Paris Barclay, Alan Ball, Sheila Kuehl, Richard Chamberlain, RuPaul Charles, Suze Orman, Darren Star, Patricia Field, and Bruce Vilanch share their stories.

Gay Liberation (1971-06) by Grey VilletLIFE Photo Collection


Since 1997, the Television Academy Foundation’s The Interviews: An Oral History of Television (formerly the Archive of American Television) has been conducting in-depth, videotaped oral history interviews with television professionals, including actors, writers, editors, and journalists. These interviews explore the lives and careers of the interviewees, and often touch on important historical moments and movements.

Gathered here are stories from LGBTQ interviewees about coming out, being out, and combating homophobia.

Paris Barclay on being out in his professional lifeThe Interviews: An Oral History of Television

Director Paris Barclay discusses being out in Hollywood and shares advice his friend gave him:

“If you're open about who you are…the people who don't want to work with you, they won't call you. People who do want to work with you, and think that's an advantage for that particular show, they will call you. And people who don't care will call you. So that will protect you from working with the assholes who do care and it also encourages the people who think it's an asset or don't care to go for you. And that has proven to be the case.”

Watch Paris Barclay's full interview, which spans his career from directing episodes of ER and The West Wing to LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” video.

Alan Ball on sexuality on Six Feet UnderThe Interviews: An Oral History of Television

Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball discusses the way gay people were depicted on television in the past, and how he wanted to explore sexuality through all of the characters on the show, but in particular "David Fisher":

“I felt, well that's an interesting story. I mean, to see how that internalized homophobia that you cannot escape if you grow up in the world, how it's going to play itself out in dangerous behavior and risk-taking and what are the hurdles this guy has to get over before he can just be comfortable being himself, and being in a relationship with another man.”

Watch Alan Ball's full interview to hear the stories behind the groundbreaking shows he’s created: Six Feet Under and True Blood.

Sheila Kuehl on helping Dick Sargent come outThe Interviews: An Oral History of Television

Actress turned politician Sheila Kuehl talks about how she came out, and then tells the story of helping fellow actor Dick Sargent come out.

“I think [Dick Sargent] was happier than I’ve seen him in a long time. Because there’s just nothing freer than being yourself....There’s something freeing about simply being fully everything you are. And I think that Dick was surprised at how positive his experience was. But I already knew it because I’d gone through it.”

Watch Sheila Kuehl’s full interview where she discusses her career on television and her move into the law and politics.

Richard Chamberlain on his decision to come outThe Interviews: An Oral History of Television

Actor Richard Chamberlain describes both his personal and professional struggles with his sexuality, and how he was able to finally come out:

“It wasn't until I was about 68…that finally that area of self-dislike vanished completely. I mean, I had done a lot of work, I'd done a lot of therapy, I'd done a lot of spiritual work, I had wonderful friends, etc., but it wasn't until that late in my life that suddenly all that fear, all that self-dislike, it was as if an angel had put her hand on my head...and said, 'It's over. All that part is over. All that negative stuff is over.'"

Watch Richard Chamberlain's full interview to hear the stories behind Dr. Kildare, Shogun, and more.

RuPaul Charles on the importance of loveThe Interviews: An Oral History of Television

Host/producer RuPaul Charles talks about realizing he was different when he was growing up, and how he strove to maintain his individualism in the face of a society that prizes conformity:

"I could feel the world wanted to shape me and put me in some type of a box that it could understand and feel safe around. And I remember at 13 thinking, you know what, Ru? Hold your breath, cross your fingers, do whatever it takes to not get body-snatched into that box. Do whatever you can, and remember who you really are. Remember what you came here to do."

Watch RuPaul Charles' full interview to hear stories from his career from "Super Model" to RuPaul's Drag Race.

Suze Orman on winning her first Daytime Emmy and thanking her partnerThe Interviews: An Oral History of Television

Host/financial expert Suze Orman tells the story of winning her first Daytime Emmy and thanking her partner in her acceptance speech:

“I remember getting up there and first of all saying, 'K.T., this one's for you, I love you so much.' And that was the first time on national television that I had said to K.T., the love of my life, and I had just said it, without thinking about it because you know, this one's for you, K.T. You did this with me.”

Watch Suze Orman's full interview, where she discusses her career from financial expert to author and TV host.

Darren Star on the Melrose Place character, Matt Fielding, who was gayThe Interviews: An Oral History of Television

Melrose Place creator Darren Star describes the often offensive reaction of Fox network executives to the character "Matt Fielding," who was gay. He also defines what differentiated "Matt" from earlier depictions of gay people on television:

"The issue wasn’t that he was gay, it was the issues that come with being gay. And I think up to that point it was like if you had a gay character on television...the issue for that character would be, oh my god, he’s gay. And in this case the character was out...he just had a life. He was leading his life."

Watch Darren Star’s full interview to hear the stories behind the iconic shows he’s created: Beverly Hills, 90210, Melrose Place, and Sex and the City.

Patricia Field on being outThe Interviews: An Oral History of Television

Costume designer Patricia Field explains her feelings about her sexuality and how it relates to her friends and her career:

“You know what, being gay to me is just being gay. ...I'm gay. I don't politicize...It's just me.”

Watch Patricia Field's full interview to hear the stories behind her career, including her groundbreaking work on Sex and the City.

Bruce Vilanch on being out in Hollywood and fighting against homophobiaThe Interviews: An Oral History of Television

Writer Bruce Vilanch discusses being out in Hollywood and how he refuses to remain silent in the face of homophobic language:

“When you confront them on it and tell them, guess what? I'm not weak; I'm strong. I can take you. They suddenly have a respect for you because they didn't realize that you cared. Once they realize that you have no shame, that in fact you have pride and you're willing to identify yourself as gay, they back off because you've taken the lead out of the pencil.”

Watch Bruce Vilanch's full interview to hear the stories behind his legendary career.

Credits: Story

The Television Academy Foundation's The Interviews: An Oral History of Television

Jenni Matz, Director
Adrienne Faillace, Producer
Jenna Hymes, Manager & Exhibit curator
Nora Bates, Production Coordinator
John Dalton, Cataloguer

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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