TV

T.R. Knight Thinks More Gay Actors Should Be Getting Gay Roles

"It would be nice if these lines that are sometimes drawn were erased," says the star of Hulu's new animated series "The Bravest Knight."

When Hulu needed an intrepid hero for its new animated adaptation of Daniel Errico’s children’s book The Bravest Knight Who Ever Lived, it called on a real-life Knight. In the five-episode series, titled The Bravest Knight, gay actor T.R. Knight (Grey’s Anatomy) voices pumpkin farmer turned chevalier Sir Cedric, who along with his husband, Prince Andrew (Wilson Cruz), raises a 10-year-old daughter, Nia (Storm Reid of Netflix’s When They See Us), sharing tales of his adventures while she aspires to follow in his footsteps.
 

The show—which also features the voices of Wanda Sykes, RuPaul, Christine Baranski, and Bobby Moynihan as Cedric’s troll pal, Grunt—is the first animated gig for Knight, who also lent his voice to the new documentary The Lavender Scare, about the U.S. State Department’s gay witch hunt in the 1950s.

Knight recently spoke to NewNowNext about other important Sirs, if straight actors should play gay, and one time he regrets not being brave.

How did you get this gig?

It was one of those rare times when they just called and asked, which is wonderful. It’s been a dream of mine to voice animation, and to get a chance to do it was hugely thrilling. Never mind what it’s about, the story, and working with Storm Reid.

What did you think of the voiceover process versus acting on a set?

The biggest, most exciting challenge was just figuring out how to voice something in 2-D. To me, it’s that learning curve of being in a booth. Some of the stuff you’re doing is ridiculous—like, if you’re falling or slipping and these noises come out of your mouth. But it was easier being able to engage and act with Storm. It was kind of [the producers] to put us together. From what I know, from the people who’ve done it and watching those DVD extras [about animated features], a lot of times people record their roles separately, so I was grateful to be able to do that with her—to actually act with someone in the room. Plus, I really like and respect Storm.

Hulu
Prince Andrew (Wilson Cruz), Nia (Storm Reid), and Sir Cedric (T.R. Knight) in the episode “Cedric & the Cave” from The Bravest Knight.

So where was your onscreen husband, Wilson Cruz, during all this?

We just said hello to each other in passing! I recorded my stuff with Storm, and he came in after that. I know him a tiny bit. I’ve been a fan since My So-Called Life.

Do you feel like you and Star Trek: Discovery’s Anthony Rapp are having a poly relationship with Wilson, since you both play his partners?

That’s so ridiculous. I think we can get away with it because our show is in 2-D and theirs is on a spaceship. But I wouldn’t want to step on Anthony’s feet at all. He would out-sing me.

Have you and your real-life hubby Patrick discussed raising a child?

I might be a little long in the tooth for that, but never say never. My husband is already so much the better person anyway, and would be the cooler father. I don’t want our kid to be like, “I don’t want to be with the boring old dad. I want cool dad!”

T.R. Knight and his husband, dancer Patrick Leahy.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

I can only think of situations in which I needed to stand up for somebody. I remember doing a play once—it was a workshop—and the director screamed at this intern stage manager when she asked a question. I didn’t say anything at all, I was so shocked. That was a time I did not stand up. I should have said, “Whatever’s going on, you don’t talk to someone like that, and you need to apologize to all of us.” It just changes everything—the molecules in the room just freeze. So that was a time I was not very brave.

Billy Porter recently made a point about straight actors receiving too much praise just for playing LGBTQ characters. You’ve been out since late 2006 and played LGBTQ characters and real-life LGBTQ figures. What are your thoughts on that?

It’s such an interesting question, because if you’re an actor you want to play as many different characters as you can, and one shouldn’t be limited by sexuality—and that goes both ways. But I also think that’s a little Pollyanna, because when it’s a dramatic or main character who’s gay, we often see that character performed by someone who is straight, or who says they’re straight. You see that a lot. It’s getting better, but more change needs to come. I know that the same blood runs through all of us, but it would be nice if these lines that are sometimes drawn were erased. Obviously I’m not telling you anything new, but we’re not there yet.

What did political strategist Chad Griffin think of your portrayal of him in [ABC’s 2017 miniseries] When We Rise?

He was very kind about it. I actually knew him beforehand and talked to him before I did it. He’s a wickedly smart, wonderful guy, and I never played someone I knew before! That was a new experience, and I had to separate it and play the person Dustin Lance Black wrote versus the person I knew. It’s important and necessary to do as much research as you can to do the characters justice. Like with Max Jacob [whom Knight played in the National Geographic series Genius], he was a friend of Picasso’s. Max led a very unhappy life, and being gay and Jewish, he was taken to a Nazi concentration camp and died in prison on the way there.

Have you met the actual living gay knight Sir Ian McKellen?

Yes! I was doing a Broadway show with Sir Patrick Stewart—who is also a knight, but not a gay one—and Sir Ian came to see the show. Sir Patrick was incredibly kind and generous, and what surprised me about him is how funny he is—he’s hilarious. Sir Ian was kind.

What kind of audience would you really love The Bravest Knight to reach?

What I love about the show is, I grew up with Sesame Street and it has that same kind of value. It’s all about learning. Every episode, Nia learns a lesson. Sometimes she’s ahead of her father—she’s way smarter than he is. What I also like about it is, if you’re older and like cartoons like I do, it has a wide range of people. It’s one of those projects I feel extra lucky to be a part of. I hope it appeals to anyone with an open heart.

The Bravest Knight premieres June 21 on Hulu.

Lawrence is a New York-based travel and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Time Out New York and The New York Post.
@LawrenceFerber