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December 21, 2014

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Nathan Lane: Straight actors can play gay roles

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Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Nathan Lane speaks on stage during the Live from Lincoln Center, “The Nance” panel, at the the PBS 2014 Summer TCA held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Tuesday, July 22, 2014, in Beverly Hills, Calif.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Gay actors shouldn't have a monopoly on gay roles, award-winning stage and screen actor Nathan Lane said.

Lane, who is gay and has played both straight and gay characters, was asked the question at a TV critics' meeting Tuesday. He was there to discuss PBS' presentation of the Broadway play "The Nance," in which he stars.

"We just had 'The Normal Heart' (with) Mark Ruffalo, fantastic job. I think who's right for the part and most talented" should be hired, Lane said. Ruffalo, who is straight, starred as a gay man in the AIDS drama for HBO.

"That way only madness lies. ... I wouldn't have played Nathan Detroit or Max Bialystock" if casting followed such rigid rules, Lane said. He won a Tony Award for his Broadway portrayal of larcenous producer Bialystock in "The Producers" and was a nominee as gambler Detroit in "Guys and Dolls."

Lane is an Emmy nominee this year for his guest role as wedding planner Pepper Saltzman in ABC's sitcom "Modern Family."

Hollywood has been criticized for casting white actors as ethnic characters and, as gay characters have become an increasing part of movies and TV, giving such roles to straight actors. "Will & Grace" came under fire for casting straight actor Eric McCormack as a gay man.

"The Nance," which earned Lane another Tony bid this year, is about a gay burlesque performer in 1930s New York. It airs Oct. 10 on PBS' "Live From Lincoln Center" as part of the series 40th anniversary season.

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