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.



DAN BYRD MAIN X390 | ADVOCATE.COMBut all of Brandon’s peers seem to know that he’s gay — even Olive’s mom picks up on it immediately — so it would’ve been disingenuous to play him as totally butch. When figuring out how flamboyant or animated to make the character, what conversations did you have with the director, Will Gluck, and the screenwriter, Bert V. Royal? Bert is gay, so I’m guessing he had some insight.
Bert wasn’t on set while we were filming, unfortunately, but I got to talk to him a little bit beforehand. I also talked to Will about it, and it seemed like the style of movie they were trying to make was much more along the lines of an honest John Hughes film, as opposed to some over-the-top teen comedy. So you’re right, Brandon couldn’t be completely butched out, but at the same time, we didn’t want to throw his being gay in people’s faces.

Did any gay friends inspire your performance?
I didn’t really draw on one specific person, but I definitely drew on observations and experiences that I had growing up. The only parts I’ve ever gotten are the ones where I can just look at the sides and know how to do it without thinking too much, and this was one of those things where I just knew how to play it. We’ve all been in compromising situations at one point or another, so I felt like I had a pretty solid platform to work from.

Yet as a working child actor, you didn’t have the typical high school experience.
This is true. Even though I was acting before then, I went to a normal school through ninth grade, and 10th grade is when I started homeschooling. Until I turned 18, 19, and moved out to L.A. officially, I was still hanging out with my group of friends back home in Georgia, so I sort of got the idea of high school dynamics and politics.

Could you relate to the bullying that Brandon endured?
Well, I’m from Marietta, a relatively small community about 20 minutes outside of Atlanta. I wouldn’t say that people were closed-minded, because there was a lot of diversity and I surrounded myself with people who were pretty open, but the fact that I was an actor set me apart from everyone else. Some people didn’t know how to react to me acting, which sort of alienated me in a weird way, and I didn’t quite know how to react to them acting weird. But I got off really easy considering what some kids are forced to go through all the time.

Around the same time Easy A came out in theaters, Dan Savage’s It Gets Better campaign launched in response to the rash of gay suicides. When you were filming the movie, did you have any idea how relevant it would be?
Not at all. I don’t want to say we got lucky, because it’s obviously a terrible thing that never should’ve happened. But it’s cool that the movie came out when gay bullying was suddenly in the news again, because now maybe kids can look at this movie as something that illustrates something similar to what they’re going through. The movie’s got a happy ending, and so do lives when people stick with them and get through all the bad stuff.

Tags: television