The Trainspotting star will star in Halston as the titular influential designer best known for designing the pillbox hat worn by Jackie Kennedy at her husband’s inauguration. He died in 1990 of Aids-related cancer.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor addressed comments made by Pose star Billy Porter in 2019 that it was “enraging” seeing straight men praised for playing LGBTQ+ characters when gay men were rarely cast in the other direction.
Admitting that he was concerned that performing such a role in the limited series could cause a backlash, McGregor said: “I hear the discussion and I respect both sides of it, I really do.
“I haven’t walked in Billy Porter’s shoes. I don’t know what it’s like to lose out on parts when you might feel it’s to do with your sexuality. So I can only respect his point of view.”
The Scottish star then explained that he decided to take the role in Halston because sexuality wasn’t the main focus of the show.
“If it had been a story about Halston’s sexuality more, then maybe it’s right that gay actors should play that role,” he said.
“But in this case – and I don’t want to sound like I’m worming out of this, because it’s something I did think a lot about – I suppose ultimately I felt like it was just one part of who he was.”
Halston runs for five episodes on Netflix and has been executive produced by Ryan Murphy.
The issue of whether straight actors should play gay roles on screen has been hotly debated in recent years, with Russell T Davies casting many gay men in his Channel 4 series It’s A Sin.
“I’m trying to avenge hundreds of years of inequality,” Davies told The Independent. “The series has also unashamedly cast gay people in straight roles. I think that’s fine because, believe you me, from the age of eight we are studying straight people and how to fit in with them.”
Halston comes to Netflix on 14 May 2021.