‘Big Bang Theory’ Star Jim Parsons Believes Straight Actors Can Play Gay Parts — ‘There’s Definitely This Spectrum’

There’s an ongoing debate in Hollywood over which types of actors should get certain parts. A growing number of people believe that underrepresented groups should get priority for some roles, including having only LGBTQ actors play those characters in TV and movies. But Big Bang Theory actor Jim Parsons disagrees.

The actor played Sheldon Cooper in the long-running CBS comedy about a group of obscenely smart physicist best friends at Caltech. But he believes acting is just that and doesn’t think sexual orientation should make a difference in casting choices.

Jim Parsons had no trouble finding work after ‘The Big Bang Theory’

Jim Parsons
Jim Parsons from ‘The Big Bang Theory’ | Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images

Many actors who become breakout stars on hit sitcoms have a difficult time when the series ends. Somehow, the 47-year-old Parsons avoided that curse and has enjoyed a steady stream of projects since The Big Bang Theory wrapped in 2019.

His latest project is the film version of a classic Broadway play The Boys in the Band. He plays a gay man in the movie and told LA Times he understood the significance of the project.

“I feel that it offered a representation of a particular group of gay men at a time that was vastly different from the world that I grew up in,” he said of The Boys in the Band, which is set in 1968. “While things are much better for homosexuals in our country and the world today, there are always other people or other groups that are victimized and discriminated against,” he continued.

“That’s why the play has been such a lightning rod and traveled so far since it was first written. What these characters are going through is easily applicable to many other marginalized groups or people.”

Parsons believes some straight actors do gay roles justice

Jim Parsons
Jim Parsons | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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There are valid arguments for both sides of the debate on whether straight actors should be cast as LGBTQ characters. Parsons believes that one Hollywood film proves his point perfectly.

“There’s definitely this spectrum: I think the fight, as it were, is not about having only gay people play the gay parts but to ensure that all parts are open to all actors,” the Big Bang Theory alum told LA Times. “It’s important that gay characters are portrayed as well-rounded and completely human individuals.”

He continued, “And there are plenty of straight actors who have played gay characters brilliantly. I think Brokeback Mountain is one of the most touching gay movies and love stories I have ever seen, and those two straight actors [Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal] were the best choices for those roles.”

Parsons thinks playing a woman changed the trajectory of his career

Jim Parsons
Jim Parsons | Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

The debate on which actors to cast in which roles extends beyond just the LGBTQ community. There’s also a lively discussion happening on whether men should play women, able bodied individuals should be cast as characters with disabilities, and so on.

But Parsons insists that playing a woman early in his professional life was a real turning point and an important touchstone of his career.

It happened after he was cast in a Houston play. In 2008, Parsons said, “When I was studying theater at school, I wasn’t worried about coming out. I was more concerned that at a small level, I would always seem gay in every role that I took. That was something that held me back.”

Instead, the unique role changed his whole perspective. “But when I performed in drag in the Busch play, I felt that there was this permission that was granted and I didn’t have to worry about appearing gay. Once you taste that level of freedom, there’s really no going back.”