by Jackson Cline
Dear Ryan Murphy,
When I heard The Prom would be adapted to film, I was thrilled that this important story would live on and continue to change lives long after the Broadway production closed. I assumed that you would likely cast Hollywood stars in lieu of musical theatre talent. Sure, many of the lead roles are Broadway stars and it would have been nice to showcase our community, especially the artists the creative team spent years crafting the roles on. But I understand casting Hollywood stars from a business standpoint.
That said, when principal casting for the film was announced this morning, I was incredibly disappointed to see the lack of openly queer actors cast in the film adaptation of a queer story.
Casting straight actors in queer roles is nothing new. It’s always disappointing to me, but it feels like a slap in the face this time. Especially after you made a point to cast only openly gay actors in The Boys in the Band.
When you hosted a special performance of The Prom for LGBTQ youth and announced that you were adapting The Prom to film, you said that part of the purpose was “to celebrate kids and tell you that we love you, we see you and you have support." The casting announcement today showed me the opposite.
As an adult, watching openly gay actor Brooks Ashmanskas play Barry Glickman on Broadway and triumphantly sing “Barry’s Going to Prom” meant a lot to me. I can only imagine how impactful this would have been for the LGBT youth who will see it on film. Yet, they’ll instead have to see a straight man take this on. So much for feeling seen.
Would you cast a white actor in an African-American role? Of course not. So why are straight actors being cast in queer roles? For too long, we’ve been underrepresented in popular culture. Now that we are becoming more visible, we deserve and demand to tell our own stories.
I have no interest in seeing straight actors tell queer stories. Yes, I understand that a famous actor like James Corden might sell tickets. But there are plenty of queer performers who sell tickets, too. And there would be even more if you’d give them a chance.
It’s time to do better. Please.