Gus Kenworthy has hit back at critics questioning whether he can play a convincing straight character by saying that he spent 23 years “acting” while in the closet.
The gay Olympic hunk is about to ditch the skis for the small screen this Autumn to play Chet Clancy in American Horror Story: 1984.
He’ll be throwing on his finest Adidas short shorts to be the fitness-obsessed love interest of Emma Roberts’ Brooke Thompson.
Kenworthy has taken on his critics head on in an ESPN essay revealing that he and producer Ryan Murphy anticipated doubt over his acting abilities.
Gus Kenworthy expected criticism for being cast as a straight guy.
“When Ryan [Murphy] announced he’d hired me to play Emma’s boyfriend, he and I both received a lot of negative comments online,” wrote Kenworthy.
“Some people wanted to know how I was cast as a straight man or if I could play straight. Is that even a question?
“I spent the first 23 years of my life playing a straight man.”
He continued: “Every gay man has the experience at some point in his life of pretending to be someone he’s not.
“I knew as a teenager that I was gay, yet I was still sleeping with girls, pretending to be straight, playing this persona I thought I needed to be for my sport.
“The stakes were so high. I remember going to crazy lengths to make people believe I was someone I was not. That’s acting.”
“It’s much more OK for a gay man to play a straight role.”
Furthermore, Kenworthy also commented on the growing and, at times, heated debate over straight actors playing queer character roles.
Audiences and actors alike have pushed back against this, such as when Scarlett Johansson was cast to play a trans massage parlour owner for the film Rub and Tug. A casting that she stepped-down from amid fury from fans.
Kenworthy said on the topic: “Maybe this sounds unfair, but I feel like it’s much more OK for a gay man to play a straight role than vice versa.
“Most characters are straight. Most shows are about straight people and straight lives and straight dynamics, and if there is a gay character on the show, it’s usually a sidekick.
“Allowing a gay person to play that character does a lot in terms of visibility and breaking down perceptions and stereotypes.”
Gus Kenworthy knew he was gay since he was five-years-old.
The 27-year-old from Colorado came out as gay in an EPSN interview in 2015, saying he wanted to encourage young queer folk to do the same.
Moreover, in an interview with People last year, Kenworthy revealed that he knew he was gay since he was five years old – but said he was “afraid of being different” so it became his “secret”.
At 11, he came out to his dog, Mack.
“He was my best friend. I guess he was the first person I told I was gay. I remember whispering it to him and being like don’t tell anyone. He didn’t,” Kenworthy quipped.