When Mean Girls arrived in theaters 10 years ago, few expected it to become the cultural phenomenon it is now — least of all star Daniel Franzese, who gave life to the breakout gay character Damian.
"You certainly hope when you pour your heart into something, that people will respond," the 36-year-old actor writes in a letter to his younger self on IndieWire. "But to paraphrase Gretchen Wieners, 'We can’t help it that we’re so popular.'"
The adult actor then asks his younger self, "So, why the hell did it take me so long to come out of the closet?"
In both the letter and an appearance on syndicated show Dish Nation, Franzese talks about coming out as gay 10 years after his character was caustically labeled "too gay to function" in the titular mean girls' Burn Book.
Explaining the long delay, Franzese says he hit a "gay glass ceiling" in casting after Mean Girls' release. "When I first became an actor, I wanted to play lots of roles — guidos, gangsters and goombahs were my specialty," he writes. "So, would I be able to play all of those parts after portraying a sensitive, moisturizing, Ashton Kutcher-loving, pink-shirt-wearing kid? I was optimistic. Hollywood? Not so much."
He also describes being "pissed" at Damian, leading to a year and a half of celibacy and bringing a female date to the Mean Girls premiere as an "unwitting beard."
So why come out now? In the Dish Nation interview, scheduled to air tonight, Franzese cites the 10th anniversary of the film as the primary motivating factor.
"More and more people are coming up and talking to me about it again, and especially adult gay males, some in tears," Franzese says. "The reason I wanted to do it was that I didn't see a young, gay, chubby representation of myself. ... That meant a lot to a lot of people."
Franzese ends the IndieWire letter with a smart post-script rebuke to those who quote one of the film's most famous lines too often. "I hate it when people say I’m 'too gay to function.' I know you do, too," he writes. "Those people are part of the problem. They should refrain from using that phrase. It really is only OK when Janis says it."
Watch clips from the Dish Nation interview below.
On joking about coming out as news:
And reading an excerpt of the letter to himself: