Andrew Garfield has found himself in hot water with the LGBTQ community after saying, “I am a gay man right now, just without the physical act” — and revealing that he prepared for his new role as a gay man by watching RuPaul’s Drag Race with friends.
The 33-year-old actor is currently starring in the critically acclaimed London revival of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, in which he plays Prior Walter — a gay man battling the reality of AIDS during the height of the 1980s crisis that killed hundreds of thousands in the gay community.
During a NT Platform discussion on Monday, the Amazing Spider-Man alum talked about how he prepared for the role — admitting at first that his “big concern” was “what right did I have to play this wonderful gay role” as a man who currently identifies as straight.
“As far as I know, I am not a gay man,” Garfield, who formerly had a high-profile relationship with Emma Stone, began, the Gay Times reported. “Maybe I’ll have an awakening later in my life, which I’m sure will be wonderful and I’ll get to explore that part of the garden, but right now I’m secluded to my area, which is wonderful as well. I adore it.”
“I had to trust that it was the right thing and Tony had asked me and maybe if he’d asked me, it was the right thing,” he added. “It was as about doing honor, doing justice and knowing my herstory.”
To prepare, Garfield spent time consulting his LGBTQ friends. “[The play is] as much devoted to my friends in the gay community as it is those that passed during the epidemic,” he said.
He also turned to an iconic drag queen: RuPaul. Garfield and friends made their way through every season of the Supermodel of the World’s hit series RuPaul’s Drag Race. “My only time off during rehearsals – every Sunday — I would have eight friends over and we would just watch Ru,” Garfield said.
“This is my life outside of this play,” he continued. “I am a gay man right now just without the physical act – that’s all.”
Garfield may have immersed himself in gay culture, but confusing that with the extent of gay life upset many members of the LGBTQ community — some of whom quickly expressed their frustration on Twitter, accusing Garfield of cultural appropriation.
“You’re a talented guy, but you seem to be completely oblivious to what is coming out of your mouth,” out actor Scott Evans (Daytime Divas) wrote.
“The straight white privilege of Andrew Garfield,” said out comedian H. Alan Scott. “Must be nice to be able to be gay without any of the hardships.”
Other users criticized Garfield for seemingly failing to understand that appreciating gay culture is not the same as experiencing the oppression facing the LGBTQ community now and throughout history.
“Garfield compared watching a TV show and portraying a gay man to being gay without the physical act. No buddy,” said one user — with another adding Garfield had “a very limited view of what being gay ACTUALLY is.”
“Playing a gay man…doesn’t suddenly mean he understands oppression,” a critic wrote. “Why…is he preparing for a play about the TRAGEDY OF THE AIDS CRISIS by watching Drag Race? That’s obtuse at best.”
This isn’t the first time Garfield has found himself facing backlash from the gay community. During the Golden Globes in January, Garfield famously locked lips with Ryan Reynolds — causing many to criticize him for making a joke of a kiss between two men.
This article originally appeared on People.com