Russell Tovey is one of the hottest actors (career-wise and aesthetically) around at the moment. Fresh from his success in Looking, he gave an interview to the Observer to promote the upcoming BBC2 series Banished.
It’s a lovely interview, as Tovey talks frankly about growing up gay, a knife attack which destroyed his confidence at age 18, and taking his Mum to the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco.
However, some people have taken umbrage at one thing he said. Discussing his childhood and his desire to attend a stage school (which his Dad refused to allow), he says:
I feel like I could have been really effeminate, if I hadn’t gone to the school I went to. Where I felt like I had to toughen up. If I’d have been able to relax, prance around, sing in the street, I might be a different person now. I thank my dad for that, for not allowing me to go down that path.
A certain section of the gay community have been offended by the above. Here’s another macho gay hating on the camp guys. Tovey, in their eyes, is up there with tossers who write “Don’t act gay – if I wanted a girl I’d be straight! LOL!” on their Grindr profile. Phrases like “internalised homophobia” have been bandied around.
Tovey subsequently said sorry – at ten past five in the morning; I hope he was in another time zone and not being kept awake all night by the kerfuffle. In any case, I’m not sure an apology was necessary. If you actually read the whole article, rather than mischievous PinkNews pieces which selectively quote from it, the meaning becomes quite clear.
I thought it was a storm in a teacup. In fact, not even a teacup; what are those little cups that espressos come in?
I’m not a fan of that certain type of gay person who hates campness. You know the ones – they say things like, “gay pride marches damage our cause by making us look like freaks! If only drag queens didn’t exist we’d have had gay marriage years ago!” I could go on, but that’s a whole other blog post.
However, Tovey didn’t say anything like that. It seems clear to me that he was speaking about his own situation: he thinks that if he had camp or effeminate mannerisms, he would not be cast in a leading role in a gritty drama like Banished. Is he wrong about that? I don’t think he is.
The actual quote above is prefaced by this, from the interviewer:-
Tovey thinks carefully about what he’s going to say next. If I had to guess, watching him fidget, I’d say he’s weighing up whether to be honest at the risk of causing offence, or whether to divert and say something bland. He chooses to risk offence.
And in the next interview he will probably choose the bland option. Excellent. An actor renowned for refreshing honesty in interviews will probably clam up in future, because someone, somewhere, might be upset. WELL DONE EVERYONE.
Perhaps he should have chosen his words more carefully. But maybe, when someone says what’s on his mind with no ill-intent, the Twitterati should engage in reasoned debate rather breaking out the pitchforks and flaming torches.
Oh, and if you’re going to attack a celebrity for being a “bad gay”, how about all those actors who stay closeted for fear of ruining their careers?