In a new comedy, Lazy Susan, Will & Grace star Sean Hayes plays the eponymous Susan, a cisgendered woman who “can’t keep a job if her life depended on it and spends most of her days either collaging, playing the flute in her two-woman group (“Ukulady and the Tramp”) or leeching off of her brother and mother.”
Well, I’m not sure. Of course men playing women goes back to the ancient Greeks and Shakespeare. And in fairly modern times we have examples from Milton Berle and Nipsy Russell to Benny Hill and Monty Python. All funny, I suppose, but kind of antiquated? And maybe not so funny any more?
As progressive as Lazy Susan‘s main casting play feels, though, it also arrives at a time when Hollywood has seen heightened sensitivity around portrayals of gender. The welcome uptick in representation of transgender characters, for instance, has been counteracted by controversies like one that forced Scarlett Johansson to back out of a part where she was set to play a trans man.
So. With that in mind, how does Hayes justify his portrayal?
“I thought, ‘What an incredible challenge to play a woman.’ Like how scary and weird would that be if I played a woman? I wanted to do it because it’s why we’re actors, to embody people that we aren’t, and sometimes feel uncomfortable doing that. I like that kind of uncomfortableness of a challenge.
“As actors, we want to play different parts,” Hayes says. “But on the other hand, I think the Hollywood system has to got to be open to giving others at least the opportunity to prove themselves worthy of roles that are defined by themselves.
“I understand the business part. You want to sell tickets so you have to hire names. But at the same time we also have to give people an opportunity to build a name for themselves.”
What do you think? And will you see the movie?