Richard Chamberlain: Stay in the closet
December 28th, 2010
03:26 PM ET

Richard Chamberlain: Stay in the closet

Do as I say, not as I do. That sums up the advice that openly gay screen legend Richard Chamberlain has for Hollywood's closeted actors.

"Personally, I wouldn’t advise a gay leading man–type actor to come out," the 76-year-old star, who revealed his homosexuality in his 2003 memoir, tells the Advocate. "There’s still a tremendous amount of homophobia in our culture. It’s regrettable, it’s stupid, it’s heartless, and it’s immoral, but there it is."

Chamberlain, who currently stars as Uncle Saul's love interest on the ABC drama "Brothers & Sisters," says that most actors are lucky to even land a job, "so it’s just silly for a working actor to say, 'Oh, I don’t care if anybody knows I’m gay' — especially if you’re a leading man."

"Despite all the wonderful advances that have been made, it’s still dangerous for an actor to talk about that in our extremely misguided culture," he explains. "Look at what happened in California with Proposition 8. Please, don’t pretend that we’re suddenly all wonderfully, blissfully accepted."

What do you think of Chamberlain's take on homosexuality in Hollywood? Let us know in a comment below.

soundoff (66 Responses)
  1. Davina Kotulski

    I agree with Julie. Come out and Be Proud. Hollywood should have a non-discrimination policy. Being in the closet hurts everyone!

    January 3, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Julie

    Change can only happen when gays and lesbians come out of the closet!!! If more actors had the guts to come out then the rest of the world would get used to it and it wouldn't be a bid deal. This is the case in every walk of life.

    So, if a big star came out now would he get fewer movie roles? Maybe. But he would be forever known as somebody who made a difference and changed the world. He could be a wonderful roll model for the millions of mixed up kids out there. And wouldn't all of that be more important?

    It seems to me that Ellen is much bigger now than she every was before she came out.

    January 1, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. scottysrule

    It's so sad, but it is true to a degree. Look what happened to Rupert Everett's career in films. He may still be playing on the stage, but he has not had any film roles in quite a while since he came out. As an actor it is difficult enough to find work so I think coming out just makes jobs even more infrequent. It's a sad commentary on our society in this country. In Europe it is far different–as one person said John Barrowman is very talented and it hasn't hurt his career in England (though he is American educated-moved here from Scotland when in early teens). I think it should be an actor's choice on whether he/she wants to come out as opposed to outing them & damaging their career. Here in lovely Ohio, it is legal to deny employment, housing, etc. to anyone who is gay AND we have passed a law that Ohio refuses to recognize the marriage of a gay couple if they were married (say in England) and moved to Ohio. It's a great redneck state! Don't move here, Mr. Chamberlain or others.

    December 30, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |


    December 30, 2010 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • PippiLives

      Too true. The 1960s (Dr. Kildare) and 70s and 80s (multiple mini-series) when Chamberlain was young are a entire world and two generations away from 2010. He is just adding to the pressure to stay hidden and ashamed when he should be doing the opposite.

      December 30, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. deb

    what a shame that this still has to be a consideration – maybe 2011 will be the year that everyone learns tolerance and peace.

    December 30, 2010 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  6. Suzie Homemaker

    It depends on how good an actor the person is. I have no trouble believing NPH as a womanizer because he's a good actor. OTOH, I saw "A Farewell to Arms" many years ago and Rock Hudson and Jennifer Jones had no chemistry together, which made sense when he was revealed as gay. He wasn't a good enough actor, IMO, to be believable as a romantic lead. Being out might limit an unknown actor's ability to get roles, but it shouldn't be a problem for an established actor if he's any good.

    December 29, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Victor

    Mr. Chamberlain is right. It's sad, but he's right.

    There are no big name gay leading actors in Hollywood right now and it's for a reason:

    Female fans won't be able to buy a gay man as a lead because they know he's gay and they know that no woman has a chance to be with him. Male fans wouldn't buy a gay man as an action star because of all the stereotypes they have been bombarded with all their lifes.

    It's just plain old business sense. Producers are only interested in making a profit, and they know they risk losing money if they do something unconventional.

    December 29, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Heather

    I love Richard! I used to have the biggest crush on him! As far as what he states in the article – he's absolutely right. As a female fan of the cinema, I definitely don't want to know that the leading man is gay. That should be simple for people to understand without having to explain it – and it has nothing to do with prejudice. I really don't care about what people are doing between the sheets, it's none of my business and vice-versa.

