Little 'Glee' over Newsweek's article on gay actors

Staying silent: Jonathan Groff has not commented on the Newsweek article.
Staying silent: Jonathan Groff has not commented on the Newsweek article. (Carin Baer/fox)
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By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fox's "Glee" is getting an unexpected turn in the klieg lights because of a Newsweek article suggesting that gay actors can't pull off heterosexual roles and which includes a lengthy discussion of "Glee" cast member Jonathan Groff.

"Glee" creator Ryan Murphy issued a scathing statement about the piece and has called for a boycott of the magazine. On Wednesday, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation issued a statement "urging Newsweek to issue an apology."

The article by Newsweek Associate Editor Ramin Setoodeh, which first appeared online and runs in the mag's latest print edition under "The Critics" heading, starts with a discussion of Sean Hayes's latest gig on Broadway in a revival of "Promises, Promises." Hayes plays an ad guy hopelessly in love with co-worker Kristin Chenoweth. Hayes is "best known as the queeny Jack on [NBC sitcom] 'Will & Grace,' " Setoodeh wrote.

Hayes's "sexual orientation" is "part of who he is" and seeing him "play straight" in the Broadway production is "weird" because he "comes off as wooden and insincere, like he's trying to hide something, which of course he is," Setoodeh wrote.

A big chunk of the column is devoted to the openly gay Groff, who plays the former captain of rival glee club, Vocal Adrenaline, on "Glee." Groff's character has defected to McKinley High School's glee club, New Directions, and is the current romantic interest of lead character Rachel on the Fox dramedy series.

"It's a little hard to know what to make of Groff" in the role, Setoodeh wrote, because "there's something about his performance that feels off.

"In half his scenes he scowls -- is that a substitute for being straight? When he smiles or giggles he seems more like your average theater queen, a better romantic match for Kurt than Rachel."

Groff has not publicly commented, and the Fox network isn't commenting either. But, after days of deafening silence, Murphy landed a wallop late Tuesday in the form of a call for a boycott of Newsweek until an apology is issued "to Sean Hayes and other brave out actors who were cruelly singled out in this damaging, needlessly cruel, and mind-blowingly bigoted piece."

Murphy noted that Setoodeh is gay and has tweeted that he is a fan of "Glee," and that Groff is "a casting choice embraced by fans and critics alike." And, finally, Murphy dismissed the article as an exercise in Setoodeh working "through the issues of his own self-loathing."

GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios said the column disregards the work of a slew of gay actors, including Neil Patrick Harris of CBS's "How I Met Your Mother"; Cheyenne Jackson, guest star on NBC's "30 Rock"; Cherry Jones of Fox's "24'"; Wanda Sykes of CBS's "The New Adventures of Old Christine"; and Alan Cumming of CBS's "The Good Wife."

Barrios noted that since the article's publication, Setoodeh "has attempted to reframe his opinion piece as an analysis of the lack of gay men in leading roles."

Setoodeh did not return our call by press time, but he went on Joy Behar's CNN Headline News show Tuesday night to defend his article. Or at least try to.

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