Dan Byrd: A for Pay

The Cougar Town star opens up about playing a bullied gay high school student in the hit teen comedy Easy A.

BY Brandon Voss

December 21 2010 12:55 PM ET

After a memorable guest arc as Sylar’s young apprentice on Heroes, Dan Byrd showed off his superpowers of droll sarcasm as Travis Cobb, the mama’s boy to Courteney Cox’s hot mama in Cougar Town, which is now in its second season on ABC. Byrd also scored the key role of Brandon, a bullied gay high school student, in the hit teen comedy Easy A. In this modern revamp of The Scarlet Letter, out December 21 on DVD, Brandon begs his friend Olive — Golden Globe nominee Emma Stone — to feign that she had sex with him, news that will end the antigay abuse. As easygoing as expected, the 25-year-old straight actor speaks to The Advocate about Easy A’s “it gets better” message and the promise of gay Cougar townsfolk.

The Advocate: Brandon in Easy A is the first gay character you’ve played. Did you or your representatives have any hesitations about your taking a gay role at this point in your career?
Dan Byrd: I definitely didn’t have any hesitations about it, and I don’t think anybody else voiced any concern either. I’m at the point in my career where I have to take the opportunities that are given to me, and this seemed like a great opportunity. It wasn’t a big part, but it was a pivotal one with good scenes that seemed like a lot of fun. There wasn’t really a question.

Do you feel like actors of your generation don’t worry about getting typecast as gay characters or being falsely perceived as gay in real life?
Yeah, I like to think that those walls are eroded at this point. Personally, it’s not something I consider much at all. But if were to get offered another similar part now, I might think twice about it — not because of it being gay, but because I wouldn’t want to play the same kind of part I just played. I know there’s totally a double standard there, though, because it’s much easier in Hollywood for straight guys to play gay guys than it is for gay guys to play straight guys. It’s not fair, but we’re making progress.  

In most teen movies, gay characters are often just sassy sidekicks who bear the brunt of offensive gay jokes. Were you careful to play Brandon respectfully?
Yeah, everybody was on the same page about that. During the audition process, my interpretation was never stereotypically over-the-top. My inclination has always been to try to be as honest and as truthful as possible, and then the comedy should come out of that. Honestly, I think that’s why I got the job: They wanted to take a more subtle approach to the character.

Tags: television

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