Kristen Stewart has a nuanced take on the ongoing debate regarding LGBTQ+ characters and whether they should be off-limits for actors who identify as straight.
The 30-year-old actress, who stars in the upcoming Hulu film Happiest Season, discussed the topic during an interview with Variety that published on Monday, Nov. 23. The film centers on Harper (Mackenzie Davis) inviting her girlfriend, Abby (Stewart), to celebrate the holidays at her parents' home, despite Harper's family not knowing that she is a lesbian.
When asked whether gay characters should only be portrayed by gay actors, Stewart prefaced her response by pointing out that her career has been a fairly privileged one.
"I think about this all the time," the Charlie's Angels star told Variety. "Being somebody who has had so much access to work, I've just lived with such a creative abundance. You know, a young white girl who was straight and only really was gay later and is, like, skinny--do you know what I'm saying? I so acknowledge that I've just gotten to work."
Stewart, who is currently dating longtime girlfriend Dylan Meyer following a high-profile romance with Twilight co-star Rob Pattinson, acknowledged that she doesn't necessarily see the issue as black-and-white.
"I would never want to tell a story that really should be told by somebody who's lived that experience," she said. "Having said that, it's a slippery slope conversation because that means I could never play another straight character if I'm going to hold everyone to the letter of this particular law. I think it's such a gray area."
Stewart pointed out that the situation could depend on whether the community is welcoming toward the actor, and whether the actor approaches the project with a sense of connecting to it and wanting to be an ally.
"I will say, Mackenzie is not somebody who identifies as a lesbian," Stewart said. "She was the only person in my mind that could have played this with me. Sometimes, artfully speaking, you're just drawn to a certain group of people."
Ultimately, Stewart offered a pretty sensible takeaway. "So my answer is, f--king think about what you're doing!" she added. "And don't be an a--hole."
Not all actors believe that straight performers should feel conflicted about taking a queer role. This includes Cate Blanchett, who played a lesbian in the 2015 drama Carol.
"I will fight to the death for the right to suspend disbelief and play roles beyond my experience," the Oscar winner said at the Rome Film Festival in October 2018.
In August 2019, Scarlett Johansson told As If magazine that she "should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal." She had previously stepped down from portraying a transgender character following intense backlash on social media over the casting news.
Happiest Season debuts on Hulu on Wednesday, Nov. 25.