    December 29, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. LoJenk

    December 29, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. nanoo

    I cannot believe that no one knew he is gay..alright, he was not an "openly gay" actor, but one knew??
    And the point is that it doesn't matter...he is a man..who's an actor...who is well respected.....who happens to be gay.

    December 29, 2010 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  11. karla

    OMG, I did not know. I was so in love with him in The Thornbirds. His hottest role ever.

    December 29, 2010 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  12. John

    How quickly Rock Hudson has been forgotten.

    December 29, 2010 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  13. Constance

    I love Richard Chamberlain and until this article I didn't know he was gay, not that it matters, he's a wonderful actor.

    December 29, 2010 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  14. justpeachyinGA

    It is sad but true. I can't think of one openly gay actor who has played a leading man part.

    December 29, 2010 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
  15. TH510

    Why do we have to know if someone is gay? I'm tired of it being shoved on us. Gay, straight, whatever, this issue is so far down on the list of what this world should be concerned about it's just stupid.

    December 29, 2010 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
    • erp

      The issue will go away when gay people are treated equally under the law as straight people are.

      December 29, 2010 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • erp

      The issue will go away when gay people are treated equally under the law as straight people are. Straight people have made it an issue by openly descriminating against gays for 2000 years. Stop descriminating agaisnt gays and the issue will go away.

      December 29, 2010 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  16. L

    As long as gay jokes and comedy are still deemed acceptable by our society we will not make the social advances that we should. Race and religous jokes are not acceptable in the media but gay jokes are. Why?

    December 29, 2010 at 7:54 am | Report abuse |
  17. CHERRY

    Though we say he should have, or could have come out at the height of his career, the fact still remains that this was his sole means of support for him. Had he come out, gone are the leading man roles and here comes the tragic gay suicide, corky drag queen roles and I am not knocking those roles, but they don't pay as well nor are they continuous. We can say we support you Richard as the gay community, but we are a small percentage of the total population and we are very generic. I admire the man and his work, let's not maginalize him for that.

    December 29, 2010 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
  18. jonna

    I guess he was referring to the likes of John Travolta. BUt what of the other marginalized people, who skin color they can not hide. Who cant get in any door, because of perceived sterotypes.

    December 29, 2010 at 7:21 am | Report abuse |
  19. lyns

    right on Rachel..........everyone has issues.................whatever...

    December 29, 2010 at 7:15 am | Report abuse |
  20. The truth is...

    I agree with Mr. Chamberlain that life becomes difficult when your secrets are exposed! For him, he may have felt some hatred from others but mostly I feel his personal and professional life became too intertwined. Actors in general are supposed to be creating this illusion but for audiences it is difficult to get into them when the actor's personal life has been so exposed. This is the same for any actor not just the gays. However, they do have it a little harder time when they are trying to portray something that everyone know is completely false.....No matter what who is lover is, I still loved him in the Slipper and the Rose!

    December 29, 2010 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Oops my bad!

      No matter who his lover was or is, I still love him in the Slipper and the Rose!

      December 29, 2010 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
  21. ShiningEmber

    I'm surprised Sharon Stone didn't do anything for him in King Solomon's Mines~~

    December 28, 2010 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
  22. phil

    i didn't edit before posting so sorry for the grammar errors in my post.

    December 28, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  23. fritz

    It's perhaps hubris and arrogance to think that your career won't be derailed by coming out.
    We all suffer from this malady at one time or another, but it's the lucky few who don't make life altering decisions while in that frame of mind. God help them.

    December 28, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Rick

    I can see both sides of the argument, but what it comes down to is a person's own decision. What right for one person, isn't for the next.

    For many years I worked in an environment in which I had to be very discreet, but for the past 4 years I'm working where it's not an issue. Do I regret those previous years? No, I made many wonderful friends during those years. Would I go back into an environment like that again? No.

    As an educator and parent, my main concern is the epidemic of teen suicides. This is where we need to focus our attention.

    December 28, 2010 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Samantha Spears

    I love Richard Chamberlain. I loved him in every lead role. I cannot however watch him as a gay. I have no interest in this. And so yes, he is should stay in the closet if they want to make it in "straight" hollywood.
    Chamberlain would never had succeeded if anyone knew he was gay..his success was based on him being straight and a leading man.

