Jane Lynch and Paul Witten are proud to be two out actors, stars and creators in Hollywood.
Because while many celebrities may want to stay in the closet, they are making an effort to ensure that LGBTI entertainment is out there for the masses to enjoy.
That is why they brought their new show, Dropping The Soap, to Dekkoo – the largest and first gay TV streaming service.
The fast-paced workplace comedy, similar in tone to 30 Rock or Episodes, goes behind-the-scenes of the long-running soap opera Collided Lives.
What’s Dropping The Soap?
‘I always loved looking behind the curtains. As an actor getting things started, I got my SAG card doing an under five on General Hospital. It was fascinating. It was so fast and actors on soaps work so hard,’ Witten told Gay Star News.
‘There’s something inherently comical about it. The storylines are extreme and ridiculous. It was just ripe with ideas.’
When Lynch read one of the scripts, she knew she had to be a part of it.
‘Soap operas are dying in the States,’ Lynch said. ‘We all watched them, and we were addicted to them. But they’re a dying artform now. We thought it would be funny to look at a soap opera which has lost its viewership but the actors who started there realize this is all they have.’
The 10 episodes, each around about 10 minutes long, was shot on a shoestring budget across three weeks.
‘[The atmosphere] was really relaxed and very professional. It went off like a well oiled machine,’ Lynch added.
‘There’s something about art when you’re not getting paid much. You’re there because you want to be. People stepped up and we helped each other a lot. The crew were very helpful doing jobs that weren’t even their jobs. We had people like John Michael Higgins, fantastic actors, come in for a day to do a part. It was a joy.’
If they were pitching the show to a network, Witten knows the show could have been very different.
‘We are at Dekkoo which is awesome. I love them,’ he said. ‘I love how there is a gay-centric streaming service. It’s amazing we have this platform, I’m very excited to be working with them.
‘One thing is so great about online is you’re given more freedom. A lot of these places find creators they believe in and have a strong voice and let them run with it. The old model of network TV which has more involvement has really changed. You can really see a show’s vision.’
‘I’ve never been denied a job or audition because I’m gay’
One of the common themes in Dropping The Soap is the need to keep your personal life private.
For Lynch, in her working life, that wasn’t even an option.
‘I didn’t even make a decision. I just showed up as I am, I don’t walk in wearing a rainbow flag and nobody cares. If they find out I’m gay that’s fine. People in Hollywood, they’re just a gorgeous group of people. I really love Hollywood people. Unless something has happened behind my back, and I highly doubt it, I’ve never been denied a job or audition because I’m gay,’ she said.
‘For me I always cite Melissa Etheridge, KD Lang and Ellen DeGeneres, the people who came before me who at the height of their fame stepped up and said I’m gay. The world dealt with it. I don’t know if it’s a big deal anymore. I know it is in different parts of the county and I know it is different all over the world.
‘It’s great there’s a place in the world that it’s just another way to love. There’s no toxicity or fear around it. Hopefully this is a wave that will take over the world and I have a feeling it will.’
But for Witten, coming out was a little harder. When he was an actor in his 20s, even when he was dating women, he felt scared after an agent said he ‘came off a little gay’.
‘I thought I wouldn’t work’
‘When I first started coming out I was so scared because I thought I wouldn’t work,’ he said. ‘It was hard. It sucked. I didn’t want anyone to think I was gay.’
Witten isn’t the only one. A recent study found around a third of actors believe casting directors, directors and producers might be biased against LGBTI performers, which in turn could affect hiring decisions.
‘I understand the struggle [to remain closeted]. I am gay, I’m proud of that. But I’m also not a 20-year-old leading man where I have to be seen as believably in love with a girl,’ Witten added.
‘I feel people still judge and those in charge are worried the audiences won’t tune in, and refuse to see a gay guy as a heterosexual sex symbol.
‘But, personally, I’m proud of it and I don’t care. Everyone has a different path. I know some people get up in arms when people don’t come out and I see their point of view, but it’s different for everyone.’
For Lynch, it was Ellen coming out on her sitcom that changed the world for her.
How Ellen DeGeneres changed everything
‘I don’t know if she asked to be the poster child for gay people in Hollywood,’ she said.
‘But she really is the one who took a machete and blazed a path for everyone who followed. I look at her now and she has a frigging empire. People who come to see her show now are mostly straight women from the Midwest. They dance with her. She’s one of the most popular people in showbusiness and I love that for her and I love how that shows how America loves gay people – for the most part.
But will the current Trump administration and political climate push people back in the closet and undo all the progress made?
‘We are just taking a step back so we can take a huge leap forward,’ Lynch said.
‘I don’t think we’re going to be undoing all the progress we have made. It’s just going to make people that much more aware of how we have to keep the eye on the ball and keep moving forward. Hopefully we’ll look back on this as a bad fever dream… that was over quickly.’
All episodes of Dropping The Soap will be available 7 March on Dekkoo.com.