Sean Hayes on being a gay father (on TV) and an apology for coming out too late

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Sean Hayes is starring in his first leading role since “Will & Grace” with the new comedy-sitcom “Sean Saves the World” on NBC. So far the show has had a mediocre premiere, ratings have been on a steady decline, and the critics remain skeptical. 

“Sean Saves the World” tells the story of a single-divorced gay father who suddenly takes on the responsibility of caring for his teenage daughter. 

Hayes recently spoke to Irene Lacher at the LA Times about the show’s content, the responsibility of exploring the topic of gay parenting on television, and his own motivations behind the project. 

Irene Lacher: Is TV running out of characters that people haven’t seen before?

Sean Hayes: It’s always a challenge. It helps to start from a personal place. One of [executive producer Victor Fresco’s kids]is a teenage daughter. And I was a surrogate father to my niece for a while, so I draw upon that. It’s important to draw on personal experience in order to write from your heart. And I think it’s great that [Fresco is] drawing on his personal experience being a father to a teenage daughter as a straight man, because the comparison to straight and gay, as a parent, and the similarities between the two are exciting for me to show.

Lacher: I would think the differences would be negligible.

Hayes: That’s clear to me and you, but a lot of times people in America still have questions about that.

Lacher: This isn’t the first show with gay parenting on television.

Hayes: What is, “Modern Family”? But those guys aren’t leads, and they’re not single. I haven’t seen this particular single father/gay parent on television.

Lacher: I’m guessing your primary motivation is entertainment, but, coming out of “Will & Grace,” are you at all concerned with helping Americans see gay parenthood as normal?

Hayes: I want to make people laugh first, and that’s it. If a byproduct of that is enlightening somebody to something they wouldn’t otherwise have been exposed to, then great, but that’s certainly not the agenda or the intent of the show.

Lacher: “Will & Grace” was controversial in the beginning, and your character, Jack, was accused of being “too gay.” When did you realize the tide was turning?

Hayes: I was so young. It made me go back in the closet [with the media]because I was so overwhelmed at 26 or 27. I didn’t want the responsibility, I didn’t know how to handle the responsibility of speaking for the gay community. I always felt like I owed them a huge apology for coming out too late. Some people in the gay community were very upset with me for not coming out on their terms. They don’t stop to think about what’s going on in somebody’s personal life, and the struggles that they’re having. It was all very scary. We got death threats. It was a really rough time for me, but I was also having the time of my life.

Read more of Sean Hayes’s interview on the LA Times site here

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