Clay Aiken has joined the cast of Duck Dynasty and is currently filming season 5 in Louisiana.
In a statement released on its website today, the A&E network said it hired the openly gay American Idol alumnus to increase diversity on the hit show, which follows the lives of the Robertson family and its duck hunting merchandise company.
Aiken will reportedly be working directly under Phil Robertson, who has recently been under fire for anti-gay comments made to GQ magazine. The network says it hopes the pairing will allow A&E to continue the hit show, while still addressing the concerns of the gay community.
“Phil’s comments put us in a very difficult position,” explains Nancy Dubuc, the network’s CEO. “On the one hand we needed to take a strong stand against homophobia and intolerance. But on the other hand we really needed to keep our biggest hit show on the air.
“In the end we decided that we could use this controversy as a teachable moment. Adding a gay character in the series could really help America explore these difficult issues.
“We knew Clay is originally from the South and grew up hunting. So we thought it’d be a perfect match. Hopefully the viewers will agree.”
Premiering in 2012, Duck Dynasty has established itself as a dominant force on television. Last season it set a record for the highest-rated reality program ever broadcast on cable.
Its large audience was reportedly a huge draw for Aiken, whose television career has struggled since he lost Celebrity Apprentice last year.
“When I was approached to join the cast, I have to admit I was skeptical,” he admits. “But I think the best way to fight prejudice is to confront it head on. And that’s what I’ll be doing every day on the show.
“Plus, this will be a great boost for my career. For some reason my albums haven’t been selling very much in rural, Southern areas of the country. This should really increase my exposure.”
Not everyone is happy with the situation, however. Although the Robertsons are contractually obligated to honor A&E’s casting decisions, they don’t seem to be getting along with their new employee.
“Personally I think this is bulls**t,” says Jase Robertson, who runs the company’s manufacturing division. “He’s only been here for two days and already the dogs are walking funny. I don’t like this one bit. Not one bit.”