TORONTO — One of the most popular stars on Russian television has come out as gay — a move that could destroy his career there and put his life at risk.
Odin Biron, 30, is a heartthrob in Russia thanks to his role as Phil Richards, an American doctor trying to adjust to life in Russia, on the medical sitcom Interns.
“I’ve never lied,” the Minnesota native told New York. “Journalists ask, ‘What do you think of Russian women?’ ‘Well Russian women are beautiful.’ ‘Do you have a girlfriend right now?” ‘No, I don’t.'”
Biron said although his close friends and family have known about his sexuality for a long time, this is the first time he’s discussed it publicly.
He has been dating a Kazakhstani filmmaker for about a year.
Russia passed anti-gay legislation in 2013 that prohibits public endorsements or expressions of homosexuality. Gays and lesbian are routinely assaulted, murdered and imprisoned in the country.
Biron’s Interns co-star Ivan Okhlobystin, 48, is outspoken in his condemnation of gay people, even declaring last year he would burn them alive.
“I wanted to go to the station and make a statement that I would no longer work there if Ivan Okhlobystin’s going to be working at this station,” Biron told New York.
He decided against it, figuring he could achieve more by remaining in the spotlight.
On Tuesday, Okhlobystin reacted to his co-star’s coming out. On Twitter, he called Biron “a sodomite” and said he banged his head against the wall “and cursed fate.”
Fans had mixed reactions on Twitter. Many used anti-gay slurs against him but some offered their support. One religious group tweeted an offer to help “cure” him.
Production of the sixth season of Interns is scheduled to get underway in a few weeks. It is not yet known if Biron, currently starring in Dead Souls at a Russian theatre, will be back.
BELOW: Watch a commercial for Interns.