In the last week, Neil Patrick Harris and TR Knight both came out and proclaimed they were gay. (Not happy with that verb; sounds like they were boasting. "admitted" doesn't work either - that would sound like they were copping to a crime.)
Both actors play straight characters on their respective shows - Harris as Barney on 'How I Met Your Mother', Knight as George on 'Grey's Anatomy'.
Meanwhile, over at 'Brothers & Sisters', Matthew Rhys is straight, but he's playing the gay Kevin Walker. And then there's Eric McCormack who played Will on 'Will & Grace'.
However, Nathan Lane playing straight on 'Encore Encore' just didn't register. I guess we knew too much about him as a person by that point......
This is all how it should be in Toobworld. For the most part, nothing about the actor should really define the character. First off, the actor and the character are two separate identities in the TV Universe, and usually never encounter each other (unless of course we're talking about Sammy Davis, Jr.) It's when their personal life is incorporated into the storyline, then it tends to send the plot careening off the tracks.
The sitcom 'Ellen' comes to mind......
Although eventually we were able to overlook it, Christopher Eccleston's dialect was a bit disconcerting at first, coming as it did from the Doctor in 'Doctor Who'. Not even the dialogue to splain it away helped much, although it did make for a keeper:
Rose Tyler: "How come you sound like you come from the North?"
The Doctor: "Lots of planets have a North."
Eccleston's regenerated replacement's request to use his native Scottish accent was vetoed, but David Tennant did get to use it as part of his alias in the episode "Tooth & Claw".
One of the smart decisions on the part of RTD to veto the request. Bad enough when decades earlier, the Third Incarnation of the Doctor was regenerated with a tattoo.....
Not even an actor's age is apparently a factor when it comes to their character. Otis Young was 43 when he played Lawrence Melville in the 'Columbo' episode of "Identity Crisis". But Melville was supposed to be 28.
Young looked the 43.
When he played two roles in 'The Second Hundred Years', Monte Markham was supposed to be 33 as Ken Carpenter (which he was in real life), but he was 101 as Luke Carpenter, Ken's recently unfrozen grandfather. It's now 2006 - Markham/Ken Carpenter are both 71, while Grandpa Luke would be about 140.
Some things you just have to figure into the equation. Daryl Mitchell broke his spine in 2000, so he has to play most of his roles now in a wheelchair as he did in 'Ed'. (Not sure if his role in last year's "Inside Man" was just always seated, though.)
James Stacey lost an arm and a leg decades ago in an accident. So when he appeared as a guest star in a 'Wiseguy' arc, this was added into his character's back-story. And in fact, it played a major factor at a crucial point in the plot when the character of Mark Volchek's ultimate goal was revealed.
Michael Dunn's dwarfism was a major factor in the conception of Dr. Miguelito Loveless, and he played it to the hilt. As his nine episodes in the series progressed, it was only Loveless' own obsession with his stunted height that held him back from the true greatness he could have achieved.
But if one is a little person, that doesn't mean it has to be considered central to the character they play. Peter Dinklage's role in 'Threshold' really didn't have anything to do with the fact that he's a little person; it was the size of his scientific genius that mattered. However, the same can't be said for his role as Marlowe on 'nip/tuck'. It didn't have to come up in his position as the family's nanny, but now that he's obsessed with Julia McMahon, he's considering the option of having his legs lengthened.
I guess as it's a show with cosmetic surgeries as it's hook, that was to be expected.
Meredith Eaton as Rebecca Horowitz on 'Boston Legal' could have dealt with the fact that she's a little person being second to the fact that she's a lawyer, if it had not been for the blundering bluntness of Denny Crane.
And even then he was able to get past that for some "cheap, chubby sex".
Getting over the fact she may be his daughter is a little trickier.....
Still, I think that when she appeared on 'Family Law' as Emily Resnick, the fact that she was a little person was probably addressed and then put aside. I just wish she could have appeared on 'Boston Legal' as Emily rather than Rebecca, if only for the crossover!
Michael Dunn really paved the way for little people as actors so that eventually they will be cast as regulars on TV series and their height never becomes an issue (or splained away as them being aliens or non-human beings, as was the case with Danny Woodburn's Carl the Gnome on 'Special Unit 2'.)
If it does ever come up again, the offender can be shouted down with accusations of "heightism", like Jerry was on 'Seinfeld' in regards to Woodburn's Mickey.
Race doesn't even play a role anymore, really. It was played up for laughs when Rob Petrie thought his baby had been switched with that of Mr. and Mrs. Peters on 'The Dick Van Dyke Show'. And Chris Stephens had a black brother on 'Northern Exposure', but that was chalked up to their Dad bleepin' around with two different families.
Wayne Brady is about to show up as Barney's brother on 'How I Met Your Mother', but no splainin yet on how that came about. Personally, I think it would be cool if it never comes up at all, or at the very least, Barney never offers up an answer. That's how it played out in "Jurassic Park 2" when we met the daughter of Jeff Goldblum's character. We were left to fill in the blanks, if it was necessary.
Up in Elmo, Alaska, it appears that "ebony and ivory combine to make" Patrick, as it's been recently revealed that Buzz is his father. Nothing about the genetic makeup of the actor playing the role of Patrick would suggest that it was possible, but that's cool. (Of course it's cool! They're in Alaska! Ba dum bum! Try the veal!)
But getting back to Neil Patrick Harris and TR Knight announcing (ah! That's a better verb!) that they're gay, I hope the writers resist the temptation to ever play with that idea. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.
It's just that Barney is too deeply seated in the audience's minds as the irreparable reprobate of a womanizer to be seen even questioning his sexuality.
But I wouldn't put it past Shonda Rhimes when it comes to 'Grey's Anatomy'. That show is so far over the top when it comes to soapy complications in the characters' lives, and they burn through so many plotlines in a single season, that I would be surprised if they didn't have George do a bit of experimentation.
Just sayin', is all.....
Shows cited for this O'Bservation:
'How I Met Your Mother'
'Brothers & Sisters'
'The Wild, Wild West'
'The Second Hundred Years'
'Special Unit 2'
'Men In Trees'
'The Dick Van Dyke Show'
'Will & Grace'