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Ian McKellen And Derek Jacobi Share Advice On Love, Friendship, And Combatting Ignorance

The onscreen couple from Vicious gives advice to those in need.

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Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Derek Jacobi, who were the Grand Marshals of the New York Pride Parade this June, play an elderly gay couple on the British sitcom Vicious. In the show, Freddie (McKellen) and Stewart (Jacobi) have been together for 50 years, and they have a hilarious love/hate relationship filled with cute moments and bickering. In addition to McKellen and Jacobi playing longtime partners on the show, they also happen to be lifelong friends in real life. So, we asked members of the BuzzFeed Community what life advice they would like to receive from the very wise, dashing duo, and the sirs delivered. Here's their invaluable wisdom!

What do you feel is the current state of affairs as far as actors being publicly out? Some still maintain it’s career suicide while others say it’s no biggie. —kaseyleigh81

Derek Jacobi: I think it's what you're selling, really. I mean if you're selling machismo, handsome, leading man, then maybe it's a bit difficult if you're gay and you actually don't do it with ladies, you do it with men. That could be a problem if you're selling heartthrob; apart from that, I don't see any problem with it at all.

Ian McKellen: My career took off as a film actor when I came out. The advice that actors get to not come out is usually given to them by their agents who are themselves gay, by their publicists who are themselves gay. It's all a hypocrisy and they're frightened, everyone's always frightened about what someone will say. I don't give a damn whether someone's gay or straight. I fancy them or I don't fancy them.

DJ: Absolutely.

IM: It doesn't worry me at all. And I don't think, frankly, it worries the people who enjoy our acting, they just accept us for who we are. We don't always play gay characters.

DJ: No! We hardly ever play gay characters. I mean, Vicious we're both gay.

IM: You're a bit gay in Vicious, aren't you?

DJ: I'm a bit gay in Vicious, but I thought you were a bit gay as Gandalf, frankly.

IM: Gandalf the Gay!

DJ: That beard was a bit gay.

IM: The thing is, it's not just a problem for actors, you know. How many politicians discuss with their agents and their constituents, "Do you think it would be all right if I came out?" I don't think constituents worry if a member of parliament is gay. Is he or she a good congressperson? Is he or she a good actor? That's all, really. The rest is old news, but no one looks to Hollywood for social advancement. They only just discovered they have black people in the Oscars two years ago. I've still got my acceptance speech: "Members of the Academy, I'm proud to be the first openly gay actor to ever win this award." Of course I didn't give that speech, but nor has anybody else. It does put people off, but take courage.


How do you stay so confident when there are people trying to bring you down? —sheagymnast

IM: Who's trying to bring me down?!

All: (laughs)

The person is just asking for advice! No one is trying to bring you down.

IM: If it's your parents or your family, well that's what families tend to do. If it's your friends trying to pull you down, change your friends.

DJ: I agree with that. I don't do any of the Twittering or anything, but I am always amazed that kids are brought down by what is said about them or to them on Twitter and Facebook and all that. They become so upset about it, that they can go to extremes. That I find extraordinary.

IM: I know a lot of gay kids get bullied on social media. It's absolutely shameful. Bullies are, of course, cowards. That's why they bully.

DJ: It's so much easier when they're anonymous.

IM: Chin up!


How do you overcome differences or arguments in a long-term friendship? I know we’d all love our friendships to last a lifetime. —leahwhovian

DJ: Oh, give and take I suppose is the bottom line, compromise, seeing the other [person's] point of view. Don't ever take it to extremes. It depends actually on the depth of the relationship, but I think if you always put yourself in the other person's shoes, understand where they're coming from, just as much as where you're coming from, then that compromise is healthy.

IM: Well that's why this man has been in a relationship with the same person for 32 years.

DJ: 38!

IM: Neither of us is very confrontational. I think both of us would run a mile from a really bad argument. And that's not always the best thing, frankly, because if you know you're right, and sometimes you do, then you shouldn't really give in.

DJ: Sometimes people just like the fight.

I have been going though a lot of things in my life since I graduated college. But since college I have noticed changes in my personality. I am stressed out more, and I feel like giving up sometimes. How do you two stay positive when you are down on your luck? —ccodonnell0992


DJ: I find that a very difficult question to answer because I have been so lucky, both in my private life and my career; incredibly lucky. So I haven't ever really had to face those huge challenges that being down on your luck brings. I can only speak to what that does to somebody. My advice would be very peripheral because I have never been there. I'm sorry.

IM: If you're really, really down and you've got to talk to somebody about it, pick them carefully, but do warn them that they're going to have to listen a little bit while you have a really good moment. And say, "When I finish I want to help out with all your problems." It's give and take. But never feel you're on your own, and if you're feeling down, you're not the first person to feel down. People are always worse off than you. No comfort in that, perhaps, but it's true.

DJ: And make sure that you're not being indulgent. Make sure that you really can pull yourself up by the bootstraps.

If you’re an older person and still haven’t met The One, how can you keep your heart open and at the same time remain vigilant against loneliness and falling into despair? —tonyaj

IM: *fake cries*

DJ: (laughs)

IM: There may not be The One! We're all on our own, really.

DJ: We come into it, and then we go out of it.

IM: And sometimes two people are alone together. (laughs) Oh, dear. Don't think your life is a failure because you haven't found The One. Look around. Every time I go to a wedding, I think, Oh, how long before the divorce? Not the gays, of course.

All: (laughs)

IM: Gays are never getting divorced. Gays are married for life. But you think, with all the people around in the world, why should we bother with one?

How do you have the patience to educate people about what being queer implies, in a country where being a part of the LGBT community is still quite taboo? —Sabina Sancu, Facebook

IM: Find your allies, find your friends, and together you can do something. I mean, any civil rights movement, no matter what it is, gay, straight, blacks, disabled, trans, any collective advance has been because groups of people got together. It wasn't done by one person, there's no hero to wave the wand. So if you're in that unfortunate situation, in this country maybe, or in our country, or a much, much worse of a country where to be gay is illegal, where to be a woman is generally disadvantaged by the laws of the land, you've got to stick to your own kind and together stand up for yourselves. In the words of the slogan, it does get better, but don't try to do it all on your own.

Vicious Season 2 premieres Sunday, Aug. 23 on PBS.