On “The Playboy Club,” Sean Maher plays a man who is gay, but is in a sham marriage with a bunny. And it appears that art is sure imitating life here. This week, Sean sat down with Entertainment Weekly to reveal that, like his character, he is gay and has been hiding it for the 14 years he’s been working as an actor on TV shows like “Firefly.” Not only that, Sean is a family man. He has been with his partner Paul for nine years and they have two children, Sophia and Liam. (Take that, Patti Stanger.)
“This is my coming out ball,” Sean exclaims in the article. “I’ve been dying to do this … I’ve never been asked about it publicly, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t paint a different picture.”
Sean’s manager is the one who first suggested to him concealing his sexual identity. “He told me: ‘You need to get a girl on your arm or people will start talking.’ I remember telling him: ‘I’m gay.’ He had no idea. And he said: ‘All the more reason to get a girl on your arm.’ My agent was also like, ‘It’s best if you keep your options open. Maybe bisexual?’”
(Interesting side note: One of Sean’s “Playboy Club” co-stars, Amber Heard, has been in a three year relationship with a woman, but rejects the lesbian label. “In the past I’ve had successful relationships with men, and now I’m in this successful relationship with a woman,” she said. That could of course be true, but is it possible she was told bisexual is better, too?)
Sean didn’t follow his manager’s advice and get a
bear beard. But he did demure from correcting people on the set of his first show, “Ryan Caulfield: Year One,” when they assumed he was straight. “I’m 22, I move to L.A., and it’s such a cliché, but the day I arrive, publicists from the show took me out to The Ivy for lunch,” he said. “They’re telling me, ‘You know, gosh, we’d really appreciate it if you could keep your girlfriend on the side because we want to appeal to the female demographic of the show.’ I kept thinking, ‘This is my first show, I don’t want to get fired. What is the potential that if they caught wind that they had cast a gay lead actor that they would fire me?’”
Even when Sean played a gay character in the movie “Wedding Wars” years later, he kept quiet. “We decided to do no press for it because I wasn’t ready to answer the question,” he said.
But his latest character made him feel emboldened to tell the truth. Plus, he doesn’t want to keep his family a secret. “I have these beautiful children and this extraordinary family and to think in any way shape or form that that’s wrong or that there’s shame in that or that there’s something to hide actually turns my stomach,” he said.
We say—good choice, Sean! This was a very, very brave thing to do. The more actors who come out, the more accepted it will become that gay actors can play straight roles and still have men accept them and women lust after them. Not to mention that the more established actors who come out, the fewer will feel pressured to conceal their sexual identity as they start out. We wish Neil Patrick Harris-sized success for Sean.