Special creator Ryan O’Connell eloquently weighs in on straight actors playing gay characters

·2-min read

Special star Ryan O’Connell has taken aim at straight actors who play gay characters.

Speaking to The Guardian, the actor and writer mocked those who furiously defend straight actors who take on gay roles.

Adopting a “shrill straight-splaining voice”, O’Connell said: “It’s called acting! It’s literally their job!” echoing the arguments most frequently wheeled out in favour of straight people playing gay on-screen.

“‘Honey, baby, sweetie, I understand what acting is. I’m Emmy-nominated!’ But the reality is that if you’re a straight actor, you already have more opportunities than an out gay actor,” he explained.

“Why would I take another role from them and give it to someone straight?” he asked.

O’Connell said he specifically cast gay actors to play gay characters in Special, and he even cast some queer people to play straight roles in a bid to right the historic wrongs facing LGBT+ actors.

“Can you believe it? It’s possible!” he said.

Special star Ryan O’Connell says Hollywood treats disabled people like ‘inspiration porn’

Elsewhere in the interview, O’Connell – who has cerebral palsy – opened up about the discrimination disabled people routinely face in Hollywood.

O’Connell said ableism is “so systemic and ingrained in our culture”, adding: “I don’t think Hollywood is like Mr Burns cackling behind a desk, going ‘Keep those disable people out!’ It’s more that no one considers disabled people in general, which is very dark and very sad.

“We’re usually only there for ‘inspiration porn’ or to serve an able-bodied character’s personal growth.”

O’Connell said that will only change when more disabled creators are working behind the scenes on films and television shows.

“We need to stop putting disabled characters in the hands of able-bodied people because that doesn’t give us money or opportunities, and they don’t fully get what it’s like,” he said.

The second and final season of Special – which follows a young disabled gay man as he navigates life in Los Angeles – debuted on Netflix on 20 May.

Speaking to HuffPost ahead of the second season’s release date, O’Connell said he wants Special to be remembered for “lube and disabled awareness“.

“I want my show to be known for topping, bottoming, top anxiety, lube – all those things,” he said.

“I want to take the mystery and shame out of gay sex by depicting it as I’ve experienced it: erotic, humiliating, empowering, funny and intense, all within the same thrust.”

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