Matt Smith has been cast as Robert Mapplethorpe in the upcoming biopic.

Former Doctor Who star Matt Smith has defended his decision to play a gay character. Smith is playing the role of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, who was best known for his highly stylised black and white photography, celebrity portraits, and homoerotic images – particularly of BDSM subculture.

Vulture reports that when Matt Smith was asked about playing a gay character, he told fans: “I think your sexual orientation, or your sex and your choices outside of work, shouldn’t influence — in either way, positive or negative — what happens.

“So, to me, it doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight. That has no bearing on whether you should get the part.”

He continued: “Where does it stop? Like, do we then say, do we apply that logic to going, ‘Okay, I’ve got a part, and it’s playing a brother, and he’s addicted to heroin.’ Do we then go to people that have only taken heroin?”

One of the directors of the film, Eliza Dushku added that it was an “important discussion”, and Smith agreed saying: “It’s good that it’s being had.”

Mapplethorpe will depict the photographer’s life “from moments before he and Patti Smith moved into the famed Chelsea hotel,” and explore “the intersection of his art, his sexuality and his struggle for mainstream recognition”.

via Flickr

Smith’s comments come during a debate over whether straight cis-gendered people should be playing LGBTQ roles. Scarlett Johansson stepped down from a trans role after she came under intense criticism.

The debate has attracted a wide range of views, with Cate Blanchett defending straight people in LGBTQ roles. “It also speaks to something that I’m quite passionate about in storytelling generally, but in film specifically, which is that film can be quite a literal medium,” she said.

“And I will fight to the death for the right to suspend disbelief and play roles beyond my experience. I think reality television and all that that entails had an extraordinary impact, a profound impact on the way we view the creation of character.”

However, Darren Criss said that he would no longer play gay roles, in order to allow LGBTQ actors to get the job. “I want to make sure I won’t be another straight boy taking a gay man’s role,” he said.

Mapplethorpe is due out in cinemas on 1 March, 2019.

Related: Matt Smith stars in first trailer for new Robert Mapplethorpe biopic