TV

“American Gods” Super-Producer Bryan Fuller Reveals How TV Studios Kept De-Gaying His Characters

"There was almost a kiss before he fell into the sea with the man he loved."

Bryan Fuller was honored with the Outfest Achievement Award last night. Introduced by Zachary Quinto and Kristin Chenoweth, who worked with Fuller on Pushing Daisies and American Gods, Fuller revealed his attempts to add gay characters over the years have been thwarted by studio executives.

David Livingston/Getty Images

On Dead Like Me, his first show, Fuller intended Ellen Muth’s father to be gay. “The studio and the showrunner made the character straight,” he bemoaned. “And I was powerless to stop them.”

Showtime

On Fox’s cult-favorite Wonderfalls, Fuller revealed, he wanted to include a scene in which ambitious lawyer Sharon (Kate Finneran) and her girlfriend had sex right after Sharon had sex with her ex-husband—leading to a pregnancy.

Fox

“We couldn’t show lesbians kiss, much less imply they had sex, much less scissor-sister sex with semen,” Fuller lamented. “Rupert Murdoch. What a dick.”

On Heroes, a gay character was “het-washed after the actor’s management threatened to pull him from the show if he—the character, not the actor—were gay,” Fuller said. “The character became straight, and the actor came out as gay.”

Heroes/NBC

He didn’t name anyone, but has been on the record as claiming Thomas Dekker’s character on Heroes, Zach, was supposed to come out, but Dekker’s management was worried it would affect his casting as young John Connor in a Terminator TV series.

Pushing Daisies, Fuller’s third effort, was the “gayest thing I’ve ever done,” he boasted—despite not actually having any LGBT characters. “Most wouldn’t know how gay Pushing Daisies was,” he said of the short-lived ABC series, “because the gay was never sexualized; it was simply queer.”

ABC

But as “a proud homosexual,” Fuller lamented it was “still a failure to represent.” So on NBC’s Hannibal he gave Doctor Lecter a homoerotic sheen. (“There was almost a kiss before he fell into the sea with the man he loved,” Fuller noted.)

Hannibal did include lesbians Margot and Alana, who also participated in the scissoring scene he’d always wanted to put on broadcast television.

NBC

“Lesbians have always been easier to cover than gay men—frightened middle America and heterosexuals assume since there’s no penis, there’s no penetration,” Fuller said. “That’s somehow less terrifying for them. Like a penis is the only thing you can poke with.”

Now, with American Gods, Fuller was able to tell a story he’d been waiting for his entire career.

“Fourteen years after being powerless to keep the first gay character I created from turning straight, I got to be part of telling Salim’s story,” Fuller said, referencing the groundbreaking sex scene between an Arab man and a magical djinn in American Gods’ third episode.

“Salim is a gay Muslim immigrant. He comes from a part of the world that tosses homosexuals from rooftops because of God. His story is about a demi-god giving a man permission to be himself and to enjoy sex and allow himself to be made love to. Telling Salim’s story isn’t the gayest thing I’ve ever done on TV; it’s the most human.”

Starz

Fuller accepted his award on behalf of Freemantle and the Starz network, who “didn’t blink when [co-creator] Michael Green and I told them just how explicitly we wanted to tell Salim’s story.” He also credited actors Omid Abtahi and Mousa Kraish—”two heterosexual Middle Eastern actors who didn’t hesitate in dedicating themselves to telling the story faithfully and authentically.”
 

 
Below, view more images from the Outfest red carpet.

Trish Bendix is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor. She is the former editor-in-chief of AfterEllen.com.
@trishbendix