Straight actors playing LGBTQ characters has become a controversial topic but Euphoria star Eric Dane says he’s received a lot of support from the gay community for his role as Cal Jacobs.
Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, he said,
“I’m acutely aware that I’m a straight actor playing a gay character.”
“The gay community has been super supportive. I think I’ve lent them a voice in portraying this character, and I hope that everything I do is sincere because I wouldn’t want to misrepresent something that’s so important.”
Although Eric never had to hide his sexuality, he said he could still relate to Cal in many ways. He explained,
“I’ve had struggles in my past that invited me to lead that life of secrecy. I accepted the invitation wholeheartedly. … While the circumstances specifically might not be the same, the feelings certainly are.”
“I understand what it’s like to lead a double life. To have secrets and to have to live keeping those secrets from people. I’ve certainly had my struggles with alcoholism, drug addiction, mental health, and I know what it’s like to have to put up a facade and have an external experience not match the internal experience. I felt like that was my strongest asset in trying to articulate what the guy’s going through.”
Euphoria season 2 explored Cal’s backstory, particularly his senior year of high school. He falls in love with his male best friend only to have to force his feelings back down when his girlfriend gets pregnant.
Fast forward to current day and Cal is at the end of his rope. He drops trou, pees all over the floor, and comes out to his family. He tells his wife and sons,
“I’m a man. I’ll fuck whoever I want, whenever I want. I’ll fuck men, I’ll fuck women, I’ll fuck transsexuals, and I’ll have a mighty fine time doin’ it. I eat what I kill. I’m goin’ to bed. I’m a faggot… sexist, chaser, pig, fuckin’ creep, and I love it. Living a double life? Not my biggest regret. You are.”
It was an iconic moment.
In playing Cal Jacobs, Eric Dane joins a long list of straight actors who have played queer characters. The issue has become increasingly controversial over the last several years.
Many LGBTQ actors believe that, by taking queer roles, straight actors are potentially taking away jobs from gay actors, particularly those deemed “too effeminate” and have limited options already.
Billy Porter explained this viewpoint particularly well in a 2019 interview with The Hollywood Reporter. He said,
“Being black and gay and out came with a lot of unemployment. It’s a double layer, the layer of being a person of color in this industry then the layer of being a queen. Nobody can see you as anything else. If ‘flamboyant’ wasn’t in the description of the character, no one would see me, ever, for anything.”
Other queer actors have shared similar sentiments. Most recently Billy Eichner told Variety,
“So often in Hollywood, a lot of the great LGBTQ roles historically have gone to straight actors, and they win awards for it. And they get a lot of acclaim and they use it to show people their range.”
On top of that, many LGBTQ actors have revealed that coming out sabotaged their careers and they stopped getting cast in projects.
Teen Wolf actor Colton Haynes revealed last year that, after coming out in 2016, “the work mostly dried up.”
Prior to that, he was able to play stereotypical heterosexual roles like Jackson Whittemore in Teen Wolf but after coming out as gay, he was no longer even asked to audition. In an essay for Vulture, he wrote,
“Now, the only auditions I get are for gay characters, which remain sparse.”
“Is that because I’m not very good? Maybe. But that didn’t stop me from booking roles before.”
It’s gotten to the point where several straight actors have come out with apologies, admitting they regret taking on queer — particularly trans — roles.
It’s clear that Eric Dane has no regrets about playing Cal Jacobs. But will he in the future? Only time will tell.
You can currently stream Euphoria on HBO Max. Euphoria season 3 is rumored to come out sometime in 2024.