Considering what little privacy celebrities possess, announcements like this are mind-boggling because of how long the person has been able to keep it secret. Sean Maher has announced that he’s gay—even more, he has a partner of nine years and two children! And he’s spent the last 14 years in Hollywood playing it straight, on everything from cult hit Firefly to new pilot The Playboy Club.
As he tells EW, from the moment he set foot in L.A. at the age of 22 — having graduated NYU, where he was out — people assumed he was straight, and he simply didn’t correct them out of fear that he wouldn’t get leading-man roles.
However, Sean did have two (openly gay) mentors, who worked with him on two important films. There was Craig Zadan, who produced Sean’s first big project, the TV movie Brian’s Song; apparently Craig could tell from the moment he met the young actor, though he never shared his secret.
Craig and Neil Meron both worked with Sean on the TV movie Wedding Wars, where Sean had to confront a unique challenge: He was playing a gay character. But they got around the potential blow-up by having Sean never do press where he’d have to answer the question of how it felt to play a gay role. It helped that the movie’s stars were John Stamos and Eric Dane, and therefore they took most of the attention.
It was his latest project that gave Sean the impetus to come out: The Playboy Club, on which he plays a closeted man also named Sean, who keeps up a sham marriage to a lesbian Playboy Bunny in order to protect both their careers. It does sort of sound like a sign from above…
Even though he never told his Firefly family, they’ve been the first to congratulate him on his bravery. Interestingly, however, only Sean’s female colleagues have publicly responded to the news so far:
Jewel Staite, who played Kaylee and appears with him in the No H8 campaign above:
Morena Baccarin, a.k.a. Inara:
TV writer Jane Espenson:
No word yet from co-stars Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, or Adam Baldwin. And of course, Sean thanks his fans and supporters: