closeted gay guy essentially -- bisexual guy or and and and when we were casting the role I was very adamant. About. Our I think we have to find a gay guy or bisexual got to play this role because it's you know it's very important it was very important to me or. And it's a lot of people and we there was the there was a couple of guys who everyone agreed on except me. And it wasn't I don't think that they see you know I don't think that my voice or might my vote was dot. Powerful but I think they respected the fact that that an and we kept looking and we and they kept looking in the cup looking at when war came men. It was indeed him we nip. And I think. And that and I think that part of that was he was hurt you understood that I understood that and I respect as a OK we have to we have to cast him he is the guy. And we did art. Due diligence we really really did widen the casting pool as much as we could and I think we've found the perfect guy. That said. Back care that I think that that was a very specific character and he was a perfect actor and I and I and I know that we we went there and and I don't know. What goes into all the casting decisions of all of you know but but right now there are two movies in the works about Leonard Bernstein. Who was gang and they are being these two movies are being are starring Jake Gyllenhaal and who the other one. And Africa some other straight makes straight guy straight in with Anderson. Bradley. Your car Jake Gyllenhaal Bradley Cooper are both doing moved means about let about gay Leonard Bernstein. And stuff I like that. I get why you need a movie star to make a big movie like that. But the fact that there are no movie stars to play Leonard Bernstein convict past that better gay is a casting pool problem the fact that. For however long we Oscars have been going on there have been I think it's 51 or 52. Straight sis actors who have been nominated for or won Academy Awards for playing LG BTQ characters. Fit. Over fifty straits this actors. Have been recognized by the Oscars for playing LG BTQ characters and one. Openly gay actor. Has ever been nominated for playing a gay character one openly gay actor has ever been nominated. For an Oscar and that was in McAllen some have come out. After the after the fact but. One current gay openly gay actor has ever been nominated for the Oscar and that. It's crazy I mean I mean that it's not about picking the best person for the job you can you know like their there's no argument where that is where you where there are. Fifty. LG BTQ characters. And the best person for the job with the straits this person that that can't be in it has to be a casting pool problem. And any you have map boomer and Zach frequent other have you had this conversation with them. Yeah obviously we all its interest in the were all working together these these are people that most of us knew each other in some way shape reform before this but a lot of us haven't worked together. Because general he. That many gay people are not cast together only wanna because oil boom drama so the fact we're all working together on this project is kind it's a real rarity but he'll we all have our own experiences and it's inching because. And we have talk watkins' use. 51 mile to remind him about a lot from that and he's had a very different career trajectory and the rest of us in the me of Charlie carver whose 49 who like. He you know this is live in his life and never coming out was never really even topic of conversation just mentioned it to hear both of there is only. Yeah and tough was it you know and was a ga actor in the you know working in the ninety's. But really felt like even though he was playing gay character some times that he couldn't come out. Thumb it's coming out even necessary anymore. Well. I mean I guess he had it I think it's important to say it I think it's important and I'm sure you experience of a lot to particularly for young people. I think just and leaving him in showing as you know it. Living your life sort of authentically and truthfully I think is. Is is important for people to see or his you know hopefully influential some way so I do think it's important to come out I get the argument about. You know you want to. If you're an actor you're supposed to sort of disappear and to. Your character in news less known about your personal life the better. I knew what was it Merrill Streep I'm not going to be you know disappeared a democratic but it sounds like about the way we know everything about Merrill street yet won't yeah. But he really we know everything about George and she's still tricks I thought. Yeah that great part of I I knew I was like I'm not gonna disappear like I'm and I episode that was it was never really. Question for me also I was. 32 and I did the book Mormon authority been. Living my life you know I too many ex boyfriends at that point to ever be like. I'm sorry I got I was never gonna work sounds a bit anyone who came out publicly ever influenced you like. Ellen DeGeneres. Aria I give up my fist my eldest sister is gay and we watched Allen come out as a family. In taxes you know I remember vividly all of us watching that. And that was huge for us that was huge for both my sister my sister's seven years older than I am so she was she was way ahead of me what were you thinking