’s Life Goes On
BY Jeremy Kinser
October 12 2010 8:25 AM ET
Trevor, a short film from 1994, follows a flamboyant, Diana Ross–obsessed teenager (memorably played by Brett Barsky) who, after realizing he’s gay and being ostracized by his friends, attempts suicide. While recovering in the hospital, Trevor meets a gay teenage candy striper who encourages him to live.
The humorous, affecting film (written by James Lecesne and produced by Randy Stone, and Peggy Rajski, who also directed) touched an emotional chord with viewers who related to the universal story of an outsider looking for acceptance. Trevor won numerous awards, including an Oscar for best live action short film. Its greatest impact, however, was motivating its filmmakers to found The Trevor Project, a round-the-clock suicide prevention helpline for LGBTQ teens.
Barsky, who is straight, works behind the scenes in the entertainment industry and is the married father of two daughters, speaks with The Advocate about the making of the film, its legacy, and offers advice for gay teens.
The Advocate: How did you get cast as Trevor?
Brett Barsky: I auditioned for it in New York. At first my parents were a bit leery because it was a gay character and I was 12 going on 13, but I auditioned for it. The casting director called my mother in and she gave her the script and asked me to come back and meet with the director in two weeks. I went back and met Peggy Rajski and auditioned for her and got a second callback with Peggy and Randy Stone and James Lecesne. They offered me the part right there.
Did your parents have a discussion with you about playing a gay character at such a young age?
Yes. First they wanted me to be aware of what being gay was. I kind of had an idea, but I got the whole sex talk during that period before I filmed the movie. My parents told me that people are different and you have to respect who everyone is. That’s how I understood it.
As a straight teenager did you have any reservations about playing such a flamboyant character?
No. My parents read the script and decided there was nothing wrong for a 13-year-old to do. There was no nudity and nothing graphic. It was innocent, for the most part.
How did you rehearse the Diana Ross impersonations?
[Laughs] I rented her films Lady Sings the Blues, Mahogany, and The Wiz. So basically watching those movies and listening to songs by The Supremes is how I trained for it. For my second callback I sang “Stop! In the Name of Love.” That’s on tape somewhere out there.
Tell me what you recall about the making of the film.
about a week and a half. They flew me to California, and it was the
first time I’d gotten to work out there. Everyone in the cast was
excited about the film. I don’t think anyone got paid for it, but
everyone was really happy to be making something they felt was so
What do you remember about the response to the film at the time?
When I saw the film for the first time at a screening in California. My mother and I were there for the screening and we sat in the back and people were coming up to me. I didn’t expect any of this, but people just loved the movie. At 13 I didn’t realize the impact it could have, and what it could mean to people has grown on me over time.
Did people who saw the film confuse you with Trevor?
Yes. I got picked on a lot. People said “If you’re playing a gay character, you must be gay.” People would just assume I’m gay.
Watch Trevor below. Continued on next page.