Julianna Margulies Defends Playing an LGBTQ Character on 'The Morning Show' : 'I Am an Actress'

"I mean, you have to be careful where you're drawing the line there," Julianna Margulies said, defending her decision to play an LGBTQ role on The Morning Show

Reese Witherspoon and Julianna Margulies in “The Morning Show”
Photo: AppleTV+

Julianna Margulies is defending her decision to portray an LGBTQ character in The Morning Show.

During an appearance on CBS Mornings Monday, the three-time Emmy Award winner, 55, discussed her character — who shares an onscreen romance with Reese Witherspoon — and chimed in on the argument that cisgender, heterosexual actors should not play roles on the LGBTQ spectrum.

"I can understand that. My response also would be: We're all making assumptions as to who I am and what my past is, and what all of our pasts are," she said. "I understand 100 percent that I can't play a different race, but I am an actress, and I am supposed to embody another character. Whatever their sexuality is doesn't matter to me, the same way watching a gay person play a straight person.

"Are you telling me, because I'm a mother, I can never play a woman who's never had a child? Or, if you've never been married, that you can't play a married woman? I mean, you have to be careful where you're drawing the line there. We're actors, we're supposed to embody a character regardless of their sexuality. When it comes to race and gender, that's a whole different story, and I 100 percent agree with that. So, that's my stance on it," the actress added.

Margulies joined the cast of The Morning Show during season 2, playing Laura Peterson, a seasoned news anchor who was once fired after her sexuality became public. Her character returns to UBA, where she quickly sparks a romance with The Morning Show co-anchor Bradley Jackson (Witherspoon).

The discourse around having cishet actors in LGBTQ roles has grown in past years, with Darren Criss announcing in 2018 that he would no longer play gay characters. The decision came after his breakout role as gay teenager Blaine Anderson in Glee, as well as his portrayal of Andrew Cunanan in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.

"There are certain [queer] roles that I'll see that are just wonderful," Criss told Bustle at the time. "But I want to make sure I won't be another straight boy taking a gay man's role."

Most recently, Benedict Cumberbatch defended playing a gay character in the upcoming Western film The Power of the Dog. He previously played real-life gay World War II hero Alan Turning in the 2014 biopic The Imitation Game.

"It wasn't done without thought," Cumberbatch said of taking his latest role last month at the Telluride Film Festival. "I also feel slightly like, is this a thing where our dance card has to be public? Do we have to explain all our private moments in our sexual history? I don't think so."

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Kristen Stewart previously added her own thoughts on the topic, after her Happiest Season romantic lead Mackenzie Davis faced criticism for taking the on role of a lesbian when she hasn't publicly identified as LGBTQ. The movie garnered praise from the LGBTQ community for providing rare representation in the form of a holiday romantic comedy.

"You kind of know where you're allowed. I mean, if you're telling a story about a community and they're not welcoming to you, then f— off," she told Variety in 2020. "But if they are, and you're becoming an ally and a part of it and there's something that drove you there in the first place that makes you uniquely endowed with a perspective that might be worthwhile, there's nothing wrong with learning about each other. And therefore helping each other tell stories. So I don't have a sure-shot answer for that."

GLAAD's annual "Where We Are on TV" report found that LGBTQ characters accounted for 9.1 percent of regular characters on primetime scripted broadcast shows, down from 10.2 percent the year before. It also found the 5 percent of all scripted shows represent 17 percent of the LGBTQ characters.

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