BY Brandon Voss
October 13 2010 4:00 AM ET
Ever since his Broadway breakthrough as a blue-collar stripper in The Full Monty, Patrick Wilson hasn’t stopped shedding his second skin on screen. But as he promotes two comedy roles—a castrated cad in the recently released Barry Munday and Rachel McAdams’s love interest in Morning Glory (in theaters November 12)—the 37-year-old father of two explains why he hasn’t gone gay since earning Emmy and Golden Globe nods for his portrayal of closeted Mormon Joe Pitt in the HBO miniseries Angels in America.
The last time you spoke to The Advocate was for a cover story on HBO’s Angels in America in 2003. What impact did the success of that project have on your career?
I was actually just at a Starbucks in Astoria, Queens—my wife had an audition near there—and on my way out, this guy goes, “Excuse me, weren’t you in Angels in America? Nice to meet you!” However many movies I’ve done since then and no matter what movie’s out in the theaters at the time, I still get recognized more from Angels than anything else. It’s odd to talk about such an important piece of writing and television as something that’s part of my résumé, but it really was a great steppingstone for me into the movie business. I have a lot of actor friends who never get the chance to chew on that kind of material, so it put me in a different light in Hollywood’s eyes, like, Wow, he must really be an actor!
As an accomplished Broadway performer, were you aware of your gay fans before Angels?
Well, remember I did The Full Monty, so yeah, I was pretty conscious of the gay fans. [Laughs] But no amount of musicals can compare to the importance of Angels in the gay community, so I do think I gained a whole new legion of fans.
What does the support of the gay community mean to you?
It means a ton to me, and it’s something I take a lot of pride in. It’s silly in hindsight because everyone was awesome and convincing in their roles whatever their own sexual orientation is, but there were a few eyebrows raised before Angels came out because the majority of the male leads were straight. Regardless of the talent pool, people were like, How are they gonna pull this off? I understand the impact Angels has had on the gay community, so the fact that they thought I pulled it off was the best compliment I could get. I felt validated. You always hope you’ll have the confirmation of a core fan base; the gay community’s the core fan base of Angels, so that confirmation was a huge relief. Obviously, you don’t make a movie just for core fans, but that’s certainly where it starts.
Tell me about your first exposure to gay people.
I grew up in the ’80s in Florida and I went to a very small private school where nobody was out, even the people you sort of thought were probably gay. Honestly, I didn’t grow up as the most liberal, open, free-loving person—just out of ignorance, and I’m not ashamed to say that. I also had only one black person at my school, so when I got to college, it was like, Wow, a lot of gay people, a lot of African-Americans… As I get older, raising my sons, I think how great it is that we live in New York around every kind of person, because that exposure’s something I didn’t grow up with. I don’t blame my parents because they’re very open people, but the South of the ’70s and ’80s was a pretty conservative environment no matter how liberal you wanted to be. That said, I grew up around the Episcopal church—my mother was a choir director—where you can be gay and serve, which my parents were extremely open to. We weren’t really exposed to gay people except through church, which is kind of funny.
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