Chris Diamantopoulos on Top

By Greg Archer

Originally published on Advocate.com October 23 2008 11:00 PM ET

Chris
Diamantopoulos is suddenly on top. After nearly a decade of
guest stints -- from Law & Order to Eli
Stone
-- the 33-year-old actor has landed the plum
role of Debra Messing’s best and gay friend, Rodney,
in the new USA series The Starter Wife. But
it’s not just any supporting role. By the looks
of it, the new show is giving his character plenty of
screen time, a good portion of which revolves around a new
relationship with a high-profile albeit closeted Hollywood
hunk, played by James Black. In an Advocate.com
exclusive, Diamantopoulos reveals his true passion
-- wife Becki Newton (scheming Amanda on
Ugly Betty) -- and why filming those steamy
love scenes with another guy don’t feel that steamy
at all.

Advocate.com:Your character, Rodney, has a great to deal more
going on, now that The Starter Wife has leapt
from miniseries to series.
Chris Diamantopoulos: The miniseries was a
template. Rodney was Molly’s best friend. He was
there to support what Molly was going through, but I
think this time around he’s really a
three-dimensional character. And right off the bat,
he’s gotten into a relationship that he should
be wary of.

Felix. Yes. It’s high-profile guy who is
closeted. Despite the fact that all signs are pointing
to stay away, he kind of goes for it ... and there are
some interesting moments.

How challenging, or is it, to play a romantic role
with another man when you’re not romantically
drawn toward other men?
It’s a good question, and I am surprised
it hasn’t come up more often. The truth of the
matter is, love scenes in general are odd. It’s few
and far between when you are actually attracted to the
people you are doing them with, at least for me, when
I was asked to do heterosexual love scenes in the
past. Frankly, the love scenes with James -- and he’s
a terrific actor -- we both go into it with the same
perspective, which is "Let’s both remain true
to how it is written, and let’s figure out
exactly how to make it authentic." James is straight as
well, and so we look at it in terms of, "How do we
show exactly what needs to be shown and make sure
we’re also within our comfort zones so that we can
figure out how to do it?" I wouldn’t say that
it’s easy. I would say that it’s work.
The love scenes, to be honest, are exceptionally
mathematic. Mechanical. We talk about it, figure it out, so
that when it comes time to do it, there are no
surprises. Does that make sense?

It does. Well, it’s interesting because I played a
gay character on Broadway and it was more of an
implication of "gay" and there was no real
authenticity. Getting into the emotional psyche of a
character, for me, is a lot easier than understanding
what compels them in a physical perspective. What I do
is just look at what compels me in a physical
perspective and then just sort of apply that to the
character. But it’s tricky. It’s not the
easiest thing in the world to do. You have to adapt
your mentality and figure out a way to make it organic.

 

Chris Diamantopulos James Black X390 (USA) | ADVOCATE.COM
   

Sure, but what about those who say, whatever love
scene actors do, that there must be some chance for a
spark? Were you ever nervous about doing a love
scene with a man -- nervous in the sense that it
would trigger something in you that you never thought
was there?
The short answer is no. I’ve always known
I was straight, which is why there has never been any
question. I’ve always been super-comfortable
with the gay community and my gay friends. It’s
always been a clear understanding of who I am, how I
am. There was no trepidation doing this. The only
concern, maybe, was that we show what needed to be shown in
the scene. Like I said, I don’t like ambiguity
in filmmaking or television. I like the writers or
creators to have a clear goal in mind. Fortunately,
this show is headed by some of the best writers in the
business. Rodney’s character is sort of the
moral compass of the show, and I love that
they’ve chosen this gay character as the guy that
sort of equalizes what is right and wrong here.

And things in television have evolved. We’re
living in different times. There are many more LGBT
characters prominent now on television.
It’s about showing real people. One of
the things this show does well, I think, is represent
the gay community as a "regular" community.
What’s fascinating to me is why hasn’t been
that way forever [on TV]. I understand stereotypes. I
understand comedy stereotypes. Ethic, sexual -- I get
it. At the same time, the fact you mentioned that
we’re living in a time where we’re
seeing more [LGBT characters], isn’t it amazing that
not so long ago, we didn’t?

Well, what is nice too is that you’re working
with an actress that helped change that forever.
God. Do you have an hour to talk about Debra? I
would say that if you are a real fan of Will &
Grace,
that you might be able to imagine how much
fun it would be to work with her, but you really
cannot imagine! I mean, this chick has to learn so much
material; she’s nearly in every scene and
she’s on set all day, and let’s not
forget, she’s also a mom -- and a spectacular
mom. I would expect her to need a minute to focus when
she gets on set, but she’s always more prepared
than the guest players are. She knows her lines,
everybody else’s lines; she knows where she’s
going. And she’s funny, has a spectacular sense
of humor, and she can hang with the boys. For me, that
was the hidden lottery ticket. She’s a genius.

Overall, what are you finding most challenging
these days?
Trying to be in the same city as my wife.
She’s in New York, I am in L.A., and
we’re both shooting a series. But that’s not
the most challenging. I would say, keeping up with
what’s happening with what’s going on
outside of this business; what’s going on around me.
I sometimes get so focused on work that I forget
there’s a whole other world out there. 

Chris Diamantopulos X100 (USA) | ADVOCATE.COM
 

Have you been given any great advice lately? I was in Greece, visiting my mom’s
village, and there was this old guy, and he was
exceptionally happy and he seemed fit, one of these guys you
looked at and think, When I am 80-whatever or 90,
can I be like him?
I asked him what’s the
secret of life, and he looked at me and smiled. And
then he made this gesture with his hand on his
shoulder -- like he was brushing something off his shoulder
-- and he said, "Let everything roll off your back."

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve
learned about yourself lately?
I never thought I would have the patience I
wanted to have. When I was younger, I was quick to
respond, but I am learning that age helps. I’m 33
years old. I take a minute to think before I react now ...
but what about you?

Me? Yeah? What have you found out about yourself?

I love that you are asking. Not many people do.
Let’s see, "What’s the most interesting
thing I’ve learned about myself lately?"
Tell me.

It’s a good question. I am glad I ask it to people. Yes, go on.

Well, I am learning that, when in doubt, it’s
probably good to get the hell out of my own way.
That’s a good one.

Yes. Getting out of your own way is a good thing. Sort of like ... not taking ourselves so
seriously?

Exactly. And we do, don’t we? Some of the big
historical figures, those that have made the biggest
effect on the world -- Mozart, Alexander the Great --
you know, they did their thing and they’re gone. I
used to be so tortured over a job or an interview or
other things where I felt the concepts used to so
important. And it’s like, "Dude, really? Oh, my God,
this is so myopic!" I have to say, and I’m not
sure what you’re status is, but ...

I’m gay, single at the moment, and now that
I’ve admitted this singlehood to you, I
think you should start looking for a man for me.
Or a love scene ... ?
Well, I tell you, man, the right partner ...
listen, when I met my wife, Becki, I had sworn off
women. A week before I met her, I literally called my
father and said, "Dad, you’re not getting any
grandkids. Forget about it." I have to say, and
I’m not trying to be cheesy, my life really
began when I met her. She really is my best side.