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The Actor who Won’t Kiss Anyone Other Than His Wife

January 20, 2019 | by Emuna Braverman

Neal McDonough is the rare actor in Hollywood who won’t appear in compromising scenes.

The pressure isn’t only on women. It was recently reported that actor Neal McDonough was fired from the ABC series “Scoundrels” for refusing to appear in sex scenes with his co-star. Although the actor has no regrets about his choice and his total commitment to his wife, he was a little troubled that he was then labeled a religious zealot. He is a man of faith but do you have to be a fanatic to refuse sex scenes with another woman?

It’s not his first time standing up to preserve his marriage. When hired to work on “Desperate Housewives”, he also made his position clear. Not only will he not do sex scenes but he won’t “…kiss anybody”. Initially the creator of the show was taken aback but he then responded, “All right, I guess I’m just going to have to write better.”

What a good response. Like comedians who rely on vulgarity for cheap laughs, sex scenes seem a lazy way of filling time and space, an opt-out of creative dialogue. I appreciate the more honest reaction above.

But back to Mr. McDonough. It seems funny but we have to admire his courage. It’s not easy to stand up to the Hollywood machine. It’s not easy to have principles. It’s not easy to have a marriage worth preserving and it’s even harder to take the steps required to do so. Everything and everyone is pushing the other way.

And because it’s so unusual, it causes heads to turn – and the negative reactions to begin. If we don’t label Neal McDonough a religious zealot, how can we then justify our own cavalier attitude towards these behaviors? How then can we come home to our own wives and husbands and feel proud of our work? To avoid facing uncomfortable choices and situations, we criticize McDonough.

But I believe that even in the midst of that, there is admiration as well. He’s done what few have dared. And he’s taught a community that appears to treat relationships as disposable what commitment really means. If they’re really listening and really paying attention, perhaps he’s even taught them how to enhance their relationships as well.

“Almost 20 years, five kids and just one heck of an awesome life later, to have her as my partner in everything, I’m just the most blessed guy I know,” says the actor. I couldn’t think of a better endorsement than that. He knows the benefits outweigh the costs. And others should sit up and take note.

Mr. McDonough is not Jewish but he is a man of faith, a man whose convictions support behaviors that protect and enrich his marriage. The Torah promotes similar behaviors for similar reasons. And maybe we’re zealots also. In fact I think I am – a zealot for my marriage, a zealot to keep it exclusive, a zealot to keep it private, a zealot to keep it vibrant and alive. Every character trait has its place. If I get labeled a fanatic for my efforts on behalf of my marriage, I will wear that label proudly.

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