“I feel like I’ve contributed monumentally to the success of the gay movement in America, and if anyone wants to argue that, I’m open to it. You’re welcome, Advocate.”
- Sean Hayes
Sean Hayes, better known as the effervescent Jack McFarland from the wildly popular 1990s sitcom Will & Grace, has finally come out of the closet.
Remembering his hyper-gay character, some may be surprised to learn that he wasn’t officially “out” already. But what we forget is that the celebrity culture in the 1990s was a lot different than it is today. (Whatever you think of him, John Mayer had a point in his Playboy article when he basically said that there is a disconnect between 90s celebs, like Jennifer Aniston, and today’s celebs, like himself. People from the 90s despise the media and are huge fans of privacy, while today’s artists have hit the tweets instead to become the media and control what is said about them.)
Like Neil Patrick Harris pre-How I Met Your Mother or White Collar’s Matthew Bomer today, Harris didn’t want to declare his sexuality on the record during Will & Grace for fear of breaking Hollywood’s glass closet only to have the pieces slash through his career’s carotid artery. And the prospect of speaking about it still perturbs him, thanks in part to an Advocate article that made him hate the gay media.
To this day he feels burned by a story that ran in this magazine in anticipation of the series finale of Will & Grace. Titled “Sean Hayes: The Interview He Never Gave,” the one-page “Q&A” was a clip job of quotes he’d given to other publications through the years that made him look rather silly for pretending no one knows he’s gay. Hayes’s sexuality had become an open secret in Hollywood, but he’d refused repeated offers to be interviewed by the magazine, and the then-editors of The Advocate felt entitled to the real story. Understandably, that didn’t sit well with Hayes. “Really? You’re gonna shoot the gay guy down? I never have had a problem saying who I am,” he states.
He’s right, too. Did he really have to go on record in a magazine interview saying it then? It wasn’t enough that he was willing to portray a flamboyant gay character on television during an era where this country was even less gay-friendly than it is today? And can we not theorize that Will & Grace, despite its stereotypes, helped normalize the gay community to many, many people?
Either way, Hayes was brave then and brave now. Kudos to you, Sean. (And if you’re in New York, go see him on Broadway in Promises, Promises alongside Kristin Chenoweth!)