Sean Maher

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After 14 years of being a closeted actor, The Playboy Club's Sean Maher confesses "it's so liberating" to finally come out.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the actor explained why he chose to keep his sexuality a secret from Hollywood for so long...

"I've never been asked about [my sexual orientation] publicly," he put it frankly. "But I would be lying if I said I didn't paint a different picture."

Back in 1997, when the Brian's Song actor first landed in Tinseltown at 22, his then-handlers encouraged him not to reveal his sexuality so it wouldn't hurt his career.

"Right before I left New York I had my manager tell me: 'You need to get a girl on your arm or people will start talking.' I remember telling him: 'I'm gay.' He had no idea," Maher recounted. "And he said: 'All the more reason to get a girl on your arm.' My agent was also like, 'It's best if you keep your options open. Maybe bisexual?' "

Over the years, Maher slowly began to come out to his closest friends, and even played a gay character in 2006's Wedding Wars, but he never disclosed it publicly for fear he would miss out on leading roles.

But his secret began to wear him down.

"It was so exhausting, and I was so miserable," he remembers. "I just kept going on and on painting this picture of somebody I wasn't...And you just don't realize that it's eating away at your soul."

Maher finally decided to reveal the truth after landing a role as a closeted gay man named Sean on this season's new drama The Playboy Club: "I want to use it as a platform to come out," he said.

The thesp says he has no regrets about waiting 14 years. So why now?

Because of family, which includes his partner of nearly nine years, Paul, and their two adopted children, Sophia Rose and Liam Xavier.

"I have these beautiful children and this extraordinary family," he says. "And to think in any way shape or form that that's wrong or that there's shame in that or that there's something to hide actually turns my stomach."

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