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Fleabag’s Andrew Scott just pointed out the big problem with the phrase ‘openly gay’

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Christobel Hastings
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Fleabag actor Andrew Scott, who made audiences swoon as the “Hot Priest” in Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s hit comedy-drama, has called out the obsessive media scrutiny on members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

If you’re a fan of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s critically acclaimed comedy Fleabag, then you’ll know by now that Andrew Scott has firmly cemented his status as a national treasure. Thanks to his turn as the flirty, sweary, gin-swilling “Hot Priest” in the hit show, the Irish actor, who won a BAFTA award for his portrayal of the villain Moriarty in the BBC’s Sherlock, has reached a whole new legion of fans. 

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Andrew Scott’s beautiful tribute to Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a must-read for Fleabag fans everywhere

There’s an undeniable degree of irony that Scott, who attended a Catholic boys’ school and encountered rampant homophobia as a child, decided to ever take on the role of a priest in Fleabag. This is, after all, a gay actor who has spoken about the “damage” the Catholic church inflicted on him when he was younger, and how it took him “a long time to find my voice.” But Scott, who came out in 2013, has begun liberating himself from the deep-rooted shame around his sexuality, and started to use his platform to tackle societal injustice.

In an interview with British GQ, Scott took the opportunity to address a double-standard faced by the LGBTQ+ community on the daily, explaining how the phrase ‘openly gay’ is regularly used to define people, and presents homosexuality as “defiance”.

“You’re never described as openly gay at a party - ‘This is my openly gay friend Darren’, ‘She’s openly Irish’,” Scott began. “It implies a defiance I don’t feel.”

Andrew Scott

Andrew Scott as the "Hot Priest" in Fleabag

Scott, who has recently starred in Black Mirror, went on to explain that identifying as a straight man isn’t a prerequisite for creating on-screen chemistry - just look at the sexual tension between Fleabag and the priest in the second season for proof of that. 

“Sexuality isn’t something you can cultivate, particularly,” he continued. “It isn’t a talent… You believe the relationship, that’s my job.”

It’s not the first time the actor has called out how people question whether a gay person can convincingly play a straight character, or portray a heterosexual romantic relationship on screen. Speaking to the Huffington Post earlier in the year, Scott said he found it “insulting” when an actor’s ability came under scrutiny because of their sexuality.

“It’s not remotely difficult for me to have chemistry with Phoebe Waller-Bridge and that goes for a lot of women I’ve played opposite,” he said. “It’s ludicrous and almost insulting to say otherwise. The most important thing is that you have a real chemistry with the person you’re playing opposite.”

“I think it’s dangerous territory to go down sometimes to think that we’re only allowed to play our own – not just our own sexuality, but our own nationality or identity – that we’re only allowed to… represent things that are within our experience,” he added.

Andrew Scott’s beautiful tribute to Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Andrew Scott and Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag.

The Dublin-born actor, who was honoured last week with the Standout Performance prize at the GQ Men of the Year Awards, is totally right: why should members of the LGBTQ+ community have their sexuality factored into every exchange? It cements the idea that being straight and cisgendered is the default, and perpetuates the pervasive narrative that homosexuality is something that needs to be continually disclosed, explained and justified. The media still has a long way to go before sexuality ceases to be sensationalised, but Scott’s words carry weight - and hopefully, at some point in the future, being straight or gay won’t ever warrant a mention. 

Images: Getty, BBC One