Nathan Lane shares advice Robin Williams gave him before coming out as gay

Nathan Lane shares advice Robin Williams gave him before coming out as gay

Nathan Lane has recalled the advice given to him by Robin Williams about speaking publicly about his sexuality after their 1996 comedy film, The Birdcage.

The stage and screen actor, known to many for voicing meerkat Timon in The Lion King, mentioned late star Williams during a recent speech at the Critics Choice Association’s inaugural Celebration of LGBTQ+ Cinema & Television, in honour of Pride month.

Despite Lane acknowledging that he was gay in his personal life, the actor did not share this with the public for at least a decade after being in the spotlight.

“I had marched in Pride Parades in the late seventies, but nobody had ever expressed interest in my sexuality,” said Lane in his speech, according to People.

However, Lane found that his sexuality was becoming more of a topic after he “began playing gay roles”.

In The Birdcage, Lane and Williams play a gay couple who attempt, through drag, to rebrand as a heterosexual couple when their son announces his engagement to the daughter of a conservative senator.

“I certainly wish I had been braver at the time,” he said, before looking back at a “playful” experience with Oprah Winfrey during which he felt he had to deflect from discussing his personal life.

“Like when Oprah Winfrey on her show asked me why I was so good at all that girly stuff in The Birdcage.

Nathan Lane and Robin Williams (Getty)
Nathan Lane and Robin Williams (Getty)

“If I could go back in time, the answer I wish I had given is: The reason I’m good at all that stuff is because I’m a wonderful actor, but if you’re asking me if I’m gay, the answer is yes and proud of it.”

Lane then turned his speech to note the way that Williams, who died in 2014, “protected” him throughout his career, before he was ready to talk about his sexuality.

“I had expressed my fears beforehand to the late, great Robin Williams, who kindly said to me, ‘Don’t worry, Nathan. You don’t have to discuss it if you’re not ready.’ And he went on to protect me whenever he could, throughout the awkward moments,” Lane said.

Lane ultimately came out after the widely publicised hate killing of gay university student Matthew Shepard in 1998, noting that his truth telling would be impactful for others.

“I’d already come out on a personal level, why not come out publicly now that I was the so-called public figure if it might be meaningful to others in the struggle,” he reasoned. “So I did, and I’m glad I did.”