Q&A: Andrew Scott Gets Candid About ‘Unnecessary’ Gay Questions, (Almost) Kissing Benedict Cumberbatch

Chris Azzopardi
By | 2014-10-17T09:00:00-04:00 October 17th, 2014|Entertainment|

It’s hard to ignore the fact that Andrew Scott came out publicly just last year while watching him in “Pride.” A British dramedy based on the alliance between striking miners and gay activists in the mid-’80s, the inspiring romp finds the 38-year-old Irishman putting those puppy eyes on full display. Playing Gethin, a fella dealing with the aftermath of coming out, the actor’s sincerity makes you forget the shade he throws Benedict Cumberbatch as Moriarty on the BBC’s “Sherlock.”
Scott recently opened up about avoiding questions regarding his sexuality after he’s finished promoting “Pride,” why he’d want a straight actor to play him in a movie and feeling “uncomfortable” when asked about his almost-kiss with Benedict.

For you, how does it feel being part of a movie that’s moved so many people in the gay community?
It’s extraordinary, really. We’re all completely blown over by it. The response we’re hearing from cinemas across the country, where people are standing up at the end and they’re clapping – it’s just very unusual for me. I’ve certainly never been in a film before where that happens.
People just feel very inspired by it, and they have very passionate feelings toward it. So yeah, I’m thrilled about that – thrilled (it’s being embraced) not just by the gay community, but by a lot of different audiences. We kind of really hoped that the gay community would embrace it, but we keep saying that it’s not just a gay movie. The message – the idea of solidarity – isn’t just for a gay audience. All of us are more similar to each other than we think we are.

“Pride” demonstrates strength in numbers, which seems especially relevant now that the gay rights movement is in full swing and more straight allies are standing up with us. As the fight for equality marches on, what do you see as the relevancy of this story right now?
Being gay isn’t something in and of itself that’s a virtue any more than being straight is, but the attributes that gay people develop as a result of being gay – mainly empathy toward other people, and compassion and tolerance – those are things to be proud of. It’s a real message that I find really heartwarming. To segregate people is very dangerous in the struggle for gay rights for people across the way. Inclusivity rather than exclusivity. We must celebrate our differences, and we must celebrate our humanity as well as our sexuality.

You recently spoke out against the notion of “playing gay,” which is obviously something you feel strongly about.
You can’t. It’s absolutely impossible to play that as an actor. If someone were to play me in a film about my life, I would hate for just gay actors to audition for the role, because I think I could potentially have attributes as much in common with a straight actor as I could with a gay actor.
You can really make a general wash of people’s sexuality (and say) that people are exactly the same. But the attributes I possess as a human being could be represented by anybody with human sexuality, really, if they have the chief attributes that an actor needs, which are empathy and imagination. So, I do think it’s very important that those things are mentioned, that a human being is made up of a whole range of things and sexuality is, of course, one of them, but it’s not the sum total.

Which straight actor would you want playing you in a film?
Oh, I have no idea! That thought terrifies me! The fact that I can’t even get an audition for that part terrifies me even more. (Laughs)

You’ve co-starred with some of the finest-looking men in the show business: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe, to name a few. Is it in your contract that you only work with the most attractive men in the industry?
(Laughs) Absolutely, it is. And I believe it’s in all their contracts as well, which is why they get to work with me.

So, in season three of “Sherlock,” you came closer to kissing Benedict than a lot of us ever will. What was that like?
You know what, Benedict is my friend, and when we shot that scene on “Sherlock” we knew it would be sort of cheeky, but that question always makes me very uncomfortable because he’s my pal. I sometimes wonder if people are asking that question hoping for a new response. (Laughs)

Movies about gay people weren’t always as celebratory as “Pride” and others that have been released recently. With that said, do you think “Pride” would get the same reaction it is now if it came out 20 years ago?
It’s difficult for me to answer that. I just know that it feels very timely. I think it’s incredibly progressive, and the idea of just different attributes of gay people being explored is extremely important. But the idea of this story 20 years ago, talking about these people as heroes – I’m not sure. It’s very hard for me to answer that. I just know the fact that it’s been embraced by both gay audiences and straight audiences is very important.
We set out to make a mainstream film, and it is a mainstream film – it’s finding a mainstream audience – and sometimes the word “mainstream” is a bit reductive. What I mean by that is that in order to understand what it means to be a straight person or a gay person, it doesn’t require too much imagination. We all come from a union of a man and a woman, and a gay person can understand heterosexual love. I think straight people actually fundamentally find it easy to understand homosexual love – there’s just a stigma attached to it that maybe prevents them from admitting that sometimes. People understand sexuality at a very basic level, and so I never have thought that people are intrinsically homophobic. I think that’s something that’s learned.

Would you say that sexuality is much more fluid than we think?
I think it is a very fluid thing. I think all sexuality is about communications. (Say) you were to label the kind of conversations you’d like to have at dinner and you said, “I’m a sarcastic person who likes to talk about politics and, you know, juggling.” We don’t label the way (we) communicate verbally, so why do we need to label the way we communicate sexually? I think it’s sometimes questionable. It’s a physical thing, so it’s very difficult to articulate verbally.

One year ago this November you came out publicly. So, to mark your one-year anniversary, tell me what changed for you after coming out to the world.
(Laughs) It’s funny, I don’t see it at all like that. I can understand why people could perceive it as my “one-year anniversary,” but for me it was something that happened a long time ago. You know, I keep myself to myself. I don’t do a huge amount of interviews. I am delighted to say, though, that absolutely nothing has changed, really. I’ve been in the business coming up on 20 years now. I started very young, and so I’ve always wanted to play all sorts of different parts.
With something like “Pride,” obviously, I have to speak a little more about personal issues – that’s something I realize with this project – but, in the future, I feel that in order to be progressive it’s not necessary for me to speak about (my sexuality) in every interview I do. If I were to meet my family and friends every day for the past 15 years and say, “I came out,” every single time they asked about how it was being gay – what kind of question is that? (Laughs) Let somebody live their life. There are certain times when it’s right to talk about it, and there are absolutely times I feel that it’s not relevant.

Do you think society puts too much emphasis on talking about sexuality?
I don’t. Yeah, I think sometimes there can be prurient interest in any type of sexuality and people’s sex lives, but I think that’s just the way human beings are. I would love it if there were a sense of just letting people be, just letting people be who they are, and not getting too hysterical about these things.

About the Author:

Chris Azzopardi
As editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBTQ wire service, Chris Azzopardi has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in GQ, Vanity Fair and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter @chrisazzopardi.