Neve Campbell, Joshua Jackson, and other teen faves are coming out of the celluloid closet — but will it hurt their careers?
Neve Campbell
If Jerry Falwell’s minions are in a snit over a purple, purse-toting Teletubby on PBS, they clearly haven’t channel surfed lately. On the WB, both “Dawson’s Creek” and “Felicity” are featuring gay story lines this season, while Neve Campbell’s character on Fox’s “Party of Five” will have a lesbian relationship during May sweeps. On the big screen, “Dawson’s Creek” heartthrob Joshua Jackson plays a gay character in “Cruel Intentions” (opening March 5), and “Home Improvement” heartthrob Jonathan Taylor Thomas portrays a homosexual hustler in the upcoming indie “Speedway Junky.” Move over, Tinky Winky.

“Audiences have become more sophisticated, even in the last few years, and so television is becoming more realistic,” says Marcia Schulman, Senior VP of Talent and Casting for Twentieth Century Fox Television. “That’s the beauty of these teenage ensemble shows; there’s something for everybody, so you can add a gay character to the mix. It’s a great trend.”

Finding big-name actors willing to play these roles has also become easier in the wake of “Ellen” and “My Best Friend’s Wedding.” “When I cast ‘Jeffrey’ four years ago, it was very hard (because) people were afraid of being typecast,” says Schulman. “But now actors are finally choosing roles based on how well they’re written and how interesting they are to play, not on whether the character is gay or straight.” Casting director Billy Hopkins (“Good Will Hunting,” “54”) agrees: “A lot of young straight actors see it as an acting challenge and usually a good juicy role, since there’s often a big, teary coming-out scene — like what we saw on ‘Dawson’s Creek.'”

While omnipresent gay-themed programming has the Christian Action Network calling for the FCC to add “homosexual content” to its ratings system, media analyst Marc Berman doesn’t think such shows will alienate audiences. “It is risky, but the WB and Fox made names for themselves by taking risks,” says Berman. “While we’re seeing more gay themes, overall the media (response) has been very positive. And even if there is a protest, that can mean increased ratings.”

Source: Entertainment Weekly
Author: Liane Bonin

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