BY Ari Karpel
August 11 2011 9:15 PM ET
Secretly, Kalup Linzy wanted to totally queen out the second he spotted Criminal Minds star Shemar Moore on the red carpet at the Daytime Emmys. If the performance artist turned soap star had his druthers, he would have jumped up and down and squealed with joy.
Instead, he held back. “At that moment, I thought, Don’t get too gay, chile!” drawls Linzy, hyper-aware that E!—which was broadcasting live—could catch him in the background drooling over the hunky actor better known for his role on The Young and the Restless. “I had to take it down a notch. I thought I was going to have an anxiety attack.”
Linzy should have worked it. As the night wore on, he saw how the broadcast is produced for the audience at home rather than those attending in person. “Everyone knows each other,” he marvels. Realizing that suddenly made the vast daytime TV universe, which the rural Florida native had grown up watching religiously, come down in size.
“I was like, Oh, this is the art world. These worlds are so small,” he explains. “But when they get amplified in the media, they get really blown up. I should have just taken all the fucking pictures I wanted to take.”
But he’ll be back. Those tiny spheres of art and soap operas, different as they are from each other, have at least one thing in common: They’ve taken a shine to Kalup Linzy (his first name is pronounced KAY-lip). The art school–trained performance artist got his start making underground videos inspired by his passion for soaps, a love of the works of Andy Warhol and John Waters, and a burning desire to explore theories of race, class, gender, and sexuality. “A star is born,” declared The New York Times in 2005.
His breakthrough piece was All My Churen, a semi-autobiographical series of videos that send up soaps and Southern black culture, in which he played all the roles, including women named LaQuavia and Labisha. Linzy’s conceptual bent caught the eye of James Franco, the only young Hollywood A-lister to boldly toy with sexual identity as well as the bounds of art and commerce. Franco’s stardom, his connections, and his own offbeat performance art persona — the aptly named Franco — helped catapult Linzy from gallery darling to General Hospital guest star, playing his alter ego, Kalup Ishmael. In one of his episodes, Ishmael sang “Route 66” onstage at a nightclub to an audience of Port Charles’s youngest and hottest, which left the television outsider starstruck and unnerved.
“I blanked out a couple times, and you don’t get that many takes,” he says. “A lot of [the actors] have been on other soap operas, so I was like, This is insane.”