Sir Ian McKellen has dismissed
criticisms aimed at the British comedy Vicious.
Vicious, which premiered Sunday
in the United States on PBS, stars McKellen of the X-Men and
Hobbit movie franchises and Derek Jacobi (I, Claudius)
as an elderly gay couple who have endured a love/hate relationship
for nearly 50 years.
The 6 30-minute episode series is
written by Gary Janetti, a former writer and executive producer of
the Fox animated series Family Guy and
NBC's Will & Grace.
show, which will return for a second season on ITV later this year,
received a mixed response from critics, many of whom knocked it for
to gay glossy The
Advocate, McKellen defended
the show, saying “these characters are different” from the
stereotypical gay characters found in sitcoms 20 or 30 years ago.
“These guys are
out and have no problem with being gay. They're not hiding it.
They're not making sly jokes about it. The comedy in this can be
full-throated and you're not laughing at these guys, you're laughing
with them, I hope. Of course, you'll observe that not much of this
show advances gay rights, nor will we say that these two men are
typical gay men. I certainly hope they're not. They behave
outrageously at times, and yet it's amusing to watch because we
“Today – just
as we've had sitcoms in the past about funny women, funny black
people, funny young people, funny rich people, funny poor people, and
funny people from the sticks – there can now be sitcoms about two
old men who are also gay,” he said.
McKellen, who came
out gay in 1988 after working as an actor for decades, added that
audiences care about an actor's performance, not the actor's
“What's gratifying is that audiences,
like I do, don't give a damn about the sexuality of an actor. What
they're interested in is the performance,” he said. “If they
have some fantasy about an actor, then that's what it is – fantasy.
You can have fantasies about somebody whether they're gay or
straight, bisexual, transgender, whatever. So it's perfectly
possible for a straight actor to successfully play a gay man and it's
equally possible for me to play all sorts of straight men like
Hamlet, Macbeth, Coriolanus, and King Lear. After all, I wouldn't
want to cut myself off from that fascinating phenomenon of