at that moment. I remember thinking at that moment I mean I was a little Kevin when that happened and I remember thinking them like a date like it -- Now I have ever thinking. This is so great for my sister. And for us to be here together watching that's 'cause she was. Basically already is who is further along I was in terms of her acceptance that you couldn't yet process that it was so great for you that's right. But but it but it was it was what it was this is so great that my family is here together watching this with my sister. And you know I mean that was that was extremely that was beautiful and and and and then I remember you know I remember when Neil Patrick Harris came out I think I was already on TV at that point but not out. Not in him but not outside. And because I was never end but but the but like. He came out because he was forced to show you know I mean he was going to be outed and he came out and and and he like many many of them that they have the most famous. Out actors. Of that period were already what we're doing something. But mostly playing straight. And so there was that there was it was it was a very you know if it was sort of a soft outing you know like they were being out dead. But for their career and I'm soft and by soft I mean it it will that they they were in a position if you think about the business they were in a position. Strength because they were playing straight characters. Already. Like Neil like math problem what Mack came out he was playing straight characters and Jim and that your character during Ugly Betty was a gay character day care where you Wear you out dinner and a I was I came out during that period occurred while I was on the show but at first I was told you can't come out. I was told. You can't come out because I an executive. Not by an executive but by people close and not by an executive know nobody nobody here has had to be nothing. I'm not sure nobody. Now to get even if he ever said you can't be out. It was by people close to me who were looking up from like my brand new TV career eminently easy here agents and all that they talk you out right BS news talk about and they said don't don't do it because we wanted to get we wanted to get the next up. They all said look at look what's happening with everybody else you should come out when you're playing a state character. And interest yeah I mean that was sort of the that was sort of the business ammo that and the there was an and then and then I was and they like you don't get typecast playing gay which is crazy. Because as as we all now know there are so many different kinds of. Gay people that implies that there's only one right person exactly like gay is what that's what would be an entry get this to about like to do you feel pigeonholed playing gave ours I feel pigeonholed by bad writing. That isn't the right thing that's up. And that's I think that spear gadget hold by that shore but there's a good lot of. Different types to gays so right now can you imagine I mean this is like. For you who who who was always who has always been out and who's never sigh we're from playing gay characters and I've. Certainly wouldn't also not so if you think they're here can you imagine if at any point you said. No more gay characters. Know you would not we wouldn't hear you wouldn't know who we were are we would not work. It would just not it was a crazy idea but that did business period. It's great business and it is that its its office in the Pacific. There's no other way you know I mean I could count on one hand the amount of straight characters I've played in. Not one of them I mean with 181. Straight character since. I was on since Ugly Betty. That got the gar. You know that and it was it completely silly farce. Off Broadway you know it was you know it and and that's. And that's and that's not a complaint by any means that I was lucky to get that one job and lucky to get literally every job. But if we'd ever sad no more gay characters as I was instructed to. Then Harper's would've ended after the 10 yeah RET really wants to know if you still talk to Vanessa Williams. Now I feel pigeon holed up. We all talk all. That cast was very close and very tight and and and we grew together I mean firm so many of us and that show was our big break. Our first big break and and for people like that NASA Virgo and for people up and we knew by that output yet have benefited yeah. I called they're wearing. But bit like it but could we get people like Vanessa. And Judith Light and Tony plot who had been in the business for a long time and they were very. They were very careful to tell us this is special. Keep your eyes open. Don't take 12. For granted. And we didn't have throat America and Becky and on and little mark who played daddy's. Nephew for for all of us to. Who were having a moment our first time having a moment we we had people like for that's and Judith to say. Keep your eyes open don't take this for granite and and don't screw this up. With with with you know ignore bad attitudes and there was a family from the beginning and Anna and you know I'm I never look back on that time and think I didn't. Make the most of it it was it was a 100% special the whole time.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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