Turn on your TV today (do people still do that?) and you’ll see singer, actor, and executive producer Jann Arden playing a sexually fluid character in her primetime TV series Jann on CTV. Change the channel (the what?) and you’ll find queer* show runner and actor Daniel Levy playing the unconditionally loved gay son of his real-life father Eugene Levy in the award-winning show Schitt’s Creek that they co-created for CBC. Watching these funny, poignant and successful series, it’s easy to think queer performers in our union are doing well. Yet, despite the well-deserved accolades these high-profile queer ACTRA members have received, let’s remember they created these roles for themselves.
For most of us, being queer and getting cast in this industry still holds many barriers, including limited and stereotyped roles, fear of discrimination and straight actors continuing to be cast as queer characters, even on Schitt’s Creek. Casting a white actor to play an Asian or Indigenous character today would cause a social media storm, and rightly so. Yet casting straight to play queer is still somehow accepted. (Casting straight stars to play queer has long been considered a path to an Oscar in Hollywood. In 2019, both the Best Actress and Actor Academy Awards went to Olivia Coleman and Rami Malek respectively for their roles playing queer characters). Queer performers in our union have had enough of the status quo and queer committees are finally popping up in ACTRA branches across this country. They’re looking for change, now.