Ugly Betty star speaks out

By Seth Reines, July 2019 Issue.

“I’ve never said I

was straight, and I am not saying I’m gay now. I never lie, and I have never

shied away from the topic. I have certainly chosen through my work to do things

that promote the rights of LGBTQ people.”-Michael Urie, 2010.

Flash forward nine years. For his work in

the fight for LGBTQ equality, openly gay Urie was recently honored with the HRC

Visibility Award by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian,

gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer civil rights organization.

Ugly Betty Cast Promo

HRC President Chad Griffin praised Urie,

“From his iconic role on Ugly Betty to his award-winning portrayal of Arnold

in Torch Song, Michael Urie has captured hearts across America. By using

his transformational talents and global platform to celebrate openness and

authenticity, Michael Urie is bringing greater visibility to the LGBTQ

community and making a real difference for countless people.”

Born Michael Lorenzo Urie in Houston,

Texas, the 39-year-old actor/director/producer began his theatrical career in

high school productions. One of Urie’s Plano Senior High schoolmates, Phoenix

choreographer/dance educator Lauran Stanis reminisced, “What I remember most

about Michael was his group of friends that he had since elementary school.

This group of boys are still friends today and came to see him in Torch Song

on Broadway. These boys, who grew up in conservative, suburban Texas, were

always his fans.”

Urie graduated with Jessica Chastain and

Jess Weixler from The Juilliard School in 2003, the recipient of the John

Houseman prize for excellence in

classical theater and the Laura Pels award

for a career in the theater.

Beginning in 2006, Urie played Marc St.

James, Vanessa Williams’s gay assistant, in the CBS dramedy Ugly Betty.

In the show’s original concept Williams would have a different assistant in

each episode.  But Williams loved their

chemistry so much that Urie was signed as a full-time regular midway through

the show’s first season. He and the cast were nominated for Screen Actors Guild

awards for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series in 2007

and 2008.Appropriately, gay icon Patti LuPone played Urie’s mother

in one episode.

During the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of

America Strike, Urie hosted TLC’s reality-based series Miss America Reality

Check. When the strike ended, he co-starred in CBS’s short-lived series Partners

(by Will & Grace creators) about two lifelong friends and

business partners — one straight, one gay.

In 2015, Urie became the host of Cocktails

& Classics on Logo TV, where he and a panel of celebrity friends

watched and commented on classic movies while imbibing cocktails named for the

films.

Urie often returned to his theatrical roots

and, in 2009, starred off-Broadway in The Tempermentals, about the

foundation of the early LGBTQ rights organization the Mattachine Society. In

2013, he starred in Buyer & Cellar about a struggling gay LA actor,

recently fired from Disneyland, who lands a job curating the basement of Barbra

Streisand’s Malibu estate. The play won him the 2014 Los Angeles Drama Critics

Circle Award for Solo Performance.

Mercedes Ruehl and Michael Urie in Torch Song

This past Broadway season, Urie starred in

Harvey Fierstein’s 35th anniversary revival of Torch Song directed

by Moisés Kaufman (The Laramie Project). Filling the iconic role

originated by Fierstein, Urie played Arnold Beckoff, a New York drag queen

with a complicated love life.

Echo: What was it like reinterpreting this iconic gay character?

Urie: When I got to read the whole play for him [Fierstein] for my audition,

I knew that there was no way I could even try to be Harvey or impersonate him

or even emulate him. I knew I had to use myself and find everything about me

that was Arnold and build on that. And I knew that in a read-through I was

really going to have to strap in and take the ride. Strap in, not strap on!

Echo: What do you think Torch Song means at this particular moment

in LGBTQ history?

Urie: The idea that a gay man would be a husband and father today is

commonplace. We see it all the time. It’s legal. There’s lots of gay daddies

and gay mommies taking their kids to school and securing children in various

ways. And of course, marriage is legal for anyone. But we’re still in a society

where great groups, great swathes of the country are being told they don’t

matter. They’re being told in Georgia they can’t vote. Women are being told

that they can’t have control over their bodies. And Muslims are being told they

can’t come back into the country. Everybody has that feeling, like Arnold feels

at the end of the play, where they’re all alone.

Urie, who received critical acclaim and

nightly standing ovations for his portrayal of Arnold, remains committed to Torch

Song, which is scheduled to tour nationally this fall.

Urie: Since we first began the Torch Song journey, I have heard

from people all over … that Arnold’s pride, strength, and frankness helped them

come out, come to terms, and come together. This is something I hope our tour

will do. We need Harvey’s play when our world is suddenly and continually confusing

and divided.

Meet the cast of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song revival with Michael Urie. Playbill.

Broadway/TV

star and social activist Michael Urie continues to promote the rights of the

LGBTQ community whenever and wherever he can. Just look at him in Christian

Sirano’s gender-bending sensation at the 2019 MET GALA!


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