Watch: Jack Whitehall Takes Pride in Portraying First Major Gay Disney Film Character

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Saturday July 31, 2021
Originally published on July 27, 2021

British actor Jack Whitehall told Variety he was "proud" of portraying the first openly gay major character in a Disney movie.

The "Good Omens" star said he didn't realize when auditioning that his character would be gay, much less come out to Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson, who plays a steamboat captain.

Speaking to the magazine's Marc Malkin before the film's premiere, Whitehall recalled that "there was only a like a couple of sides" available to him for the audition. The actor recorded himself reading the lines, with his mother taking the part of Johnson's character.

"So yeah, there wasn't any indication of that," Whitehall said of the character being LGBTQ and coming out in the film.

The moment itself sidesteps the word "gay," but Whitehall's character, McGregor, makes himself perfectly clear, and Johnson's steamboat captain, nicknamed "Skipper," takes his revelation in stride.

McGregor — the brother of another major character in the film, Lily, played by Emily Blunt — explains to the skipper that "he broke off three engagements with women because his 'interests happily lay elsewhere,' " Variety recounts.

"He goes on to say that he would do anything for his sister," the Variety piece continues, "because she was the only one who 'stood by' him while he was shunned by family and friends because of who he 'loved.'

"Frank then raises a drink to toast 'elsewhere,' " the scene synopsis adds.

Whitehall called the exchange "a significant scene," and a "really well-written scene," and said it was a moment "that we certainly thought about and talked about." The actor expressed his hope that it was a scene audiences would "enjoy," and added, "I certainly felt at the time that I was proud of the work that we'd done."

When interviewer Marc Malkin pointed out that the character being gay would be significant for LGBTQ youth, Whitehall said, "I hope so. I really hope so."

Whitehall also spoke with Slashfilm writer Jacob Hall, and said that the filmmakers "totally understood the significance of it.

"I'm not going to lie," Whitehall went on to say; "I was very nervous about getting that scene right."

Slashfilm noted that MacGregor being gay "may not pivotal to the overall plot, but it is pivotal to this character and to his backstory — you understand this guy and where he comes from — and then Dwayne Johnson toasts it. He literally toasts to him and his authentic self."

That's a crucial difference from other Disney projects with unsatisfying LGBTQ "representation," where no LGBTQ characters "matter to the plot," and their being queer has little or no bearing on their character's "arc," Slashfilm argued.

"In other words, Disney was queerbaiting and using gay characters to create buzz and nothing more," the publication added.

Watch Whitehall's interview with Variety below.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.