Over the past few years, there’s been an ongoing debate on if straight actors should play LGBTQ+ characters in films and on TV. Now, Kristen Stewart is one of the latest actors to weigh in on the topic.
In a new interview with Variety, she reveals whether or not she thinks it’s okay for LGBTQ+ roles to be given to straight actors. As well, she shares how the industry may be able to change how these roles are portrayed in the future.
Stewart is set to star in the upcoming Hulu holiday film Happiest Season. In the film, Stewart plays Abby whose girlfriend Harper (Mackenzie Davis) invites her home to spend the holidays with her family. Little does Abby know, however, Harper’s parents have no idea she is a lesbian. So, the couple must pretend to be straight and platonic friends in front of Harper’s parents.
Although Stewart is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Davis is not and portrays a lesbian character on-screen. During a recent interview with Variety, Stewart was asked about her stance on if straight actors should play LGBTQ+ characters.
“I think about this all the time,” she says. “Being somebody who has had so much access to work, I’ve just lived with such a creative abundance. You know, a young white girl who was straight and only really was gay later and is, like, skinny — do you know what I’m saying? I so acknowledge that I’ve just gotten to work.”
She admits that she is still rather unsure about where she stands. For her, the situation is a “gray area” with a lot of different factors to consider.
“I would never want to tell a story that really should be told by somebody who’s lived that experience,” Stewart says. “Having said that, it’s a slippery slope conversation because that means I could never play another straight character if I’m going to hold everyone to the letter of this particular law. I think it’s such a gray area.”
Stewart goes on to say that actors should be aware of their privilege. As well, they should know if their representation of the LGBTQ+ community is going to be accepted or not. Ultimately, it’s important that actors find ways to be allies and learn from each other through their work.
“There are ways for men to tell women’s stories, or ways for women to tell men’s stories,” she continues. “But we need to have our finger on the pulse and actually have to care. You kind of know where you’re allowed. I mean, if you’re telling a story about a community and they’re not welcoming to you, then fuck off. But if they are, and you’re becoming an ally and a part of it and there’s something that drove you there in the first place that makes you uniquely endowed with a perspective that might be worthwhile, there’s nothing wrong with learning about each other. And therefore helping each other tell stories. So I don’t have a sure-shot answer for that.”
Even though Stewart’s Happiest Season co-star does not identify as a lesbian, she knew that Davis was the only actor she could’ve played alongside. However, she’s aware that some people may feel differently about Davis being cast in the LGBTQ+ role.
“I will say, Mackenzie is not somebody who identifies as a lesbian,” she continues. “She was the only person in my mind that could have played this with me. Sometimes, artfully speaking, you’re just drawn to a certain group of people. I could defend that, but I’m sure that somebody with a different perspective could make me feel bad about that — and then make me renege on everything I’ve just said.”
While acknowledging her own privilege throughout the Variety interview, Stewart makes it clear that taking away someone else’s opportunity is the last thing she ever wants to do.
“I acknowledge the world that we live in,” she says. “And I absolutely would never want to traipse on someone else’s opportunity to do that — I would feel terrible about that.”
Happiest Season premieres on Hulu on Nov. 25.
What are your reactions to Kristen Stewart’s thoughts on straight actors playing LGBTQ+ characters? Let us know in the comments below.