Garret Dillahunt Tackles Gay Adoption in Any Day Now
George Arthur Bloom's screenplay about a tough as nails drag performer in 1970s Brooklyn who takes in a disenfranchised kid just as he's finding love with another man was, at one point, going to star Tommy Lee Jones and Sylvester Stallone. Fortunately for viewers, by the time that script was dug out of Bloom's desk a couple of years ago — by his son, who gave it to his former high school classmate, filmmaker Travis Fine — a whole new cast was needed. The film that came of it, Any Day Now, which hit theaters today and already has a slew of awards from the festival circuit, follows The Good Wife’s Alan Cumming as Rudy, Raising Hope’s Garret Dillahunt as the closeted attorney, Paul, who becomes his partner, and Isaac Leyva as Marco, a teen with Down syndrome who’s abandoned by his drug addict mother and taken in by the men. The trio must fight a biased legal system to adopt Isaac, a heart wrenching storyline that will resonate with many viewers, especially the many of the 2 to 6 million LGBT people who say they’d like to adopt.
“The story of Any Day Now may take place in the past, but the discrimination against same-sex families it depicts is unfortunately still all too real in some parts of our country,” said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. It’s also real for kids like Marco. As of 2011 there were 104,236 children in foster care awaiting adoption, many of them considered special needs because they are black or Latino, older than infants, or have some form of mental or physical disability. Graddick continues: “What the film’s remarkable performances and eloquent script reveal though, is how unjust and hurtful to same-sex couples and children that discrimination really is.”
Dillahunt, who plays the often clueless but nonetheless progressive and lovable Burt Chance on Raising Hope, isn't new to playing gay and bisexual characters. But this film, he says, is special. He tells us why.
I found Any Day Now completely absorbing and really moving and viewers seem to have a real, visceral reaction to the film. Why do you think that is?
I guess, hopefully, they find it honest and relatable. I think, despite the specific circumstances these characters are going through, there's a lot of common ground.
This is a story about family, the foster care system, disability, coming out and so on. But at the heart it’s a love story between your button down closeted character, Paul, and Alan Cumming’s free-spirited drag performer, Rudy. What was most critical to you to get across in the film?
That these were living, breathing human beings. The whole thing will fall apart, obviously, if the audience doesn't believe the love between these two, seemingly, opposites.
Ten years ago, we used to ask straight actors if they had any hesitation about playing a gay role but not so much any more. So I’m wondering what made you want to take on this role?
I just thought it was a challenge. I like mixing it up as much as I can, and Paul was much different from the previous character I'd played, and I thought it would be fun to tackle. The icing on the cake is that it's a beautiful story with themes that are, sadly, still resonant today. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that?
I love that while Paul is really navigating new territory as a gay or bisexual man, the film certainly isn’t just a traditional coming out narrative. There’s no big “I am gay” scene, for example. Was there sort of awareness that Paul’s coming out was almost secondary to what was happening with Marco?
Yes. I think the center of this story is Marco. Rudy is an incredibly tough guy — he's a drag queen in the '70s, for Christ's sake. It is almost unsurprising that he would take Marco under his wing. I think his comfort as a gay man is something Paul envies. Probably one of the things that attracts him to Rudy, this unapologetic "gayness" and willingness to fight — it brings out Paul's quieter strength. And the catalyst is this boy.
It’s hard not to think this film as a modern Kramer vs Kramer. Dustin Hoffman’s character loses his job to care for the kid; Rudy does the same. Hoffman and Streep go to court to battle for custody; Paul and Rudy do the same. Though it’s set in the 1970s, the storyline feels particularly timely as Kramer did when it came out. What do you think of comparisons like that?
I don't mind them. I suppose they're going to happen however I feel about it.
My sister-in-law has Down syndrome so it was lovely to see a storyline about a teen with Down syndrome. Tell me about working with Isaac, who plans Marco in the film.
Isaac was terrific. He was excited and joyful, prepared, and serious. He'd shush Alan and I if we were too goofy when Travis was about to call "action." He gives great hugs and listens — which makes him a great actor. He really reminded me why I do this, and how I should do this. He shamed me, truthfully. And I am so grateful.
What about working with Alan. How did you develop enough trust to connect so easily in the film? You have great chemistry.
We got on well, didn't we? We seem like a couple. I wish I had a great story to tell you — some incredible bonding experience or conversation we had prior to filming that clicked everything into place. But we didn't have time for that. We met at the wig fitting and got to work. I guess we're professionals! Sometimes it's easy, though. Alan is real easy to act with. We share a belief, I think, that if you're not having fun, why do it? And it is fun, no matter how harrowing the scene, when it works. And with Alan, it works every time. Heh, he'll love that quote.
Ha. This ain't my first rodeo.
This wasn’t your first queer role at all. You were in Angels in America on stage and then on the series Leap Years you were bisexual (and later gay) and had a romance with your real-life wife, who is herself a damn fine actor as well. What have these roles brought to your life/career?
Money. Millions and millions of dollars. Well, any great role brings a sense of accomplishment and pride. In Angels in America, for example, I felt like I was a part of history. I'll tell you, though, I look back at that script now — all those monologues! It's terrifying. I can't believe I did it. No better writer out there than Tony Kushner. See Lincoln.
You grew up in Washington which yesterday became the first state in the nation to officially have voter mandated same-sex marriage. How does that feel to know your home state is so progressive on this issue?
Stunning. I was as surprised as anyone.
Lastly, despite your rather expansive oeuvre, I always wonder how often people still think of you as the guy who liked to kill prostitutes on Deadwood?
Actually, I get more "droop-eyed" references to the first-season character. David Milch is another great writer. I am a lucky boy, huh?