Jeremy Dozier: ’s Leading Man Comes Clean
Starring in his film debut Dirty Girl as Clarke, a bullied gay teenager who finds liberation on a road trip with the high school tramp, actor Jeremy Dozier gets a workout. The 25-year-old La Porte, Texas native gets to sing Belinda Carlisle and Melissa Manchester anthems, do a strip tease in a rural gay bar, and act alongside an illustrious cast of actors including Oscar-winner Mary Steenburgen, William H. Macy, Milla Jovovich, Dwight Yoachim, Tim McGraw, and Juno Temple as the title character. Written and directed by Abe Sylvia, the film (opening today) combines ribald humor with a timely message about self-acceptance, while simultaneously offering a wink to comedies with other unlikely heroines such as Muriel’s Wedding and The Opposite of Sex. Dozier sat down recently with The Advocate to talk about his experience with small-town bullies, how he landed his big break, and why it was important to come out as gay at the beginning of his career.
The Advocate: When did you first decide to pursue acting as a career?
Jeremy Dozier: I wanted to be an actor my entire life, since I played James in James and the Giant Peach in 5th grade. I grew up in a small town in Texas and when you grow up in small-town America you’re supposed to choose something practical to do with your life. People told me it would never happen and I should choose something else. But I kept the dream alive inside and went to the University of Texas and studied theater.
Growing up in a small town, did you experience bullying?
I was picked on, but never to the extent of Clarke. I was an overweight kid so I was teased about that. I really liked high school and was really into studying so I was made fun of for that.
What concerns did you have about coming out as gay at the very beginning of your career?
I definitely had people in the industry tell me it wasn’t a good idea. I think it’s important to be yourself. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m out and proud so we’ll see how it affects my career, but I don’t think it will. In today’s society it’s part of the fabric of who I am. I was born in Texas, I have blue eyes, I play tennis… being gay is just another piece of who I am. It doesn’t define me.
Why were you told it wasn’t a good idea?
People were just concerned I’d be typecast, but I think society is more open-minded. There are millions of gay people out there. I don’t think being gay is the most interesting thing about me.
How differently did you feel when you finally did it?
It was an amazing feeling. I had a really good coming out experience and my family was very supportive. It was a big relief off my shoulders. I did it over iChat. They said they loved me and supported me and all they want for their children is to be happy and find someone to love who’d love them. They said when I find him he’ll be part of the family.
How did you find working with Abe?
I think he’s just unbelievably talented. Because he also wrote the film, if we had any questions about the characters he immediately knew the answers. He was involved in every aspect of the film, from the design of the set to the music. He even went to thrift stores to buy Juno’s costumes. I'm so proud to have been a part of his first film. I think he has such a unique vision and he wrote an incredible script.
Playing a gay teenager, do you feel any obligation to be a role model to other gay teens?
I want Clarke to be, because it's a good story. What we found when the film played at gay film festivals is that gay kids identified with Clarke. I'm really proud to have been part of a project that connects with people that way. It's an actor's dream to play a character that people see themselves in. I definitely hope that Clarke becomes that for people.