The conventional wisdom in Hollywood is that playing gay can help a straight actor demonstrate his range. The unspoken proviso, though, is that it only works once. Take too many queer roles and audiences -- not to mention casting agents -- will start thinking you're "that way."
Of course, some actors have ignored this advice, including Ewan McGregor, Peter Sarsgaard and Ryan Carnes, who played gay in the comedy film Eating Out and on Desperate Housewives. You can add Gregory Michael to that list. On here! TV's erotic sci-fi series Dante's Cove , he plays Kevin, boyfriend to sweet Toby (Charlie David) and occasional love slave of evil Ambrosius (William Gregory Lee). And on the season finale of ABC Family's teen comedy series Greek, Michael makes his basic-cable debut as Grant, the new gay roommate of out Omega Chi brother Calvin (Paul James).
In the episode, airing June 15, Calvin decides it's time to get a new roommate and is assigned Grant, who comes out to him fairly early on. And though Calvin wants to keep their relationship platonic, their chemistry can't be denied.
"Its starts off as a friendship, though there's a romantic tension there," says Michael. "There are definitely thoughts on both side."
Michael says he's been in similar situations with women, where sexual sparks sneaked into a friendship. "When the tension breaks it's a huge relief," he says. "Sometimes it ends badly, but at least it's out there in the open."
Though he clearly doesn't balk at taking gay roles, Michael admits he wasn't always so confident.
"Before things like Brokeback Mountain, I probably had more reservations about it," he says. "I wondered if I'd be up for it. But as an actor, anything's game. My agent and manager made sure I wanted to do it, but they didn't try to hold me back in any way."
He says he doesn't believe typecasting actors who take gay roles is as prevalent as it once was, in part because of the diversity of entertainment media out there.
"There's all different kinds of shows that appeal to different markets. [Grant and Kevin] aren't the same characters -- they're not really anything alike -- they just share the same sexual orientation. Which is really secondary, anyway."
Greek 's out creator Patrick Sean Smith has made sure Calvin hasn't been the show's token gay eunuch: In season 1 he had a down-low affair with Heath (Zack Lively) that ultimately led to his coming-out. Last season he dated Michael ( Ugly Betty 's Max Greenfield), but their age difference proved too great. Smith also introduced a lesbian subplot this year, when sorority girl Rebecca (Dilshad Vadsaria) shared a kiss with her friend Ashleigh's gay sister, Robin.
How Grant and Calvin ultimately fare will be revealed in the forthcoming third season. For now, though, Michael is ambiguous about his character's future with Calvin.
"I've heard the story line of the two of them as roommates continues," he says, "but whether they're in one bed or two, we'll have to see."
Also a mystery is whether Michael will be returning to Cove. Production for the new season is under way, but the final word on casting hasn't been announced, according to a here! spokesperson.
"I'm just focusing on Greek right now," says Michael. "I don't know what will happen [with Dante's Cove ]."