Entertainment Movies Benedict Cumberbatch Reflects on Playing a Repressed Gay Character in 'The Power of the Dog' Benedict Cumberbatch portrays a hypermasculine cattle rancher who grapples with his sexuality after falling for a young man in The Power of the Dog By Naledi Ushe Naledi Ushe Digital News Writer, PEOPLE People Editorial Guidelines and Mary Park Published on October 2, 2021 05:37 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Benedict Cumberbatch. Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Benedict Cumberbatch opened up about his role in The Power of the Dog, which explores themes of sexual repression and toxic masculinity. In the upcoming Western movie set in 1967, Cumberbatch stars as a grizzly cattle rancher who unexpectedly falls for the young son of a widow, played by Kirsten Dunst, who recently moved to his ranch. The character grapples with his sexuality in an era and place that emphasizes binary gender roles and expectations. "He had this burning love affair in his youth, which wasn't tolerated, which wasn't allowed, couldn't be spoken of and the tragedy of that is what twists him into this sort of form of masculine toxicity," the British actor told reporters of his character at the New York Film Festival premiere on Friday. The Power of the Dog. Kirsty Griffin/Netflix Benedict Cumberbatch Defends Decision to Play Gay Character: 'I Feel Sensitive' About 'Diversity' Cumberbatch explained that the character's toxic masculinity made him project "hate on the world, and for the world, hate on him, and I think his sense of loneliness is exacerbated by that and his sense of jealousy." Of the time period, the star said, "I think it speaks to a time of intolerance and a lack of acceptance where people couldn't live any kind of their authentic self." "[Queer men] had to bury that and cloak it in masculinity, which while not necessarily inherent on the face of it, became so," he continued. Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories. Cumberbatch also said his character's feelings about his sexuality are more complex than "self-hatred." "I don't think he's disgusted with himself, he has privacy, he has moments of recollection; he communes with his memory, but I don't think he knows any difference," the actor explained. "It's so hard for us to view it through his lens, that's the trickiness of it." Kirsten Dunst Says an Oscar Win for Power of the Dog Would Be 'Awesome': 'Do It for My Mother' Cumberbatch, who is straight and has previously played a gay character, has faced increased scrutiny in this role. The actor previously played mathematician Alan Turing, a gay man, in 2014's The Imitation Game. "I feel very sensitive about representation, diversity, and inclusion," he said at the Telluride Film Festival earlier this month regarding The Power of the Dog, according to IndieWire. "One of the appeals of the job was the idea that in this world, with this specific character, there was a lot that was private, hidden from view." Cumberbatch added, "It wasn't done without thought." The Power of the Dog (2022). Kirsty Griffin/Netflix Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free weekly newsletter to get the biggest news of the week delivered to your inbox every Friday. The actor ultimately said during the press conference that scrutiny about his casting should be addressed with director Jane Campion who "chose us as actors to play those roles." "That's her question to answer," Cumberbatch said. The Power of the Dog hits theaters on Nov. 17, followed by Netflix on Dec. 1.