'It Was Really Painful': Ryan Murphy Opens Up About Being Confronted by Homophobia in Hollywood
"Right from the beginning of my career, interestingly enough, I did feel homophobia and I did feel 'no,' " Murphy says in an interview on Wednesday
Ryan Murphy vividly remembers the pain he felt as a result of homophobic comments that he encountered early on in his career.
In an interview with Todd VanDerWerff’s I Think You’re Interesting radio program on Wednesday, the executive producer remembers facing resistance to his writing of gay and lesbian characters, Vulture first reported.
“It was really painful and it was really difficult,” Murphy, 51, says about the process of getting LGBTQ characters onto the TV screen. “I don’t really talk about it too much because it really is painful and a lot of these people still have jobs. But it was really rough because I was a gay kid and I was both popular and persecuted, so I always sort of understood both angles.”
Although Murphy didn’t initially begin writing LGBTQ characters, he took the advice of his mentors, who encouraged him to write what he knew and incorporate it into a script.
“I didn’t dare even start off writing gay characters, but I had sort of outlandish characters in there and I would get notes literally from executives saying, ‘Can this character dress less gay?’ Even if it was like a straight woman. Or, ‘The language coming out of this character’s mouth seems very flamboyant, which we think is too gay and will offend some of our viewers. Can you take that out?’ And then two things happened. It just sort of made me mad, so I just sort of leaned into it and, you know, I wrote a bisexual character. I started to write about lesbianism and a lesbian character, rather. I had gay characters,” he says.
Murphy says that he “would have meeting after meeting,” where executives would ask him to take the characters out of the script — but he resisted.
“I would say, ‘No. I won’t do it. Why do you want it taken out?’ They were interested — this was at the WB — they were interested very much in gay people who were tragic. They were interested if you were gay and you would kill yourself. Or if you would try and commit suicide,” says Murphy. “They weren’t interested in gay sensibility or the language of being gay, which is sometimes not just gay characters.”
RELATED VIDEO: Ryan Murphy looks back on Glee: ‘It was the best time and the worst time in my life’
The American Horror Story creator specifically recalls a meeting with an executive who imitated his mannerisms.
“I had one meeting with an executive about a script and I showed up at the meeting and he started imitating my voice and sort of making feminine hand gestures, which I don’t have. And I never thought that my voice was gay until he repeated it back to me, but I literally was stunned into silence. And he was just being really, really brutal to me,” he says.
Murphy adds: “I was very pained by it. I never understood it. But right from the beginning of my career, interestingly enough, I did feel homophobia and I did feel ‘no.’ And I remember one of my early agents was fired for being gay. This was in the mid-90s, if you can imagine.”
A rep for the CW did not respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.