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Nathan Lane: Robin Williams ‘Protected Me’ From Coming Out as Gay on ‘Oprah’ in 1996 Because ‘He Was a Saint’

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Zack Sharf Digital News Director Nathan Lane revealed on “Sunday Today” that Robin Williams once protected him from coming out as gay against his will on national television.

The year was 1996 and Lane and Williams were on their press tour for Mike Nichols’ “The Birdcage,” in which they play a gay couple trying to marry off their son to a conservative couple’s daughter.

Lane was nervous about doing an interview on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” as “The Birdcage” was one of his first major film roles, and he did not want to come out publicly as gay at the time. “I was not prepared at all for that,” Lane said about openly discussing his sexuality at the time. “And I certainly wasn’t ready to go from table-to-table and tell them all I was gay.

I just wanted to talk about finally [getting] a big part in a movie, and I didn’t want to make it about my sexuality.” Of course, Lane knew that playing a gay character in the film would make discussing his sexuality in real life “sort of unavoidable,” but he still wasn’t ready to do so. “I don’t think Oprah was trying to out me, but I said to Robin beforehand, ‘I’m not prepared.

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