Comedian Jack Whitehall is set to star as Disney’s first “openly-gay” character in Jungle Cruise, based on Disneyland’s theme park ride of the same name where “a small riverboat takes a group of travellers through a jungle filled with dangerous animals and reptiles, with a supernatural element.”
While no official character details have been revealed, a source told The Sun that Whitehall will be “playing a gay man” who is “hugely effete, very camp and very funny.”
Whitehall took to Instagram to express his excitement by saying he is “honoured to be a part of this epic adventure” and went to say “I am having the time of my life with my amazing co-stars.”
However, Omar Sharif Jr, an Egyptian-Canadian actor, model and gay activist, has condemned the decision to cast a straight actor as Disney’s first openly gay character and aimed a tweet directly at Disney – “Really Disney? Your first significant gay role will be played by a straight white man perpetuating stereotypes? Fail! This ship should sink.”
Now, while there has been some backlash against the decision, there has also been a lot of support from celebrities, politicians and the general public, with some of them defending the decision based on the fact that a role should go to the actor best suited for it. Openly gay Labour MP Wes Streeting took to Twitter to defend the decision;
“Shock as actor is asked to play someone different from themselves.” He said. “Isn’t that kind of the point? Wouldn’t always casting gay actors in gay roles be condemned for typecasting?”
No matter where your opinion falls on the issue, it has to be said that this is still a pretty big step forward for Hollywood. For a brand as huge as Disney – a franchise aimed almost exclusively at children and young people – to create and embrace an openly gay character, could potentially lead to other Hollywood heavy-hitters to create and cater more roles to the LGBTQ community. Will that be the case? Only time will tell…
Jungle Cruise will also star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Emily Blunt and is set to release in October, 2019.