Comedian and actor Billy Eichner called writer and director Aaron Sorkin "completely ignorant" after Sorkin said casting gay actors as gay characters is an "empty gesture."
Writing on Twitter, the star of Difficult People and Billy on the Street said Sorkin's remarks are "Completely ignorant of how Hollywood has treated its openly LGBTQ+ actors for a century."
Eichner urged Sorkin to "write yourself a ‘walk and talk’ back into the past."
Sorkin, best known for writing The West Wing and The Social Network, unwittingly kicked off another debate about representation in Hollywood films after he responded to criticisms about his decision to cast the Spanish actor Javier Bardem in the role of Cuban actor Desi Arnaz in Being the Ricardos, a film about the marriage and career crises faced by Arnaz and his wife, the comedian Lucille Ball, who is played by Nicole Kidman.
Sorkin called the criticisms "a little chilling" and commented on casting LGBTQ+ actors in LGBTQ+ roles, saying:
"You can act attracted to someone, but you can’t act gay or straight. So this notion that only gay actors should play gay characters? That only a Cuban actor should play Desi?"
"Honestly, I think it’s the mother of all empty gestures and a bad idea.”
What Sorkin does not get is that Hollywood has excluded LGBTQ+ actors from playing cisgender roles, arguing that audiences would not find them convincing if they knew the actors were LGBTQ+ offscreen.
However, the same industry has also excluded LGBTQ+ actors from playing LGBTQ+ roles, regularly casting straight actors onscreen.
Many agreed with Eichner's assessment and further criticized Sorkin for being out of touch
Conversations about representation in film and theater have become more common in recent years and some cisgender actors have even expressed regret over playing roles that could have gone to LGBTQ+ performers.
Recently, the actor Eddie Redmayne, who received an Academy Award nomination for playing the transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl, called his decision to take the role a well-intentioned "mistake."