The veteran actor Neal McDonough isn’t the type of Hollywood type who typically is part of viral news stories. But that just happened last week, due to an interview the 56-year-old actor gave about the difficulty he has faced in his career after declaring in 2010 that he would not do love or sex scenes on screen.
Now, there are quite a few strange things about this story. The first is that it seems to be four years old. In January 2019, McDonough told a news outlet called Closer Weekly that in 2010, he had been fired from a short-lived TV series called Scoundrels over his refusal to do love scenes.
McDonough told the story again in an interview with Fox News Digital in April, although for some reason it was heavily aggregated by several sites at the end of December. And that Fox story says that after his firing from Scoundrels, McDonough “said he was blacklisted from the industry.”
That’s an extraordinarily loaded term, one that means a very specific thing
“There was a time when I wasn’t working,” the actor told Fox News. “I couldn’t get a job because people thought I was this crazy religious guy. But that wasn’t the case. I love my wife, but I love my acting too. I was hopeful that, at some point, someone would give me a chance again.”
Now, I’d like to make clear that there’s nothing objectionable about McDonough, a talented actor who I’ve long enjoyed watching, having such a policy. I’m a big believer that actors shouldn’t be pressured into performing in sex scenes with which they’re not comfortable.
Hollywood has a long, gross history of that sort of thing, and it’s not something that should happen, whether it’s a young actress pressured to take her top off, or an actor in his 50s who doesn’t want to disrespect his wife. It’s actually quite admirable for McDonough to take a stand for his convictions.
But what is very, very objectionable is the inclusion of the word “blacklisting.” Because that’s an extraordinarily loaded term, one that means a very specific thing, and it absolutely does not apply to what happened to Neal McDonough.
In the 1940s and 1950s, when actors, writers, filmmakers, or others were blacklisted for their suspected ties to communism, they didn’t work, for a matter of years. It was essentially a conspiracy among the entire industry to deny people employment.
And that’s… not what happened to Neal McDonough.
The Fox article claims that the actor was “blacklisted” in 2010. Here’s what his filmography looks like for that year and a few years afterward:
In 2011, the year after his “blacklisting,” McDonough appeared in a Marvel movie, Captain America: The First Avenger, as Timothy “Dum Dum” Dugan. He reprised that role in 2013’s Agent Carter short film, as well as the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter TV shows.. He added the DC universe to his resume in 2014, with a voice part in Batman: Assault on Arkham, later appearing regularly as Damien Darhk on the DC TV shows The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Arrow.
For most years of his career, McDonough has been in two or three movies a year. This was the case both before 2010 and after. In fact, he’s credited in more movies (27) in the 12 years since his “blacklisting” than he was in the 20 years before it (22.)
As for TV, where McDonough has done more work than movies? Sure, his lone credit in 2011 was a single episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent. But the role with which I associate him most, his villain turn in Season 3 of Justified, came along in 2012, two years after his alleged blacklisting.
Starting in 2014, McDonough started a five-year run as a regular on Suits, where his castmates included Meghan Markle. He has worked consistently since, on high-profile TV shows like CSI and American Horror Story. He’s also appeared on the most popular show currently on television, Yellowstone. If you’re in Yellowstone, you’re not blacklisted.
Also, in 2014, McDonough was in a national car commercial:
It also must be said that McDonough plays a lot of character actor roles, the type that doesn’t tend to include a great deal of kissing or sex scenes.
Did Neal McDonough miss out on some roles, in the immediate aftermath of his departure from the show in 2010? It’s very possible that he did.
But the victims of the 1950s blacklist tended not to have a lean period lasting a handful of months. Any pain McDonough’s career suffered was likely very short-lived, as he has since been cast in a wide variety of roles in numerous genres, across movies and TV.
May we all be so “blacklisted.”
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.