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Andrew Garfield says straight actors playing gay characters helps foster 'empathic imagination'

Forbidding straight actors from playing gay characters would mean "the death of empathic imagination," The Amazing Spider-Man and Tick, Tick…Boom! actor Andrew Garfield said in an interview with The Telegraph published Monday.

As part of the profile, Garfield was asked about his performance in a 2017 stage production of Angels in America, "in which he played Prior Walter, a prophetic gay AIDS patient," and about whether he believes straight actors should portray gay characters.

"I think it's two different conversations getting conflated," said Garfield.

"One is about equality of opportunity, and I'm completely in on that. Because we should want a world in which no matter your sexual orientation, your color or your heritage, everyone gets a fair whack," he continued. "But the other is about empathic imagination, and if we only allow people to be cast as exactly who they are, it'll be the death of it. So, the two separate conversations have to happen simultaneously. Because I'm not willing to support the death of empathic imagination. It's what we need most as a culture, and it's beautiful. It's the only thing that's going to save us right now."

In 2018, actress Scarlett Johannsson was criticized for accepting a role as a transgender man. Her initial response was dismissive, but she later dropped out of the film and apologized, Vanity Fair reported. In 2019, she told As If that "as an actor I should be able to play any person, or any tree, or any animal."