    December 28, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • PippiLives

      Are you serious? I grew up watching Dr. Kildare and then all the mini series and I knew then he was gay – remember that People magazine article with him and the female lead from Shogun? The publicist wanted everyone to think they were an item but Chamberlain's being gay was a well known, well kept secret, just like Rock Hudson. That he finally came out when he was 70 YO and had been retired for 20 years was the biggest "yeah, so what" moment. Actors, even successful ones, start to go out of favor, especially as they get older. All you have to do is watch the Academy Awards or the Emmys and compare who is on the red carpet from year to year. Being gay does not bar an actor from getting roles but being a mediocre (Rupert Everett IMHO) or older actor (Chamberlain) does.

      December 30, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Rachel

    I've absolutely loved Richard Chamberlain since the time I saw The Thornbirds when it first came out. I was hooked on the man, totally in awe of his acting, his sensuality and his compassion. It was my dream to meet him some day and, an even further unreality, to date him. I even disregarded the "gay" rumors that had circulated around him for many years.

    Then, out he came from the closet years later – in black and white.

    I was heart broken and, not only that, it put a severe twist into my vision of how he was in The Thornbirds. Yes, he was acting, but he was also incredibly convincing that he had a burning desire for a woman. That made me want him even more.

    Today, I don't even look for movies/programs he might be in.

    My bubble bursted the day I saw the truth in print.

    Richard, if you happen to be reading this... you are still a wonderful actor. But I agree with you on staying in the closet if at all possible, especially when you are a leading man/woman. So many will shy away from you (not that I have) but I do know it leaves us feeling a little 'off' when we see you on screen.

    Hope you are very happy in your personal life. I'll never forget you in The Thornbirds.

    December 28, 2010 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Selma

    Very wise man. My brother is gay and although he came out of the closet years ago he wishes he hadn't on many occasions not because he is ashamed but because he now thinks it's no ones business but his own and his family. He has been with the same person for many years and now lives in a much more accepting city which has lessoned the burden. Although we miss seeing him more, we are very happy that he is happier with his life now.

    December 28, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Mark

    I would come out rather than stay in the closet even if it meant being a busboy for the rest of my life. He's right about the prejudice still existing, but how does he expect it to be overcome if people aren't out? Maybe he didn't have a hard time concealing this, but a lot of people do and living in the closet can cause a lot of harm to people emotionally and psychologically. I wonder how many deaths from alcohol and drug abuse and suicide can be attributed to hiding your true self from everyone. I hope young people ignore this advice.

    December 28, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • CS

      Stop already. That's as offensive as calling an African-American the N word.

      December 29, 2010 at 7:48 am | Report abuse |
  29. RR

    Just talk to any republican if you doubt this is true.

    December 28, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  30. N

    It gets better?

    December 28, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Austin Texas Sense

    Chees, tone it down with the caps already, you lose any seeming validity by appearing extreme, JUST SAYIN!!! 😉
    I agree with the comment regarding Chamberlain being mediocre, and I lived through the 70's. Ok actor, played the tall dark handsome movie of the week or miniseries stuff fairly well enough. Now I can't take him too seriously, but he does still have a point. It is still tough to come out, though there seems to be progress. I predict this is another generational matter, like the challenge to 60's racism, it's the younger kids that will consider tolerance an antiquated notion and it won't really matter if you’re black or white, gay or straight, but it will still matter if you’re rich or poor. (sigh) Here's to Castalia!

    December 28, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  32. cheefsfury


    December 28, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marky

      Craig Fergusen isn't gay, twit, he is married and expecting his 2nd child. He is always laughing about the "gay" jokes because it's part of his schtick. Puhleez, get your facts straight if you want to help anyone.

      December 28, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • IchiBalls

      Craig Ferguson is gay? I thought all brits were gay!?

      December 29, 2010 at 9:03 am | Report abuse |
  33. ER

    Advances are never made by playing safe. Richard Chamberlain is a mediocre actor who had an amazing career.
    He could of done more for the world if he had been a bigger person and stood up for who he is and what he believed in at the height of his career. Instead, he waited until he was a has- been who needed a little more publicity and a little more money to come out and speak his truth. We in the gay community need more stand up men and women so we can forge ahead for equality that this sorry excuse for a man. My advice to Richard Chamberlain is to GO AWAY, and STAY AWAY.

    December 28, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • LIz

      Says the person who hides their name from the forum...stop being such a hypocrite...

