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Dustin Lance Black: ‘Agents have to grow a spine and let gay actors come out’

Dustin Lance Black: ‘Agents have to grow a spine and let gay actors come out’

Hollywood is packed with LGBTI people and the studios want to support them but agents and managers stop people coming out.

That’s according to Oscar-winning Milk writer – and Tom Daley’s boyfriend – Dustin Lance Black.

He was speaking at a Student Pride debate in central London today (28 February).

That also saw Alicya Eyo and Heather Peace talking about their struggle with coming out as actors and a teaser on trans representation on top British TV soap EastEnders.

Black said: ‘The truth is there are tons of lesbian and gay actors in Hollywood. But for so many years now at agent level and management level there has been a lot of closeting going on.

‘The studios are on our side, the producers are on our side but we hit the wall with agents and managers. They think somehow it is going to hurt their bottom line.

‘It is outdated thinking. Young actors are coming out now, there is no going back into the closet. So managers and agents will have to grow up and get a spine.’

Lesbian actress and musician Heather Peace admitted she struggled with the issue early in her career.

She said: ‘As an actor, it is a really big deal to come out. I was in a show called London’s Burning when I was 22 and if I had come out it would have wrecked my career.

‘I never wanted to lie, so I just didn’t do the interviews.

‘It has changed now. I have loved playing gay characters for the last four years but it is four years out of 20 years of a career.’

Openly lesbian actress Alicya Eyo from TV soap Emmerdale once shared the same worries.

She told the students: ‘I was scared to come out. I thought I would be put in a pigeonhole. I remember doing an interview and this guy asked about relationships and I said I didn’t want to talk about it and he said “But you are straight, aren’t you?” and I heard myself saying “Yes”.’

The panel was also asked why the characters that do exist are often white, gay men, rather than other people from the community.

Black replied: ‘We write what we know. The issue right now in Hollywood is it is not representational.

‘It is going to take diversity initiatives. It is going to take studios with balls to hire diverse writers so they can start writing what they know and we get more diverse stories.’

Dominic Treadwell-Collins, executive producer of 20-year-old soap EastEnders promised a trans character was coming to the show, breaking another TV taboo.

He said: ‘The power of EastEnders is to change the world. So you change it gently. I am intending to [include a trans character].

‘I would want to cast a trans actor too. The pen hasn’t hit the paper yet. I am looking for actors and I need the right character.’

Treadwell-Collins also said he had banned gay kisses from being the ‘duff duff’ – the cliffhanger at the end of an episode – because ‘they shouldn’t be that shocking’.

Both he and Black embraced the idea of having a gender non-binary person in a story, though emphasized it was still new. Black said the idea was ‘awesome’.

The 10th National Student Pride was declared the biggest so far by organizers.

The event continues this evening with a screening of shorts by Queer as Film, then a Mean Girls Prom at the legendary G-A-Y club night.

Tomorrow students will enjoy breakfast and watch trans teen romance movie Boy meets Girl before returning to their universities around the country.

Gay Star News is a media partner of Student Pride.