Dylan McDermott: Scared Straight

The American Horror Story star explains why, even at 50, he’s not afraid to show some skin.

BY Brandon Voss

November 16 2011 4:00 AM ET

A Golden Globe winner and Emmy nominee for playing attorney Bobby Donnell on The Practice, Dylan McDermott won over the grand gay jury for his roles in films like Steel Magnolias, Party Monster, and Home for the Holidays. Now that he’s found another home as the haunted patriarch of American Horror Story, the supernatural FX thriller from Glee co-creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, McDermott explains why, even at 50, he’s not afraid to show some skin.

The Advocate: Are you aware of your gay following?
Dylan McDermott: Gay or straight, the idea of fans isn’t something I normally think about, because I’m ultimately kind of shy. If I start thinking about who does or doesn’t like me, I just get uncomfortable. But I grew up in New York’s Greenwich Village in the ’70s with my dad, so I was exposed to gay people from a very young age. It was definitely eye-opening for me.

And your stepmom is feminist playwright and performance artist Eve Ensler, a lesbian icon.
Oh, yes, so I was raised with a great deal of tolerance and the idea of equality for all. Eve has a lot of gay friends, and I do too.

Then you must know that Steel Magnolias is a major gay favorite.
No, I had no idea. You have to tell me about it.

Seriously? You haven’t lived until you’ve been to a Steel Magnolias viewing party with a bunch of gay men. I’ve literally seen it played on a loop in gay bars.
That’s hysterical. I swear to God, I did not know this. That was my first really big movie, and I loved making it. I’d just made Hamburger Hill in the Philippines, where there were no trailers, and somebody died while we were making the movie. It was a brutal shoot. All of a sudden I’m on the set of Steel Magnolias, where there’s more pink than I’ve ever seen in my life. I was working with movie stars who each had their own hair and makeup people, we only worked eight hours a day, and everybody was always partying and laughing. It blew my mind.

Quoting dialogue from Steel Magnolias is a national gay pastime. What’s your favorite line?
Well, I’ve maybe seen the movie twice. It’s hard for me to watch my own movies, because I look back and think, Oh, my God, I’m a different person. Watching myself is a little unnerving.

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