Nathan Lane recently praised his late co-star, Robin Williams, who he said protected him when Oprah Winfrey came right out on her talk show and asked the actor if he was gay.
During an interview on the “Today” show on Sunday, the 67-year-old said when he and Williams were promoting their movie “The Birdcage” in 1996, he wasn’t “prepared at all” to talk about his sexuality.
“And I certainly wasn’t ready to go from table-to-table and tell them all I was gay,” Lane explained.
Tony-winning actor Nathan Lane sat down with @WillieGeist to discuss his 25th Broadway play, “Pictures from Home,” one of the more frustrating things an audience member can do during a show and more. pic.twitter.com/oowOh6qA2G
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) March 24, 2023
The “Only Murders in the Building” star said he went to Williams and expressed his fear ahead of their interview that questions about his sexuality would arise because their movie centered on the lives of two gay men and their son.
”He [Williams] said, ‘Oh, it’s alright, don’t worry about — we don’t have to talk about it,” Lane told the host. “’We won’t talk about it.’”
“I was terrified,” Lane added. “I just wasn’t ready to do that. It’s great that everyone now feels comfortable but homophobia is alive and well and there are plenty of gay people who are still hiding.”
During the interview in 1996, Winfrey first asked Lane if he was worried about “being typecast” or if people would question, “Are you or are you not? Is he?”
Oprah then said in a stereotypical gay accent, “Is he, honey? I don’t know.”
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“The Producers” star said after Oprah’s question, Williams “sort of swoops in and diverts Oprah, goes off on a tangent and protects me because he was a saint.”
“Girl, you changed just in the middle of that sentence,” Williams interjected as he distracted Winfrey long enough to give Lane time to come up with his response.
Lane then told Oprah he wasn’t “afraid of being” typecast and said he was basically a character actor and didn’t really have “an image to uphold” as he praised the role.
In the clip, even after Lane answered her, Winfrey continued to push, asking if the star “got in touch with his feminine side.”
Lane said he doesn’t think Oprah was trying to out him on national TV but explained it wasn’t something he was ready to share with the public.
In 1997, Winfrey appeared on the sitcom “Ellen” with actress/comedian Ellen DeGeneres, where she came out as gay, Entertainment Weekly noted.