My gaydar is notoriously out of whack, and what little ability I do have with it is entirely misdirected. That’s my disclaimer to describe something of a game I play when I watch TV — Can This Actor Play Gay?
I can picture some actors more easily than others taking on gay roles. Before I ever knew Det. Tim Bayliss on Homicide experimented with his sexuality, I had a sense Kyle Secor would be convincing playing gay.
Even though Jesse L. Martin plays Det. Ed Green on Law & Order as tough and suave, I thought something about Martin could work in a gay role. Then I learned he was cast as Tom Collins, a gay computer programmer, in the musical Rent.
So yes, I don’t use my gaydar for anything productive (you know, like finding a boyfriend.)
But over time, I have noted a number of actors I could picture playing gay. Some are more of a stretch than others.
Sean Maher — Dr. Simon Tam was, relatively speaking, one of the least macho characters on Firefly. He could wield a gun or throw a punch when he had to, but he wasn’t looking for a fight in the same way Mal or Jane was. Maher has a soothing voice, and he doesn’t have a looming heroic presence. A friend of mine characterized my fancy for him as "cerebral". It’s that quality which makes him a good choice to play gay.
Jamie Bamber — Yes, Bamber is stunningly pretty. He’s also British, and European actors seem far more flexible at exploring their feminine side than American actors. I’m not familiar with his work outside of Battlestar Galactica, so he’s probably played gay in the past already.
Matt Long — As the put-upon teenager Jack on the short-lived WB drama Jack & Bobby, Long exuded an intangible purity in his performance. One episode of the show found Jack struggling to deal with a friend who had just come out to him. I could easily see the actors in that scene trading places. Like Maher, Long isn’t a big masculine presence, and the world-weariness he showed on Jack & Bobby could be parlayed nicely to a gay role.
Jamey Sheridan — He’s hot for a middle-age guy. Sheridan played Capt. James Deakins on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Law & Order isn’t exactly a showcase for character development. But Deakins was never grizzled. S. Epetha Merkeson’s Lt. Van Buren can throw down and Dann Florek’s Capt. Don Cragen can tear up scenery. Deakins, though, played it cool. How does that translate to a gay role? I’m not sure. I just like the idea of Sheridan playing a middle-aged gay role.
David James Elliott — Ten years on JAG has pretty much locked Elliott into dashing hero roles. He’s also a family man in real life, so it makes sense he plays family men on the job. But Elliott’s machismo isn’t all swagger — there’s a component of compassion that could be tapped for a gay role to good effect.
Eddie Cibrian — I think he already has played gay on But, I’m a Cheerleader. I’m putting him on this list solely for his looks. I would like to see him and Dean Cain work together.
Tim Guinee — Guinee was incredibly memorable in the Law & Order episode "Hubris". He plays a charming defendant who uses his flirtation skills to tamper the jury. I saw that performance, and I thought, "Damn, he could do deadly gay."
David Sutcliffe — Sutcliffe has already taken on two gay roles, neither of them I really liked. So I’m still keeping him on this list till he gets offered a role I do like.