Gay-Acting Straight Man: With Angels in America, Urbania, and Now Will & Grace, Playing Gay Just Comes Naturally to Dan Futterman. (Cover Story)

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Advocate: I want to make sure we have your whole gay career here. You've got your side career, your gay-for-pay career--

Futterman: That's not the side--that's the bulk of my real career!

That's right. What was the first gay role?

I think it was in a play called The Raft of the Medusa, which was a short-lived play at the Minetta Lane Theatre [in New York City]. I played--improbable as it may sound--a gay Hasidic Jew who was coming out and, you know, shedding his yarmulke and beard. Not my finest acting moment!

After that was Angels in America. I took over for Joe Mantello on Broadway. That may have been my best job to date, because it was one of those unusual times when you can sort of marry your artistic life and your political life. Our cast started during gay pride week, and it was such an incredibly warm response from people who were just so eager to be at the play.

So what was your next gay landmark?

I guess on TV--this [role on Will & Grace] is the first gay part on TV, although there was a running joke about my character on Judging Amy always being mistaken for being gay.

Wasn't there the character on Sex and the City?

Oh, yeah, that's right. The gay straight guy. I mean, the question [of the episode] was whether he was a gay straight man or a straight gay man. And if you think about it enough, there is a difference. Then I guess the movie Urbania was next.

It doesn't get gayer than Urbania.

[Laughs] No, it doesn't. That was the tag line for the movie: "It doesn't get gayer than that." I'm still good friends with Jon Shear, the writer-director. I've watched it a couple times, and I'm moved by it.

Did you kiss anyone, or were there any sex scenes?

Yeah, there was a little bit of gay action in that one. Matt Keeslar was Charlie's lover. [Charlie was Futterman's character.] Nothing incredibly graphic, but quick kisses. And then there was a much more graphic scene with Gabriel Olds, who played a soap opera guy whom Charlie picks up on the street.

Did you tell your folks, "OK, here comes Urbania"? …