Matt Ross: Bigger Gay Love

Matt Ross, who plays fundamentalist Mormon villain Alby Grant on HBO’s Big Love, goes deep inside his character’s closet and spills some sexy secrets about Alby’s handsome new love interest.




Once you finally knew Alby was gay, did you begin looking to Will and Mark for more insight into your character?
Well, Mark and Will sort of let you do what you’re going to do, and then they comment on it. So we still haven’t had discussions specifically about Alby’s homosexuality, but I just think it’s sort of clear what’s going on: He’s living in a society where he’s not allowed to be what he is. He has his political ambitions, but I think Alby truly does believe in their God and their culture’s beliefs. There’s no way he can be out of the closet and be prophet of a polygamist fundamentalist organization, so I don’t know what that’s going to mean for Alby’s future.

When you found out that Alby would have a love interest this season, did you as a straight actor see that as a challenge?
No, because love is love. The challenge for me was just making the emotional adjustment to being more emotionally present. He has many wives and he has children, but he’s obviously not heterosexual, so he’s clearly suffering a great deal. I always thought of Alby as this sort of junkyard dog who’s been kicked and beaten for his whole life by his father, so I had this idea of him as this emotionally disturbed, soul-deadened individual until I learned that he was living this secret life. To open that up and actually feel love was difficult for me to navigate.

The gay community appreciates representation on TV, but not so much when the gay character’s a ruthless villain like Alby. Will having a love interest make Alby a more sympathetic character?
That’s an excellent point, and I hope so. I’m clearly built as an antagonist on the show, so when his homosexuality began to be sketched in, I worried about that too, because you don’t want to portray a community’s negative characteristics. But then I also thought, Well, we’re not a public service announcement; we’re a narrative drama and people are complex. I applaud what we’re doing because it’s more truthful not to worry so much about creating a positive image of a gay man, but instead try to create a complex image of a man who happens to be gay. That’s at the heart of what we’re doing here. Alby’s not defined by his homosexuality, and I think that’s a very mature, evolved way to write drama.

Mark Olsen has said that he anticipates your story line causing controversy in the way it shows the relationship between the Mormon Church and its gay members. Can you elaborate on that?
It’s one of those things that people just don’t want to talk about, frankly, because they don’t know how to deal with it. I grew up around a lot of Mormons, but none of my close friends are Mormons, so I can’t predict what their reaction will be. I don’t even know if they watch the show. But just looking at statistics, there have to be gay people not only in the greater Mormon Church but also in the fundamental branches. I hope that we’re accurately showing what it would be like to have to hide your sexuality because of religious necessity.

Tags: television