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Nathan Lane praised late actor Robin Williams for ‘swooping in’ and saving him during a 1996 Oprah interview when he wasn’t ready to publicly come out as gay. 

Lane, 67, publicly came out three years later in 1999, but during the press tour for his movie The Birdcage – where he starred alongside Williams he simply ‘wasn’t ready’ to tell the world. 

‘I just wanted to talk about [how] I finally got a big part in a movie and I didn’t want to make it about my sexuality,’ he told NBC Sunday Today in a teaser clip. ‘Although it was sort of unavoidable because of the nature of the film and the character.’ 

Lane played a drag queen named Albert in the movie, which focused on his and Williams’ character, Armand Goldman, pretending to be a straight couple so they can meet their son’s fiancée’s conservative parents. 

‘I don’t think [Oprah] was trying to out me,’ Lane said. ‘But I said to Robin beforehand: “You know, I’m just not prepared. I’m so scared of going out there and talking to Oprah. I’m not prepared to discuss that I’m gay on national television. I’m not ready.” 

‘And he said: “It’s alright, don’t worry about it. We don’t have to talk about it, we won’t talk about it.” 

Lane called Williams, who died in August 2014, a ‘saint.’

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'I don't think [Oprah] was trying to out me,' Lane (pictured with Williams in 1996) said. 'But I said to Robin beforehand: "You know, I'm just not prepared. I'm so scared of going out there and talking to Oprah. I'm not prepared to discuss that I'm gay on national television.'

‘I don’t think [Oprah] was trying to out me,’ Lane (pictured with Williams in 1996) said. ‘But I said to Robin beforehand: “You know, I’m just not prepared. I’m so scared of going out there and talking to Oprah. I’m not prepared to discuss that I’m gay on national television.’

‘[Oprah says:] Are you worried about being typecast? And then Robin swoops in and diverts Oprah,’ The Only Murders in the Building star recalled. 

During the 1996 interview, Oprah asked a nervous-looking Lane: ‘Were you afraid of taking that role and being like type casting people for everything? Are you, are you not? Is he, honey? I don’t know.’ 

Before Lane had a chance to answer, Williams swooped in and said: ‘Um girl, you changed just in the middle of that sentence. I don’t know, I’m telling you. Don’t make me come out there’ as he mimicked flamboyant body language as he shot a quick glance at Lane.

Williams fanned his hand in front of his face as he and Oprah laughed, buying time for Lane to come up with an answer. 

The Modern Family actor would go on to say he didn’t ‘have an image to uphold’ and that ‘from role to role, I’m usually pretty different.’ 

During the 1996 interview, Oprah asked a nervous-looking Lane: 'Were you afraid of taking that role and being like type casting people for everything? Are you, are you not? Is he, honey? I don't know'

During the 1996 interview, Oprah asked a nervous-looking Lane: ‘Were you afraid of taking that role and being like type casting people for everything? Are you, are you not? Is he, honey? I don’t know’ 

‘I just wasn’t ready,’ Lane said in the interview with NBC Sunday Today, which airs at 8am this weekend. ‘To make this whole thing…the public side of it, the celebrity side. Oh, now you’re a public figure and you have to make some sort of public statement about it. I was terrified. I wasn’t ready to do that.’ 

Despite not being ready to come forward at that time, he is grateful to see that the youth today have the chance to feel ‘comfortable’ with their sexualities but said ‘homophobia is alive and well and there are plenty of gay people who are still hiding.’ 

Lane came out publicly in an interview with The Advocate in 1999, where he referenced the Oprah interview, saying that Williams ‘protected’ him. 

The actor would later go on to marry his husband Devlin Elliott in November 2015. 

The Birdcage won Outstanding Performance by a Cast at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in 1997.  

Lane played a drag queen named Albert in the movie, which focused on his and Williams' character Armand Goldman pretending to be a straight couple so they can meet their son's fiancée's conservative parents

Lane played a drag queen named Albert in the movie, which focused on his and Williams’ character Armand Goldman pretending to be a straight couple so they can meet their son’s fiancée’s conservative parents

The Birdcage won Outstanding Performance by a Cast at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in 1997

The Birdcage won Outstanding Performance by a Cast at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in 1997

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