Chris Colfer reflected on what it was like to be cast as Kurt Hummel, an openly gay character, on Joy – while he himself was not open about his sexuality at the time.
For context, the role of Kurt was created specifically for Chris, replacing a character named Rajeesh. Chris himself later came out as gay in a 2009 episode of Chelsea latelyprompting GLAAD to write at the time, “At just 19, Colfer’s announcement makes him one of the youngest openly gay actors currently working in Hollywood.”
In a recent appearance on the And that’s what you REALLY missed podcast, Former costar Jenna Ushkowitz asked Chris what it was like to play a gay character when he was not yet openly gay himself. “My hometown has changed a lot over the past two decades, but when I was growing up there, it was dangerous to be outside,” Chris said of Clovis, California.
“When I found out they had written this character for me, I was thrilled. When I finally got the script, I realized it was the gay character and I was terrified,” a- he continued, recalling a family member even telling him, “You can’t play a gay character, it would ruin your life.”
As Chris’ previous auditions had gone poorly, he accepted the role regardless. “I wanted to get out and be in the industry so badly, I knew there was no other choice,” he said. “I also knew that it would probably require me to answer and ask questions about myself that I wasn’t quite ready to do, and I’m actually very grateful for that in a way because it kind of pushed me down the path of being honest for myself.”
Noting that Kurt’s creation as a gay character felt like a “judgment,” Chris continued, “They just assumed. And they were right! I was a lot more effeminate back then…I was treated every day in high school. Every day. I couldn’t hide it, I just wasn’t ready to have this conversation with myself or with anyone I still knew.
Then, speaking on the Joy episode where Kurt comes out to his father, Chris said that “there really wasn’t a lot of support for young gay people back then” and called the moment a “lonely experience”.
Chris compared his experience to that of Kit Connor from Heart stroke, who said he felt compelled to come out as bi. “It broke my heart because the same thing happened to me, but 15 years ago. We were the same age,” Chris said.
“I really wanted to tweet something to support him, but I didn’t want to be the old man trying to get attention, trying to take someone’s trauma and say, ‘Oh, I remember when it sucks. ‘arrived.'”
Although Chris said he “strongly encourages everyone to come out when they’re ready”, he noted that “for anyone pushing someone in there, it’s one of the cruelest things you can do”.
“People were furious that this happened to [Kit] — I think it’s proof of how far the community has come. When it happened to me, it was really “I deserved it”. It was crickets. It was obvious, so I had no reason to be upset about it.
“At the time, I was not at all ashamed of it. I knew it very well. I just wanted to be on a boat before calling myself a sailor,” he added. “Even during Joy, I was called a queer at the auditions… When I told these stories to people, they were like, ‘What are you waiting for? You’re an openly gay actor in Hollywood.'”
You can listen to Chris’ full interview here.