Chris Carmack: ‘Nashville’ Role Has ‘Opened Doors for a Discussion That Needed to Happen’
On Nashville, Lexington struggled to keep his sexual orientation a secret for the sake of his career, before (spoiler alert!) finally revealing the truth in the Season 4 finale. In real life, several country artists, including Ty Herndon, Chely Wright and Billy Gilman, admit that they refrained from coming out because they were afraid of the professional and personal repercussions if fans knew their sexual orientation.
In recent years, country music become more open and accepting of gay artists, though; Herndon is even hosting the first-ever Concert for Love and Acceptance during the 2015 CMA Music Festival. Although Carmack is hesitant to assume any responsibility for helping the country music industry embrace more tolerance and understanding, he acknowledges the importance of his groundbreaking role.
"I wouldn’t be so self-important as to suggest that [my role on Nashville] has helped," Carmack tells The Boot. "[But] I can see that, in many ways, it may have opened doors for a discussion that needed to happen.
"I wouldn’t say that this role has necessarily formed people’s opinions or changed people’s minds," he continues, "but I think it’s surprising, once people start talking, you find out what people actually think and find out perhaps there’s a lot of people who support and love out there than we originally thought."
The 34-year-old welcomes the challenges and emotional complexities of playing Lexington, viewing his role as a chance to delve into uncharted territory that he has not yet explored.
"When I was pitched the story line, I was more excited," Carmack reveals. "I get boy-next-door, kind of macho guy [roles], and I knew Will was going to be that, as the cowboy country music star. It’s territory that I think I’ve covered in my career, and that’s why I got cast. But when I heard that he’s a closeted gay country singer, I threw my fists in the air in joy and knew that I was going to be able to deal with material that I had not dealt with yet in my career. It was exciting."
Still, while Carmack is honored to portray such a pivotal role, he acknowledges that there is still plenty of work that needs to be done in real-life society.
"There are still a lot of loud, hateful voices out there, too," Carmack says. "They’re there. But the quiet voices are the ones that maybe haven’t spoken up so much, [so] giving them an opportunity to show their support is very encouraging."
The Concert for Love and Acceptance, which is co-sponsored by GLAAD, is set to take place on June 12 at Nashville's City Winery. Meghan McCain will co-host with Herndon, and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean will also appear, along with several other artists, including Meghan Linsey, Crystal Gayle, Jennifer Knapp, Gilman, Melinda Doolittle and Jamie O'Neal. Tickets are available at CityWinery.com.
Country Artists Who Have Come Out