Swoosie Kurtz On How Gay Character On ‘Love, Sidney’ Was Forced Back In The Closet
Actress Swoosie Kurtz, who recently released her first book, the memoir Part Swan, Part Goose, has been in the industry long enough to see a number of changes – notably that of the representation of gay and lesbian characters.
Swoosie Kurtz Talks ‘Love, Sidney’
When Kurtz landed the part of Laurie Morgan in the TV adaption of Love, Sidney it was 1981. Her character, a single mother to a young daughter, lives with an amiable gay man named Sidney Shorr, who adores helping her look after her daughter Patti.
“We knew were doing something ground breaking, but I don’t think we expected this kind of intense response,” Kurtz told Uinterview exclusively. “Before [Love, Sidney] even aired, we had done a few episodes and the affiliated started pulling out, and some of the advertisers started pulling out. Just hearing that there was a gay character was so astonishing.”
Sidney Shorr was played by Tony Randall, who, despite the network’s urgings, fought for Sidney to stay gay on the TV show. As a compromise, Sidney never had a romance with any men or women on the show, and was portrayed as a “happy bachelor,” according to Kurtz. Randall, though hindered by the times, did his best to bring out the truth of his character.
“Tony Randall was adamant that this character maintain his gayness and it was very subtle in the show. It was very beautifully written,” said Kurtz. “My character and my five year old little girl moved in with him, it was a very platonic relationship, we were just roommates sharing an apartment in NYC and it was a sweet show, but his character was watered down to be a happy bachelor.”
“Tony god love him fought the good fight, he really tried,” Kurtz added. “There were subtle hints along the way if a viewer was able to get it. It was there every so often.”
Kurtz, who now stars on Mike and Molly with Melissa McCarthy, is happy to see that gay characters on TV aren’t nearly as taboo as they were when she starred on Love, Sidney. “Just hearing that there was a gay character [back then] was so astonishing, but you have to realize it was 1981,” she told Uinterview. “We have come a long way baby, as they say.”