Lots of things about being an actor can be less than fun. Anyone who does this sort of work will tell you that there are some parts of the job that just suck: weird working hours, unsteady pay checks, unpredictably long days, filming summer scenes in the dead of winter (how to know if you can really act: can you look happy about wearing a tank top and a mini skirt in 30 degree weather?). But few things inspire quite as much dread as love scenes.
As a performer I’ve largely been spared this, but not enough not to know that yeah, it sucks. It’s one of those things that falls somewhere between ludicrous and boring and embarrassing. Why it’s awful varies with the project and the people involved. Sometimes it’s worse when you’re genuinely attracted to the other performer; sometimes it’s worse when you can’t stand them; or when you’re buddies with their spouse. All of it’s pretty anxiety producing. For me, I get this running loop of terror in my head about how I need to give a good performance and look into it, but if I look too into it, will my partner in the scene mock me (this, for the record, has never happened, but it’s the neurosis I bring to the table — everyone has at least one).
One thing that can be, or can be assumed to be, tough for a lot of people, is doing love scenes with someone of a gender they’re not attracted to in their off-screen life. Because my tastes are wide-ranging, that’s not an experience I’ve had, but I can see how it would be super weird. And I don’t find it problematic that people find it weird. There can be a lot of social taboo going on there, no matter how progressive you are and no matter how much you get paid to pretend to be someone else.
Now, knowing, in fact, that it’s super weird for a lot of people, and that there are still way too many social stigmas out there about homosexuality (let’s face it, no one ever worried about whether a lesbian is comfortable making out with a man on screen), if you’re going to be playing gay on screen, especially in a love scene, casting will seriously, seriously ask you if you’re okay with that. Your agent will talk to you about the pros and cons of the choice. And sometimes, you’ll even have to sign something saying you won’t sue anyone if this playing gay thing leads to reputational damage (for the record: I’ve been questioned by casting more closely about my willingness to play gay, even after I’ve informed casting about my own orientation, than I have been about my willingness to have live insects placed on my body).
I’m not joking. I know we all wish I were.
So at the point that you are an actor and you’re booked to do a love scene with another actor of the same sex, and you’re straight and thinking “Oh shit, I hate filming love scenes and OH MY GOD, I’ve never kissed another dude before,” you’ve already had plenty of time not to sign up for this. I get that you’re stressed. I get that it’s weird for you. And I’m not asking you not to feel that way. Because filming love scenes SUCKS.
But in this age of constant interviews and the ill-considered opportunities for general crankiness Twitter provides, please think very carefully before you speak on the record about this experience. Because when your anxiety about this process reads as “playing gay is disgusting, and I’m worried about getting the gay cooties on me,” you look like a bit of an arse. At best. And it’s really hurtful to gay fans of a given property to hear that someone can’t stand playing a character that might be someone we can actually relate to.
This happens, unsurprisingly, all the time. It’s recently happened through some now deleted tweets in one of my fandoms of choice. And it’s happened before regarding other actors and properties that are important to me. Seriously, if you’re going to be in a film (no matter how terrible) about Alexander the Great, don’t make snide comments about the gay. Ditto for Torchwood. Double plus ditto for anything that is inherently and overwhelmingly a gay narrative.
So, “Hey, I have to do this thing that’s uncomfortable for actors in general and is new to me in this particular situation ’cause I’ve never kissed a dude before and I’m feeling a little strange about it; acting is so weird” — totally cool; it’s a weird job!
But, “Any hot chicks want to help me get the gay off?” Not cool, man, not cool.