'American Gods' Showrunner Talks "Hetwashing" at Outfest

Bryan Fuller detailed his experiences trying to introduce gay characters, including Thomas Dekker's Zach on 'Heroes': "The actor's management threatened to pull him from the show. The character became straight."
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Zachary Quinto (left) presented Fuller with the Outfest Achievement Award.

When showrunner Bryan Fuller took to the Orpheum Theatre stage for Outfest on July 6, he not only accepted the Achievement Award, but also mainstreamed a key LGBT term. Fuller, riding high off the success of Starz's American Gods, detailed the instances in his career when would-be gay characters were "hetwashed," or changed from homo- to heterosexual.

"You can hashtag that," said Fuller, who accepted his award following tributes from Zachary Quinto and Kristin Chenoweth. "I had a brief stint on Heroes where the gay character was 'hetwashed' after the actor's management threatened to pull him from the show if he — the character, not the actor — were gay. The character became straight and the actor came out as gay." (He was referring to Thomas Dekker, who hasn't said he's gay. He confirmed complications surrounding his character's sexuality in a lengthy blog post and later told Out magazine that he was open to relationships with men and women.)

Fuller admitted that he's fared better with female characters. "Lesbians have always been easier to cover than gay men," he said. "Frightened middle America heterosexuals assume that since there's no penis, there's no penetration and that's somehow less terrifying for them. Like a penis is the only thing you can poke with. Am I right ladies?"

Fuller's American Gods, which he co-created with Michael Green, recently showed an explicit scene between Middle Eastern actors Omid Abtahi and Mousa Kraish, two men "who didn't hesitate in dedicating themselves to telling this story faithfully and authentically."

Following Fuller's acceptance, Outfest opened with a screening of Francis Lee's God's Own Country starring Josh O'Connor and Alec Secareanu. Both Lee and Secareanu were in attendance along with other notable names including Outfest's Christopher Racster, Ian McShane, Jonathan Tucker, Crispin Glover, Orlando Jones, Beth Grant and Abtahi. 

A version of this story first appeared in the July 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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