Op-ed: Everyone Belongs in BearCity
As the sun set on the “nonofficial” final Sunday of summer, I disembarked from the ferry into the unforgettably enthralling beach town of Provincetown, Mass. For those who haven’t been – you must. For those who have – I know you agree.
My journey to Provincetown actually began a few years ago when a script titled BearCity was passed to me from my agents. At the time I was filming a documentary in Atlanta about my favorite place in the world – Swinging Richards, an all-male, all-nude gay, strip club. Another “if you haven’t been – you must.”
As my schedule was tight, I perused the script and the breakdown for the role of Roger — a sexed-up, consummate NYC “bear” — and said to my agents: “Um, I don’t know if y’all are gay, but I am, and I’m not really a ’bear.’ And I’m working on a project in Atlanta. So maybe we should pass on this.”
A few days later I got another call from my agents saying that the casting director, Zoe Rotter, was passionate about getting me in for the project and really wanted to meet with me. Flash forward to a few weeks later, when I’m sitting in a quintessential West Village restaurant-bar with Doug Langway, the director and cowriter of BearCity, talking about the project and the role of Roger.
I’ve always been a misfit. Check my Twitter account. It’s part of my Twit Bio. Promise. So I’ve always strayed from cliques and groups and labels. As I’ve lived my life on the fringe, I’ve never taken the time to look beyond my preconceptions of the cliques to the individuals that constitute the group.
Doug expressed to me that despite people’s preconceptions — and my preconceptions — of the bear community, it’s an extremely diverse population. Being a “bear” is more about accepting yourself and your body type and embracing your sexuality, no matter your size or shape or age or status. To which I’ve learned to attach the analogy that the bear community includes the entire animal kingdom. That yes, there are bears and grizzly bears and polar bears and black bears and panda bears, but there are also cubs and otters, and wolves and walruses, and seals and silver foxes. And gym rats. The list continues.
And as film is a visual medium, I grasped that it was Doug’s vision to tell a story about a group of friends who visually encompassed the diversity of the community to which he was intrinsically connected. To me, it was a story of a group that had never been portrayed before. I realized it was an opportunity to be part of something that could possibly reverberate within the community for years to come. Something that has a beautiful, positive message about love and acceptance and friendship. And something that, due to the hilariously talented Stephen Guarino and a remarkably talented ensemble of actors, has many moments that are laugh-out-loud, lose-your-shit, pee-yourself hysterical.
Two years later, Doug Langway’s script for BearCity 2: The Proposal arrived. It’s another irresistible story. With quite a few comic gems. And political relevance. As New York State legalizes gay marriage, I propose to my young love, Tyler (excellently portrayed by handsome Joe Conti), and after a few foibles take our grizzly bunch to P-town for a weekend wedding during its infamous Bear Week.
Needless to say, comedy and a tiny bit of drama and conflict transpire to tell a story I am certain is the first of its kind.
BearCity has become a family, and we’re back together again. This go-round I am on board not only as an actor but also as a co-executive producer. Our story has been pegged as the “gay Sex and the City ... with fur.” And I am beyond honored and thankful to have the opportunity to inhabit “my” Samantha and rekindle the friendships and relationships with “our” Carrie and Charlotte and Miranda and our lovers and partners, plus the many furry and nonfurry “animals” in their lives.
I’m very thankful to be reunited with this talented ensemble of actors as well as the industrious crew. And with actors like Kathy Najimy and Richard Riehle joining the ensemble, it’s certain to be an incredible experience.
After the first film premiered at last year’s NewFest in New York City, I spent the next eight months with various cast members and the director traveling around the world with the film. We played to sold-out crowds worldwide. And in our limited domestic release were ranked number 5 in box office reports. Pretty snazzy for something I initially passed on: telling a story of a group of individuals to which I thought I didn’t belong.