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Ben Whishaw baffled by debate over sexuality in casting for roles

Published 09/10/2015

Ben Whishaw is baffled about the fuss over whether sexual orientation should be important in casting for specific roles
Ben Whishaw is baffled about the fuss over whether sexual orientation should be important in casting for specific roles

Actor Ben Whishaw has said there should be no debate about gay actors playing straight characters, and vice versa.

The 34-year-old, who is gay, has portrayed characters of both sexual orientation on screen in the past, including gadgets guru Q in James Bond film Skyfall, serial killer Jean-Baptiste Grenouille in Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer and English Romantic poet John Keats in Bright Star.

"With gay characters being played by straight people, straight characters being played by gay people, come on, we're actors," he said at a Bafta screening for his new TV show London Spy.

"I do not understand what the problem is. Actors play all sorts of things. I've played murderers, journalists and kings - I'm not any of them. The whole thing is a fiction, it's about imagination, it's play. I am baffled to why it's such a big thing.

"And also, I'm baffled because it feels like we're in a time where there are lots of gay people, not just actors but in all walks of life, and let's be where we are. We're human beings and I don't understand why it's really a discussion now."

Whishaw also spoke out about Matt Damon, who had to apologise after saying gay actors should keep their sexuality a secret.

He said: "The Matt Damon thing, it has probably been taken out of context but I don't understand the heat around it. It feels like a story that's trying to be drummed up, even though there are more important things we should be talking about."

The actor plays Danny, who is drawn into the espionage world through his lover Alex, played by Edward Holcroft in London Spy, which has been created and written by Tom Rob Smith. The show will air on BBC2 in November.

Whishaw, who is in a civil partnership with Australian composer Mark Bradshaw, said: "I liked the character very much, I was intrigued by him. I was very gripped by the story, I had absolutely no idea of the world I was in and I didn't know what would happen from one moment to the next. It was perplexing, and beautiful, and it struck me as soon as I read it."

He said it is Danny's need for love that he related to the most.

"I felt very connected to him. I remember a period of my life of feeling like I needed to be in love and I needed to find love, and life would have no meaning unless I found somebody. That was all my energy and thinking and longing was going into that. That's what I related to most.

"There was a need in him. I liked that he loved sex. He's a sensual person, it comes out more and more as the series goes along, so those are the things I was interested in."

Whishaw, whose other small-screen credits include BBC One series Criminal Justice, BBC Two historical drama Richard II and The Hour, said there has never been a better time for television.

He explained: "Most or all of the interesting writing is happening in television. You get to play a character that's bound to be more interesting and complicated because you have more time to explore it, and it's not subjected to a plot that has to be resolved in an hour and a half. All of those things are very appealing.

"I think we're in a very interesting (time) - film is in a strange place and television is in an incredible (period), certainly in my lifetime. I've never known anything like it before."

Whishaw, who will reprise his role as Q in the upcoming 007 film Spectre, remained tight-lipped over the movie, which will star Daniel Craig as the secret agent for the fourth time.

He said: " I think it will be really good. It's a James Bond film so it will have everything that you hope."

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