Comedian Brendan O’Carroll, the creator of the sitcom Mrs Brown’s Boys has said he rejected a lucrative licensing deal with Russia after being told he would have to remove a gay character from the storyline.
Other eastern European countries had raised concerns about an openly gay character, O’Carroll said, but the Russian deal would have involved removing the role altogether.
O’Carroll, who plays the lead character, Agnes Brown, as well as writing the show, said he had turned down “a nice fee” to sign the Russian deal.
“It was a nice little deal,” he said. “[Russia] is a big country so the fee you’d charge for the licensing is audience-related, so it’s a big audience and it would have been a nice fee.
“But [they said] ‘no gay, absolutely no gay’. So I said ‘no gay, no show’. And that was it.”
In the show, Rory, one of Mrs Brown’s sons, is gay. The character was originally played by the actor Rory Cowan but is now represented by Eric O’Carroll.
Mrs Brown’s Boys show has been an enormous success, and a Radio Times poll named it the best British sitcom in the 21st century.
Other eastern European countries raised concerns about licensing deals for the BBC One show, but those concerns were resolved,
O’Carroll told the Sun: “Romania threatened [to cut Rory out], but then went ahead with it. What they’ve done [instead] is, the Rory character is the Rory character, and he’s still gay, but they never mention that he’s gay. But it’s still Rory.”
Homophobia is not unusual in Russia, where teaching about homosexuality in schools is banned. There have been many cases of gay foreigners being attacked because of their sexuality.
LGBT football fans have been warned against public displays of affection when they are in Russia for next year’s World Cup.