Trevor Donovan on ’s Teddy
Rebounding from a shaky first season and a transitional second, the CW’s 90210 is currently riding a creative high, thanks in no small part to Trevor Donovan. As high school jock Teddy Montgomery, he looks every inch the campus hunk. But as was first teased by producers this summer and as viewers have learned in recent weeks, Teddy also has a secret. He’s gay — and extremely closeted. In October 4’s episode Teddy’s internalized homophobia came flooding to the surface when, feeling threatened by former one-night stand turned classmate Ian (Kyle Riabko), he calls him a “faggot” and, later, assaults him.
It’s a plot line Donovan says he’s extremely proud of and, given the headlines in recent weeks about teens killing themselves after being bullied and harassed with antigay comments, a story he thinks is essential to tell. The actor talked to The Advocate about why he was hesitant to tell Teddy’s story, why he is looking forward playing the more intimate scenes, and what it’s like to play a high schooler when you’re in your 30s.
The Advocate: When news first broke that one of the characters on 90210 would be coming out, producers teased that you were one of three guys it could be. Did you know at that point it was Teddy?
Trevor Donovan: [Laughs] I knew.
So you just had to keep your mouth shut?
Yeah. We really wanted to keep it on the down low. But, as you know, it leaked out pretty quick.
Did you think it would leak out as quickly as it did, or did you think you’d have to keep it a secret all summer?
To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure. I was pretty shocked it got out as soon as it did.
What was your initial reaction? Did you have any sense Teddy might be gay, or was it completely out of left field for you?
It was completely out of left field. I definitely had my reservations and my concerns in the beginning. I didn’t want it to be just an in-your-face, gratuitous ratings booster. I didn’t want to be a part of something like that. Talking to the executive producer, we were on the exact same page. We really wanted to tell the internal struggle, the coming-out story. That’s really important. How he deals with it internally and how his peers, his friends, family, how they also respond to it. Once we talked about how it was going to be written, I was very excited about it. Not only for me as an actor, but to shed some light on how difficult it can be. It’s been so good, and I’m so impressed with the writing staff and production. Everything has gone in the right direction.
I saw your “It Gets Better” video. and obviously this story is happening at a very timely moment. Were you shocked to learn of all the teen suicides happening in schools, or was this an issue you were pretty aware of?
Yeah, I mean, I don’t think this is necessarily a new issue. For whatever reason, it’s coming to the forefront of the media. Partially having to do with Dan Savage launching the “It Gets Better” campaign, it’s bringing more attention to it. It’s such a tragic, tragic thing. The fact that my story line is coinciding so accurately, I think it’s just an opportunity to really help these kids and hopefully, potentially, save people’s lives.
Before this story line, would you say that gay rights and gay issues were on your radar?
definitely. I grew up in a very small town where I was not exposed to
gay people. I’ve been in L.A. now for 11 years. In all of my acting
classes, in my life — it’s become an issue I’m very well aware of. I
have a lot of friends who have gone through the same sort of thing that
Teddy’s going through, so it’s definitely an issue that I’ve been aware
of for quite a while.
Ideally, where would you like to see this story line go?
The story line itself? Just as this “It Gets Better” project is trying to show, as difficult as it is to go through the self-realization and coming out, once you do, your life is going to be so much better. You’re going to be so much happier if you’re true to yourself, and you’re going to make other people happy. It’s just so important to not deny who you are. The “It Gets Better” project hopefully makes it better for those kids to live.
Obviously, relationships and sex are a big part of 90210. When the story line goes there with Teddy, is that something you’re ready for?
Heck, yeah. I’m an actor, this is what I do. I’m telling a story, and it wouldn’t be realistic if we didn’t go there. I have no problem with that at all.