Meet the boys
BY Alonso Duralde
September 05 2003 12:00 AM ET
Tell me a little about how you got involved in the first place. Was there a casting call? How did you find about the show? I was working for the GLBT center in San Diego, and part of my job is going out and talking to people. So I went out to one of the bars here and I was approached by the casting directors and they told me the premise of the show, or rather the premise of the show that was told to the gays. [Laughs]
Right. And at first I said no thanks, but then I kept seeing them around that weekend, so I went in for the first round of interviews, and it kind of went from there. One round was a questionnaire, then we had a psychological profile and all these tests, and then the next thing I know, I’m in Palm Springs.
Did you seriously think you were going to meet somebody on this show, or was it sort of a lark? The idea of 15 gay men and one bachelor: I thought, Well, there’s going to be a lot of screening; I think it might be actually wonderful to go and see. It’s kind of like having a screening process done for you, and it’s an chance to meet some quality, high-caliber gay men. I thought it would be a great opportunity. And in eight days, you’re not going to find the love of your life, but I definitely went there seeking out potential.
As the casting process went along, did you get the impression that they were looking for guys who were going to appeal to James, specifically, or were they just interested in a certain physical type of gay man? I don’t know exactly behind the scenes in the casting process what look they wanted. I think definitely they were looking for people they thought would get along with James and James would be attracted to. I know they wanted a mix of people that wasn’t too stereotypical or weren’t too “straight”; they wanted a nice mix of ambiguity among the mates in the house. As for all having the same look, yeah, I think it had to come down to finding someone that James was going to be attracted to and was going to have a connection with, and I think across the board we all had a common bond that way, but we also brought a lot of different things to the table. Franklin was much more about wine and intellectual prattling, Brian was a quiet romantic, and I’m more the crazy type, but at the same time, we had a lot of stuff in common that I think James found attractive as well.
There seems to have been a lot of bonding going on among the mates. You guys certainly seemed to be as upset as James was at the end of each episode when people got voted off. It was a quick eight days, but at the same time it was such a heightened emotional state. If you like somebody, you love somebody; if you’re sad, you’re really sad, because it’s high emotional stakes and yeah, there were some great bonds made. What I find very interesting is that the friends that I made right off the bat turned out to be gay men. And I’m not sure if that’s because gay men make friends faster with other gay men or because we picked up a level of untruth, with the straight guys changing pronouns. I’m not sure what exactly happened there, but I found the really tight, tight bonds happened with the other gay men as well. I’m still friends with the straight guys, really good friends, but those really special bonds—with Robb and Brian Hay—all the guys happened to be gay and there was a stronger connection there, which is interesting.
Did you ever forget the cameras were there, or were they just a constant— Three days. That first three days you realize the cameras are always on. And you realize that if you say something interesting, here they come! [Laughs] But after that three days, the wall goes up and you forget they’re there, completely.
How were you informed that there had been this ruse going on with the straight mates? It’s interesting, they waited to tell us after the entire process of the show was done. And they sat us down and told us, “OK, well, there’s a final twist.” And it’s reality TV, you always know there’s going to be some kind of twist. The last day, in fact, I followed the directors around, I would hold on to them and say, “Tell me, tell me the twist, I’m not letting go until you tell me the twist.” [Laughs] So in the end, I was expecting something. I didn’t know if my mom was going to show up or what was going to be the deal. And when they finally told us the twist, it was kinda like “Ooh.” And honestly, it made sense. Because there were certain things I’d picked up on where I was like, “Wait a minute. What kind of gay man are you?” A lot of things fell into place, and I realized why a lot of certain connections were made and why certain connections weren’t made. Certain things all made sense when they told me the twist. When they first sat me down, I thought, Oh great: James is straight, and Andra’s his girlfriend. But when they explained the whole thing to me it was great, it was a very interesting aspect to put into the show.
And of the guys who wound up being straight, which one was the biggest surprise to you? None of the straight guys surprised me. But who I thought was straight was Jason, one of the first guys to get kicked off the show. Maybe it was because I didn’t get to know him very well, but I thought the military thing, just the way he carried himself, I thought he was straight. Also, I thought Darren was straight. so it was fascinating to find out that the gay guys were indeed gay guys. But of the straight guys, I don’t think I was surprised by any one of them. Because I picked up on a few things, whether it would be certain things they would wear, certain things they would say…some of their coming-out stories, I would think, This doesn’t sound quite right.
