The Flesh and the Spirit
BY Advocate Contributors
November 23 2011 1:57 AM ET
If you might think actor Mark Cirillo looks familiar, there’s a reason. For years, he’s toiled in small parts in sitcoms such as Will & Grace and How I Met Your Mother as well as popular gay-themed films such as Girls Will Be Girls. And he boasts an impressive pedigree — he’s the great-great-great maternal grandson of President Ulysses S. Grant. Now Cirillo gets his most challenging role yet and delivers a finely tuned performance as Ryan, a closeted gay man studying theology in Joshua Lim’s new film, The Seminarian (in select theaters November 25). Here, examining his instincts for complicated characters, he talks openly about baring all for his art and whether certain actors should open the closet door.
The Advocate: You play a closeted theology student caught between an unfinished thesis and unrequited love. What attracted you to the role?
Mark Cirillo: I wanted to play a character that stands at the opposite end of the spectrum from my personality. And I liked that Ryan had to struggle deeply in profound ways to rectify who he is with what he was taught. That resonated with me on so many levels, from the sexual to the religious.
Do you know any gay seminarians?
Actually yes, a few. Aside from the film’s writer and director, Joshua Lim, several gay seminary students assisted in the making of the film. I’m grateful that there was always someone on set to answer my questions about God and sexuality. Luckily, I also had two weeks of intense, daylong crash courses in evangelical Protestant Christianity before we shot even one day of footage. By the end, I could believably say certain lines and really know what I was talking about.