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Playboy Club actor Sean Maher plays a gay rights activist on the NBC show, but in real life the actor says he’s been in the closet his entire 14-year career. And now he has decided to change that.
“It’s so liberating,” Maher, 36, tells EW. “It was interesting to be coming to have a conversation that I was always afraid to have… This is my coming out ball. I’ve been dying to do this.”
Maher says that he had felt pressure to stay in the closet from publicists who assumed he was straight when he landed the lead role in Fox’s short-lived police drama, Ryan Caulfield: Year One, in 1997. He decided not to correct them and made the choice to keep his secret to himself and a few close friends.
“I kept thinking, ‘This is my first show, I don’t want to get fired,’ ” Maher says. “I’m thinking, ‘What is the potential that if they caught wind that they had cast a gay lead actor that they would fire me?’ I was young, I was 22. I didn’t know anything. So that sort of started the idea of, okay, well, I’m working a lot, I guess I’ll just keep that gay part of my life on the back burner for now. I went so far as to sleep with women a couple times. It was a very confusing time for me.”
Viewers will probably best remember Maher from his character, Dr. Simon Tam, on the Joss Whedon series, Firefly, and its movie continuation, Serenity. Before Playboy Club, he appeared as Marcus on ABC Family’s Make It or Break It.
“I don’t think I have regrets,” he says of the 14 years he spent in the closet professionally. “I do believe that sort of this journey took me to the place where I got and I don’t think I would feel so strongly about doing what I’m doing now had I not suffered for the years that I did.”
While he was only in a few scenes on the Playboy Club premiere, fans can expect his role to grow over the coming weeks.
Playboy Club airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC.
Email: Jethro.Nededog@thr.com; Twitter: @TheRealJethro
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