When Sean Maher was cast as a closeted gay man in the since-canceled NBC drama The Playboy Club, the 36-year-old actor decided that off-screen at least, he was going to bust out of that closet.
Maher, best known for his role on the sci-fi series Firefly and its follow-up feature film Serenity, confirmed that he is gay during an interview with Entertainment Weekly in late September.
'It was 14 years that I sort of had this layer of fear on me so it does feel different to kind to kind of shed all of this past baggage,' Maher tells Gay Star News. 'This part of my life that was so huge that I didn't feel comfortable enough to share for fear of my career being destroyed.'
In the days following the EW article, Maher heard from a flood of supporters - most of who he did not know - who were deeply moved by his decision to go public.
'I am still hearing from people who were inspired by my story and came out to their parents,' he said. 'I've also been getting some old-fashioned fan mail from people that brought me to tears - their stories so inspire me.'
Maher and his partner, Paul, have been together for more than a decade and are raising two children. He is so committed to his family that he took two years off from acting to be a full-time dad.
It's a career that was launched in a big way in 1999 when he was cast in the title role of the FOX series Ryan Caulfield: Year One. He followed that up with a recurring role on Party of Five and was a cast member of the short-lived series The $treet.
Since returning to full-time acting in 2009, Maher has done guest spots on such shows as The Mentalist, Human Target and Drop Dead Diva and was a regular on the ABC Family series Make it or Break It.
Next up for Maher is an independent film version of Much Ado About Nothing in which he plays the role of Don John. Is is written and produced by Joss Whedon who Maher worked on in Firefly and Serenity.
The actor said it is people like Whedon and such co-stars as Nathan Fillion, Jenna Dewan and Jewel Staite who made his decision to come out easier because of their very public support.
'It was wonderful but I wasn't surprised,' Maher said. 'I had spoken to all of them about my choice to do it and they all supported me 150 percent so I wasn't shocked that they stepped forward and voiced their support. For a lot of them, it's second nature especially for someone like Joss Whedon who doesn't see anybody past the work that they're doing. I think my work on Firefly was the first time I really thought, 'Wow, I could really be a gay man in this business and these people wouldn't care.''