Sean Hayes won't touch gay controversy in Tony Awards talk
Sean Hayes, who'll be hosting the 64th Annual Tony Awards on Sunday night, has been at the center of an ongoing controversy fueled by a Newsweek writer who criticized the actor's performance because he's a gay man playing it straight on Broadway in "Promises, Promises."
But no amount of nudging could get Hayes to address the whole hubbub -- Newsweek's Ramin Setoodeh said Hayes turned the play into "unintentional camp" -- during a call with reporters Wednesday morning. This is as close as he came as he talked about his stage co-star Kristin Chenoweth:
"She's an extraordinary talent and an amazing human being who's been such a huge support system for me," he said. "She makes it very easy to fall in love with her on stage every night."
After the Newsweek column broke, Chenoweth was one of the first people to speak out in support of Hayes, calling the story shameful and homophobic. Other actors from Broadway and Hollywood quickly followed suit. Hayes himself called it "asinine" on "The View," but said Wednesday that he has no plans to discuss it further, on TV or otherwise.
He stuck to that script during Wednesday's phone call in which he said he'll keep the Tonys moving along quickly so folks in the audience and at home will be entertained. He was short on specifics, though he did say he and Chenoweth will appear together during the CBS show. He was mum, though, on whether there would be any reference to the controversy.
Other guests include pop/punk band Green Day, with a live performance from their nominated musical "American Idiot"; Denzel Washington; Cate Blanchett; Paula Abdul; Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith; Katie Holmes; and Daniel Radcliffe.
Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison, cast members of Fox's hit show "Glee" will also be there. (Setoodeh also pulled that musical dramedy into the recent firestorm by saying one of its stars, Jonathan Groff, was "distracting" because he's a gay man playing a heterosexual romantic lead. Show creator Ryan Murphy responded by condemning the article and calling for a Newsweek boycott. He later invited Setoodeh to the set).
Hayes, who's already an Emmy winner for "Will & Grace," wouldn't take reporters' bait on the "Glee"/Tonys connection, either, but he did say he'd be open to guest starring on the high school-set show.
One hot actor who's been popping up everywhere -- Betty White -- probably won't be at the Tonys, Hayes said. He's producing the upcoming sitcom, "Hot in Cleveland," for TV Land, in which White co-stars with Wendy Malick, Valerie Bertinelli and Jane Leeves, but said he didn't ask White to appear because she's probably too busy.
Hayes, who's nominated for lead actor in a musical for his "Promises, Promises" role, said he has "no aspirations" to add professional awards show host to his resume. So "it takes the pressure off on whether I kill or don't kill," he said. He has no acceptance speech planned if he wins in his category.
Not only is this Hayes' first Tony nomination, he's never even attended the New York awards show before. (And, no, he didn't study Neil Patrick Harris' much-lauded performance from last year.) He doesn't think his inexperience will hinder him, he said, because he's aiming for a loose, party atmosphere. The show airs at 8 p.m.
He called his "Promises, Promises" stint "one of the most challenging experiences of my entire life" and "one of the best experiences of my life." Sunday night's show will highlight his play, a revival of a 1968 musical, along with as many other stage productions as possible to encourage viewers to visit New York and go to the theater. He noted that Broadway pulled in more than $1 billion in sales last season, a figure no doubt juiced by some high-profile Hollywood TV and film stars appearing in shows.
-- T.L. Stanley
Photo: Sean Hayes in April. Credit: Richard Drew / Associated Press