BBC Sitcom Creator Turns Down Russian Deal That Would Have Cut Out Gay Character

'Mrs Brown's Boys' still - H 2017
Courtesy of BBC

Brendan O'Carroll says the demand by an unnamed network that wanted 'Mrs. Brown's Boys' was a deal breaker.

The creator of BBC hit sitcom Mrs. Brown's Boys, which features a flamboyant gay character, has turned down a Russian licensing deal for the show after being told the character would have to be cut out.

Brendan O'Carroll, who plays Agnes Brown, the loud-mouthed Irish matriarch in the show, said that the sexual identity of Rory Brown, one of her character's sons, is a key part of the show and non-negotiable.

"It is a big country, so the fee you'd charge for the licensing is audience-related, so it's a big audience, and it would have been a nice fee," O'Carroll told British tabloid The Sun, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp"But [they said,] 'No gay, absolutely no gay.' So I said, 'No gay, no show.' And that was it."

O'Carroll, who did not specify which Russian network wanted to license the show or whether it was for a local adaptation or not, added that other Eastern European territories had also expressed a wish to cut Roy Brown's character from the show for locally licensed versions but had in the end agreed to keep him.

"Romania threatened [to cut Rory out] but then went ahead with it," he said. "What they've done [instead] is, the Rory character is the Rory character and he's still gay, but they never mention that he's gay. But it's still Rory."

Russian show business includes many performers who are gay or believed to be gay, but open discussion of homosexuality is frowned upon, and propagating "non-traditional" sexual identities to minors has been forbidden by law since 2013. The law does not specifically affect television but would, for example, ensure that any show with a gay character carried a "16+" warning that could impact scheduling for such a show.

There is no law that would prevent a Russian TV channel from airing a show with an openly gay character, but the show would likely face scheduling problems and audience criticism.

The BBC did not respond to a request for comment.