Hollywood Takes Gay Rights Fight to TV
It's enough to make Dr. Laura implode. A handful of Hollywood celebs ? including NYPD Blue
's James McDaniel
, Just Shoot Me
's Wendie Malick
's Elliot Gould
? have taken to the airwaves this summer in a public service announcement encouraging equal rights for gay men and lesbians.
"This is one of those situations where any time you can shed light on something that people don't understand, it's a good thing to do," Malick tells TV Guide Online. "I think so much of racism and discrimination is just lack of knowledge and experience."
The PSA ? titled "Choose to Understand" ? was put together by the Human Rights Campaign and distributed to local affiliates and cable operators around the country. Sample sound bite: "All of our children, straight or gay, need our acceptance, our support and our unconditional love."
However, according to Hollywood casting agent and project spearheader Tamara Billik, when it came to choosing spokespeople ? who also included Isabel Sanford of The Jeffersons, noted character actor Paul Winfield and Betty DeGeneres (Ellen's mom) ? not all celebrities were treated equal. "We wanted to reach a mature audience," she says, "so we put together a list of familiar faces ? television faces primarily ? that were 40-plus and could resonate with parents and grandparents."
One of those was Sanford, who believes she has a "responsibility" to make good use of her visibility. "Human rights is a critical issue," she says. "If I can help draw attention to that by my appearance in the spot, then I've done something that I can feel good about."
Gould also jumped at the chance to beat the same-gender love drum. "I'm open-minded and feel that the world at large is very closed-minded and extremely prejudiced," he says, adding that it's unfortunate more male performers don't speak out on the issue. "I think the male at large is stuck in a medieval kind of value system and that's not just sad, it's also tragic and ultimately very destructive in terms of human growth. More and more of us should get involved."
Billik concedes that she received some rejections, but scheduling, not homophobia, was the reason. "However, I don't know that anybody would say they were turning it down because they were uncomfortable, even if they were," she points out. "But we didn't ask people we knew we weren't going to get. We didn't ask Charlton Heston."