      December 28, 2010 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Trena

      You're an idiot! What are you 12??? Richard Chamberlain is a great actor and has been around for many years moron, he knows what he's talking about. Although, if you only watch Jersey Shore he won't be on that. turn the channel

      December 28, 2010 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • phil

      i think what richard is referring to in his commentary is the the frequent challenges that persistent (whether silent or vocal) stereotypes and prejudices in our societies (across the world and various cultures) bing into the world of personal opportunity and freedom. Every minority experiences a challenge but the gay lesbian minority has the "luxury" to stay in the closet which foreign or ethnic minorities don't have. And as stereotypes and prejudices should be fought through education, openness etc. etc. the very real outcome in the real world is that being known to a part of that minority would limit the scope of opportunities one gets to demonstrate and develop their skills and talents and eventually realize their potential in society. Many openly gay men for example do not realize their potential but get caught up in cycle of self degradation n the underbelly of society ... sadly enough. Ironically had they stayed in the closet, they have had opportunities to develop and be successful in a career of their choosing. By the same token being untruthful is just as bad.. nay worse. In essence, the choice is personal and serious. And the question that such a debate raises are fairly broad and won't fit in a box. Ultimately, in a society without prejudice and stereotype, all individuals will have the same equal opportunity to succeed and exceed but we are way not this globalized world, we are going backwards in so many directions...It seems even that globalization even leads to some cultural devolution as stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination spreads so much more freely. The access and influence in global media brings these to places where they may not have existed, where not enough cultural and social maturity exists to overcome their negative influence.

      December 28, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • MaryB

      I grew up in the same era as Mr. Chamberlain. Believe me when I say that if he had come out when he was at the height of his career, said career would have been over. He would have been ostracized in every walk of life. While there is, sadly, still a great deal of prejudice toward gays in this world, we have come a long way since that time. As far as calling him a mediocre actor, that is simply a matter of opinion. I haven't watched a great deal of his work, but those shows I have watched were very well-acted.

      December 29, 2010 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
    • LInda

      Amen. Thank you for this honest post. So true. Advances will never be made if people listen to this ill advice.

      December 29, 2010 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Rachel

      ER, bite your childish tongue and get back to what you, yourself, do best... screaming that you are gay and proud of it.

      No one really cares about your thoughts on this because you are merely stuck in trying to fight for equality for gays, which will never fully happen in this lifetime, or in generations to come.

      This blog has nothing to do with your silly antics. Move on.

      December 30, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
  34. cheefsfury


    December 28, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amy

      Captain Jack is SO hot. Gay or not, I'd LOVE to see him in more mainstream roles!

      December 28, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  35. Tony

    How is this "do as I say, not as I do"? Chamberlain stayed in the closet nearly his whole career, and specifically only came out when he was no longer a leading man. He's telling other actors to do EXACTLY what he did.

    December 28, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • POESOE

      SOMEBODY (Tony) gets it. That's exactly what i took away from the article.

      December 29, 2010 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Brenda

      You are 100% correct. Chamberlain is saying, "stay in the closet" if you want to succeed. Big deal!! So NOW that he's decided to come out of the closet, when it's safe, everything he says is news. Everybody has to decide for themselves what is best for them, like he did, and live with their choices. So what? That's their choice.

      December 31, 2010 at 7:54 am | Report abuse |
  36. David

    He's absolutely right. There is only one openly gay actor that has a steady gig (Neil Patrick Harris). Consider the movie, "I Love You Phillip Morris", in which both the leads are straight actors that are playing gay characters. Why couldn't an openly gay man have been hired for at least one of the roles. There is still much prejudice against gays and lesbians, even in liberal Hollywood.

    December 28, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • ohsnap

      You forgot David Hyde Pierce...not on TV but on Broadway.

      December 28, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josef F

      So, only gay men should be allowed to play gay roles? What would you say if someone suggested that only straight men be allowed to play straight roles?

      December 29, 2010 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  37. Francis

    I agree.

    December 28, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  38. Thomas M

    It is sad but true.

    December 28, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  39. cheef KELLY


    December 28, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Dunk in Denver

      Don't fight it brother. Remember on the last day of your life all you have is YOU. So be happy! If you have to move to another location where it is more accepted so be it. Life is too short to not be who you are. "Just because the house is on fire doesn't mean you can't still warm your hands". Make a pie out of the cherries, don't throw them on the ground. Being popular with your friends and family is not #1 in life. Your happiness IS! Peace be with you my friend. I'll be thinking about you.

      Dr. D in Denver.

      December 29, 2010 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |

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