Actor Nathan Lane has revealed that Robin Williams helped him avoid being outed on a TV talk show.
The actor recalled the incident, which took place on The Oprah Winfrey Show around the time that the two stars appeared in The Birdcage together in 1996.
“I was not prepared at all for that,” Lane explained on TODAY of the possibility of discussing his sexuality publicly 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 I finally got a big part in a movie and I didn’t want to make it about my sexuality, although it was sort of unavoidable because of the nature of the film and the character.”
Speaking further about the interview, the star recalled: “I don’t think Oprah was trying to out me. I said to Robin beforehand, ‘I’m not prepared. I’m so scared of going out there and talking to Oprah. I’m not prepared to discuss that I’m gay on national television. I’m not ready.’”
Lane explained that the interview ended up veering in that direction, though Williams came to his aid and managed to change the subject.
“She was like, ‘How come you’re so good at that girlie stuff? Are you worried about being typecast?’” the actor said. “And then Robin sort of swoops in and diverts Oprah, goes off on a tangent and protects me because he was a saint.”
Lane went on to describe Williams as “just the greatest person”, calling him “a beautiful, sensitive soul and so kind and generous to me.
“And it was, you know, it was sort of prescient about gay marriage,” he added.
Lane also revealed that he found “comfort” in learning that some people realised they were gay watching The Birdcage, adding: “I think people just loved the movie because it’s funny. And that’s a way of – it’s disarming. You know, that’s how you draw people in.”
Williams died by suicide in 2014 aged 63, and it was later revealed that the actor had been battling Lewy Body Dementia.
A documentary on his final months called Robin’s Last Wish was released in 2021, and featured interviews with his wife Susan Schneider Williams.