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‘AJLT’ star Mario Cantone: Johnny Carson canceled me for being gay

Cancel culture was alive and well in the 1980s, according to Mario Cantone. The “And Just Like That” star, 62, got candid about the time that he was kicked off Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” for being gay. The comedian discussed the 1986 incident with Allison Kugel on her podcast “Allison Interviews.” “I was booked on [‘The Tonight Show’ with] Johnny Carson in October of 1986 by the show’s talent coordinator,” the “Sex and the City” star began. “When he saw me, he said, ‘Oh my God, you’re amazing! We are going to shape six minutes for you.’ Then he looked at the video again, because he filmed it that night, and he said, ‘You know what? Your comedy has a gay edge to it and I think it’s going to make Johnny nervous, so I’m going to cancel you,’ ” Cantone continued. Elsewhere in the interview, the Massachusetts native also discussed the loss of his onscreen husband and pal, Willie Garson. The two worked together on “Sex and the City” and its sequel series until Garson’s death last September from pancreatic cancer. He made his final appearance on a December “And Just Like That” episode where the cast gave him an emotional sendoff. Cantone explained that he knew about Garson’s fatal diagnosis along with the rest of the “AJLT” cast. “I didn’t know he was sick until a month in, when he told me and told everyone. Sarah [Jessica Parker] said that she knew and she kept it kind of under wraps, but he told me like a month in,” Cantone recalled. He continued, “[Garson] was great until he just wasn’t there anymore, until he just couldn’t come in, but you would never have known. His energy, his stories; he was hilarious and brilliant.” Cantone also said that he wished fans would have been able to see more of his marriage with Garson on the HBO Max series. “Unfortunately, the audience never got to see what our marriage was going to be, which was going to be very interesting and funny,” the Broadway actor said. “It was basically two people that argue, fight, and have a very turbulent relationship, yet they can’t live without each other.” Looking back at his time with Garson, Cantone is proud that they were a part of “gay history on TV.” He then expressed his desire that gay actors should play gay roles in media. “Of course, if I had the choice, I would like a gay man to play a gay man. But I’m not going to shut the movie down if they don’t do that. If it’s an independent film or a television show, I think a gay person could play a gay person,” Cantone said. “I think a trans person should play a trans person. I think all of that. “But if it’s a major motion picture from Warner Bros. or 20th Century Fox, you’re not going to get that movie done unless you have a movie star. It has always been that way,” he said, adding that the 2005 romance drama “Brokeback Mountain” wouldn’t have been made without superstars Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal at the helm. He then argued that the “openly gay movie star … doesn’t exist.” “That’s never going to change; not in my lifetime. There are no openly gay LGBTQ+ movie stars, leading men or leading ladies,” Cantone said.

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