We would hear you guys talk on the show about the connection you made on the dates, but the way the dates were edited, we didn’t always get to see that on camera. Were you surprised by what got left out? They could only show so much. Six episodes, an hour each, and they had to fit a lot in there. There were a lot of moments that I didn’t see [on the show]. For instance, our final date, we almost got arrested in Palm Springs during the carriage ride because they have an open container law, you can’t drink on the street. [James and Wes had been sharing a bottle of champagne.] That was something the producers didn’t do much research into, so we were getting pulled over by the police and getting tickets written. Also, our limousine crashed into the fountain in front of the leading man’s house. We even got harassed on the street, you could hear some guy yelling, “Hey, hey, it’s the gay Candid Camera!” I mean, things kept happening, and it was great because we kept laughing and laughing. It actually made our date a lot more relaxed, a lot more spontaneous, a lot more fun. So those are things you didn’t see on camera.
James says you’re moving to Los Angeles. Are you planning any post–reality TV showbiz ventures?Yeah, the thing is, part of why I did the show was for the visibility. I think it’s very important for Middle America to see gay men, whether they’re the flamboyant type or more of the normal, everyday types. I think visibility is the most important thing, so I’m very excited about some projects that are coming up. I’ll be doing some appearances at Gay Days [at Disneyland] and I’ve got some other things coming up. I think the fact of being able to be out on a national scale is very important, especially right now, and I welcome any opportunity to be out there. We’re a very diverse group, and if I have the opportunity to help present that, that makes me very happy.
A lot of gay viewers felt betrayed by the show’s twist. Looking back on the experience, do you think the show is a step forward for gay visibility? I really do think so, because I think the idea was to get Middle America to see relationships between men, whether it be straight men and gay men as friends, whether it be gay men in a romantic sense. I think that was a very important step. I see the frustration, and trust me, I’ve had thoughts myself, where I wondered if we were doing the right thing with this show. When I first heard the twist, I said, “Look, I would have liked to have seen maybe just The Gay Bachelor, and just keep it romantic.” But at the same time, I know for sure the twist did bring in a larger audience. One of my best friend’s brothers is a water polo player, very masculine guy, and all his friends are watching. They’re like, “Whoa, oh my God, what’s going on here? Who’s straight? Who’s gay? I don’t know!” It did bring in a larger audience, and I think it got people talking. It was definitely water-cooler talk. When Dan came out and he was straight, people were like, “Can he be straight? He’s too pretty!” They did a very good job of breaking down those stereotypes. Even my parents were guessing who was gay and who was straight. My dad was like, “I think Brian H. must be the straight one,” and then, watching the strip scene, he said, “Well, Franklin seemed uncomfortable.” The fact that he’s watching us do lap dances for James, and that wasn’t even the issue for him, you know what I mean? I think the final version of the show did what it set out to do.
The show got a ton of mileage out of your comment, “Why would you assume I’m gay?” during that last dinner. Did you say that innocently? It was complete innocence, and that’s what I think is so funny. What are the chances that’d be the twist of the show? I just put it out there, and what a jewel—they played it over and over and over again. That’s just me, I’m just a fun, spontaneous type of person who throws things out there. It just worked out perfectly for the show.
On that last date, where James was trying to ferret out the straight guy, did you notice that he was suddenly more inquisitive? Was it different? Absolutely, absolutely. Watching that episode, it made much more sense, because there were a lot of questions. For me, at the time, I didn’t think it was too strange because it was really our first time to spend that much time together, just the two of us, and I knew he had a major decision to make. So it didn’t catch me off-guard. But what’s very fascinating is that he had a strategy, and he was actually sifting through the questions to figure out who was the straight one.
With the cameras off, do you feel you’ve got something viable with James? He’s a wonderful, wonderful guy, and we’re really excited to go to New Zealand. Eight days is pretty much a whirlwind time where you see if there’s potential there or not, and there’s definitely potential. And at this point, our lives are getting grounded after the post–reality TV thing, and yeah, I love spending time with James. It’s going to be interesting to see where things go.