The 31-year-old actor's most notable roles to date have been queer. His breakout role was that of Blaine Anderson in Glee, and then he played Hedwig in the Broadway musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. His most critically acclaimed performance was his work as gay character Andrew Cunanan in American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, for which he was honoured with an Emmy this year.
In a recent interview with Bustle, the actor noted that while playing these roles has been a "great joy," he isn't comfortable with taking opportunities away from LGBTQ-identifying actors.
“There are certain [queer] roles that I’ll see that are just wonderful,” Criss told Bustle. “But I want to make sure I won’t be another straight boy taking a gay man’s role. The reason I say that is because getting to play those characters is inherently a wonderful dramatic experience. It has made for very, very compelling and interesting people.”
While Criss has talked about his experience playing these queer characters in the past, this statement comes at an especially significant time, given that he was nominated for a Golden Globe for his role on American Crime Story.
Hollywood has often been criticised for "straight-washing" movies and TV. Most recently, them. called the Academy Award-nominated Call Me By Your Name "gay-for-pay Oscar bait," as its stars Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer are both straight men. Scarlett Johansson pulled out from a role playing a trans character earlier this summer, and Chloë Grace Moretz came under fire for playing the titular queer character in The Miseducation of Cameron Post.
When it comes to LGBTQ+ representation on screen, there is still much more work to be done, but Criss' candour and decision certainly opens up the issue for further discussion.