Chad's on the case
BY Advocate.com Editors
August 15 2005 12:00 AM ET
By the same token, though, have you felt some frustration at doors being closed to you because you are an openly gay actor? It’s a question that gets asked of me a lot. I’m not naive enough to think that it hasn’t had an effect; I’m sure that it has. The truth is that the doors that get closed probably get closed so far ahead of me actually seeing it that I don’t even know [about it]. I’ve been acting since I was 5 years old. I’ve done five top-10 television series in the last 25 years that I’ve been at this. Are things different now? Yeah, absolutely. My sexuality is talked about constantly [regarding possible projects]. I was told seven years ago, when I came out, that I would never work again, and the truth is that my career is more interesting and fun for me than it has ever been. I love what I’m doing more. So I don’t see it as doors closing. It just seems to me like those [projects that aren’t available to me] are things that I’m not supposed to do. And I’m certain that I’ve had to work probably 10 times as hard to get what I wanted.
If this is your first gay role, your love scene in the movie was the first time you’ve done one with a guy, wasn’t it? [Brightens] Uh-huh. I was so excited! I’ve done innumerable sex scenes and love scenes [with women]. My very first kiss in life was with a girl in a kissing scene in a TV show a million years ago that I can’t even remember the name of. [Breathes deeply] I was very excited to finally be able to do a love scene with a man. My partner in the film is straight [in real life], so I was a little bummed about that [laughs]. He had a lot of fear about it, which I get, but I wasn’t willing to compromise on us making a beautiful, sexy love scene. It sounds odd because actors are always saying, “I just wanted to get that part over with.” But I struggled for a long time with understanding that my sexuality was good, and I want beautiful, positive representations of gay male sexuality out there. So it was very important to the director, Ron Oliver, and me to make a really good sex scene that wasn’t gratuitous or gross but was healthy, sexy, and beautiful.
That meant walking through some fears for both of us because inevitably there’s fear, specifically for Sebastian [Spence, the actor playing Timothy], who’d never kissed a man before. It was kind of cool because I was able to be like, “Now you know how I felt” being on the other end [with women]. I was like, “Dude, you’ve got a good imagination. You’ll be fine.” But he was scared, and I don’t think he’d mind me saying that. When it was all said and done, he threw his arms around me at the wrap party and was like, “Thank you, thank you. You’re the only person I could’ve done this with; you made me feel so comfortable.” [Laughs]
The plot of the film revolves around Strachey protecting a gay man named John Rutka (Queer as Folk’s Jack Wetherall) who has dedicated his life to outing other gay men. This must have struck a chord with you, given that you were outed by a tabloid. Absolutely. My character in the story is adamantly against that, and so am I. One of the issues that came up specifically is that when this book was written, outing was very popular in the civil rights struggle. It’s become a bit passé now, so we had to figure out a way to bring [the story] up to where it was relevant.
Do you think it’s a damaging any more to out someone in that way? I don’t know if it’s as damaging on a public level, but I’m certain it’s damaging on a personal level. I’m absolutely certain that forcing any young person or not-so-young person into dealing with the issue when they aren’t ready to or simply don’t want to is damaging to the soul. It’s just not right.
In dealing with Rutka especially, the script is often quite direct in speaking to gay issues. There’s not a lot of finessing when he starts preaching about gay issues surrounding medical care, say, or the indifference of local police. What I think is interesting is that you get this Rutka character, who’s a grandstander—“The medical system is this and does this and this”—[and] you oftentimes get me standing there rolling my eyes. It’s not that Donald doesn’t think that those things [Rutka rails against] are true. He agrees, but he lives in a very different world than Rutka. Donald and his partner live a very suburban gay lifestyle, and to tell you the truth, a lot of those issues don’t touch him directly most of the time. So it’s easy for him to shrug his shoulders and roll his eyes and say, “God, you’re such a throwback to another time.” So what’s interesting about that to me is not that either side is particularly correct, but the fact is that the issue [of the divide among gay people] exists, and you have some very different perspectives on it.
So if it creates conversation, great. What I liked about it is that we’re at a time when you can go down to gay pride right now and find guys in buttless chaps, drag queens walking the street, and guys dressed in [mainstream] clothes like you have on, saying, “This is ridiculous. What is gay pride all about?” We have the luxury of rolling our eyes right now. It doesn’t mean that this journey is over, but it is a different time.