Skip to main content

Next month, in the season finale of his hit television series Brothers & Sisters, Canadian actor Luke Macfarlane will dress his best and say his vows as his character, Scotty Wandell, marries his partner, Kevin Walker.

It's an episode the London, Ont.-born actor is looking forward to, on may levels: It's one of the few shows on network television to portray a gay marriage between two main characters - a feat the 28-year-old actor is quite proud of, from a professional perspective. But the episode also holds personal resonance for Macfarlane, who wants to be married himself some day, and has finally decided to go public with his own sexual orientation.

Though no secret to his family and close friends, Macfarlane has, until now, been guarded about his personal life as a gay man. Over lunch in Los Angeles, where he lives, he initially insists that he has no concerns about his public revelation - but a few seconds later he is shifting nervously in his chair, and concedes that he is "terrified."

"I don't know what will happen professionally ... that is the fear, but I guess I can't really be concerned about what will happen, because it's my truth.

"There is this desire in L.A. to wonder who you are and what's been blaring for me for the last three years is how can I be most authentic to myself - so this is the first time I am speaking about it in this way."

The episode, which started shooting yesterday and will air on May 11 on ABC and Global, is a monumental step in television culture, he says.

"From a standing outside perspective, and also as someone who is gay, I think that it's a very exciting time. How exciting that we're saying, 'This can be part of the cultural fabric, now,' because it is two series regulars, two people that you invite into your home and you see every week. It's telling of the beginning of more waves and I'm very proud of that."He does, however, note that a certain irony still exists: While a show featuring a gay marriage may be an important step toward building tolerance, it's still an attention-grabber in today's television world.

"Most importantly, in portraying gay people, the more we realize it's just like portraying anybody else and, gay marriage, it's not about two people being gay, it's about two people who love each other and who have decided to commit to each other for the exact same reasons any other couple would get married. Hopefully, the more that becomes part of the cultural awareness it won't be," he pauses and says, employing a mock, exaggerated voice of a television announcer, "a spectacular Sunday episode."

Sitting on the patio of an exclusive Hollywood hotel, wearing a grey T-shirt and red jacket, Macfarlane says he does intend to keep a certain amount of his life private. Asked if he is currently in a relationship, his answer is quick: "That is my personal life. That is where I draw the difference." He does allow though, that he would like to be married some day.

Macfarlane's road to Hollywood was relatively smooth, and mostly free of bit parts and day jobs most struggling actors undergo. Growing up with two sisters (one of which is his fraternal twin), he attended London Central Secondary School, where he was interested in maths and sciences, briefly toiling with the thought of following in his father's footsteps and becoming a doctor. He spent his summers in Cedar Springs, Ont., exploring the wilderness with friends. At Lester B. Pearson School For The Arts, Macfarlane decided to change his course.

"I was in a band when I was in high school and I was bitten by the performance bug, if anything else. I had this notion that maybe I wanted to be an actor. ... I thought it might be a neat career. I thought if I was going to try that, I should shoot for the best and I auditioned for Julliard.

"I was the only Canadian at Juilliard at the time," he says. "When you go somewhere different, you immediately have to determine yourself ... everyone made fun of me because I was like, 'I am Canadian' and it was a way to create my identity through separation, which I think a lot of Canadians do. There's a kind of integrity to being an observer of a culture. I think Canadians have that privilege innately. We are like the observers of the American culture."

Barely out of Juilliard, he was cast in off-Broadway plays, the Robert Altman miniseries Tanner on Tanner, the 2004 film Kinsey and a starring role in the 2005 Steven Bochco television series Over There. It was his stint in theatre that landed him his current television role - Brothers & Sisters creator Jon Robin Baitz saw Macfarlane on stage in the show Where Do We Live, and asked him to play Scotty Wandell, originally a guest-starring role which grew into a regular part.

"Roles tend to pick me. That's sort of where I am in my career. I've always been very lucky, especially in TV, which is something that really interests me. ... I don't turn my nose up at it like a lot of people do. There are very few things that 13 million people tune in to witness, so television is a really relevant and powerful thing."

Though he will soon be seen in the CBC miniseries Iron Road alongside Peter O'Toole and Sam Neill, Macfarlane, has little free time to pursue other roles at the moment. "[ABC]bought and paid for me as a series regular," he says with a smile, "so I will be there for a long, long time."

Interact with The Globe