By Michael Fairman
Originally published on Advocate.com September 09 2009 2:00 PM ET
How do you tell your parents you’re gay? That has been the controversial question that landed One Life to Live in the mainstream press recently. Patricia Mauceri (ex-Carlotta) was fired from the show over her self-proclaimed “religious beliefs” for refusing to perform in scenes where Carlotta found a book she thought was her on-screen son Cristian’s, titled How to Tell Your Parents You’re Gay. Mauceri’s objection seemed to be that a Latina mother would never be accepting of her son’s homosexuality. However, that book actually belongs to Officer Oliver Fish, played by Scott Evans! You see, Fish recently came out to roomies Layla and Cristian, and yes, he was trying to date Layla as well to deflect his internal struggle with coming out. Now it’s Fish’s turn to tell his parents he’s gay! In a series of highly anticipated episodes beginning next week, Fish’s parents, Barbara and George Fish, come to Llanview to visit their son. In a sensational twist on “stunt” casting, Scott Evans’s real-life mom, Lisa Evans, was cast as Fish’s straitlaced, uptight mom ... a far cry from Lisa and her liberal views.
In this Advocate.com exclusive Scott and Lisa Evans open up about their real-life mother-son relationship and Scott’s difficulties with coming out to his family, including his brother, movie heartthrob Chris Evans. The two also preview Fish and Barbara’s heart-tugging emotional scenes. Lisa is known to most of Scott’s friends as “Mom,” so she let me call her just that during our interview. The following is a must-read for all mothers and their gay sons.
Mom, how did you end up playing the role of Barbara Fish?
Lisa: I was visiting New York with some girlfriends and Scott invited me to see the One Life to Live studio where he worked. We also have another close family friend who worked on the show, and he was working that day, also. So I went up to the executive producer, Frank Valentini, who happened to be there that day and we talked for a little bit. A few days later Scott called me and told me that the executive producer called him to ask if I wanted to do the show! And it was that simple.
Had you acted before?
Lisa: I acted in college and in high school, and I run a children’s theater now.
The talent gene runs in the family. Both your sons, Chris and Scott, are very talented!
Lisa: I have talented sons and daughters, and all the children who come through my theater program are very talented.
Scott, how was it having Mom on the set?
Scott: Once we were on the set, it was fantastic. The days leading up to it, I was panicking with excitement and my nerves were going crazy. She got there and I went to her hotel room the night before and we were running lines. It was fun because we were laughing, and my mother is the polar opposite of Barbara Fish. So just hearing some of the words coming out of her mouth was pretty fantastic.
So no mother-son real-life family fights during the rehearsal process?
Scott: The hardest part was my mom separating the fact that I am not actually sad in these scenes. So, if she sees me cry in the scenes, she is not supposed to cry in these scenes as Barbara. But, as my mother, I could see her wanting to cry. She said to me, “I can’t keep the tears in if you are going to start crying.” It was great. The first scenes she was doing were not with me. I was watching and it was the closest thing I felt to being a proud parent. It must have been like how she felt about her children when she watched us onstage while we were growing up. It was cool to experience that.
What can you tell me about Barbara Fish and her stance on gays in the pivotal episodes?
Lisa: Poor Barbara. Barbara is from the Midwest. I think she has led a very sheltered life, and she is very religious and from a very conservative upbringing. However, she adores her son. Now, she is faced with this, and she has this husband who is a former policeman, very conservative and a little bit tempered and a little bit heated. I think she is trying to figure it out between the two of them. She is really torn. She wants to understand what is going on with her son. She wants to be close to him, but she just can’t because it’s not who she is. She wears a sweater set, for crying out loud!
You would never dress like her, right?
Lisa: It was funny. The wardrobe department called and asked me if I had anything in my closet that would work and I started to laugh ...
Scott: I have been hearing about the sweater set since we started ... it was not like, “What were you doing on set?” It was, “I have to wear a sweater set. For God's sake ... ”
Lisa: It is so not me. I am from Massachusetts, please.
Scott, how has this journey been for you playing out Fish’s coming-out? Have you watched back any of the episodes from his struggles?
Scott: I watched a couple of the days I was on from a few weeks ago, and I think it is playing out really nicely. I was delighted to see the scenes with Layla, played by Tika Sumpter. She made my job so much easier, especially in the scenes where we got in the argument and I was coming out. It made me a better actor. So I was anxious to see how those turned out.
Mom, did you see those scenes?
Lisa: That was the day that I was there on the set watching. I was having a meltdown! My poor baby. I just saw my baby really, really crying and all the pain, and Tika was crying. I ran up to him the minute the taping light went off and I said, “Are you all right?” and he said, “Mom, it’s acting.” I thought, Oh, all right. Thank goodness. I paid all that money to NYU, and it worked. [Laughs] It was so powerful and moving.
Was it gut-wrenching for you then to see his performance because you knew how Scott’s experience of coming out in real life was?
Lisa: It was very painful for me, but not for Scott. I run a children’s theater, and I know a lot of young people who have had really difficult experiences with this. So for that, it was gut-wrenching. I was grateful that my own son did not have that experience at all.
Scott said some beautiful things in our last Advocate interview -- that you were very accepting. It can be tough for moms and their sons at times. Scott, was it easy to tell your mom you were gay?
Scott:For me, I wanted it to be more dramatic than it was. When I did tell her, I sat around with her and told her, and then she was like, “Cool. What do you want for dinner?” It wasn’t even anything. People would ask me, “When did you know?” or “When did you come out?” My mother always tells this story: The day she gave birth to me, she looked down and said, “Oh, yay. I got a gay one.”
While Scott was growing up, did you know instinctively that he was gay?
Lisa: It was not something I really thought about. I have a very large number of gay friends, mostly men. It never really was an issue for me if any of my children were gay or not. It was irrelevant. When it really became something that I thought about was when I could see there was something going on inside him. All I cared about was that Scott was not struggling or hurt or knew that the path was clear in terms of his entire family. I just wanted it to be an easy journey and an easy road for him to be able to get there and come out and live the life he wanted to live.
You must have been concerned that for a gay child, it can be harder in society and present different challenges.
Lisa: That is just it. The lifestyle is harder. You have to remember, I live and work in a community that is very open. I mean, we know a gay couple who have children and a white picket fence. In Massachusetts, I know a lot of gay married couples, friends with children, and living their lives as a family. For me, I thought the only hard part would be that transition from Scott being what he was in high school. That was the popular boy, all the beautiful girls loved him, and all his friends were the super jocks ...
Scott:Thanks, Mom, keep going ...
Lisa: .I worried about that transition for him, and as it turned out, he had remarkably wonderful friends. The captain of the football team was upset because Scott did not tell him directly. On the family side it was, “Are you OK? Are you happy? What do you need from us?”
Scott: My little sister, the first thing she said was, “Can we go shopping?” I said, “Just because I am gay does not mean I want to go shopping!” [Laughs]
Scott, what did your OLTL castmates say about working with and meeting Mom?
Scott:They have not shut up about her, which is fantastic. Everyone in the makeup and hair department has asked, “How is Mom?” She became best friends with David Fumero [Cristian]. He still asks about her, and my mom goes, “How’s David?”
Lisa:I love David. He is such a good boy!
What do you think about Scott’s love interest on the show, Brett Claywell [Kyle]?
Lisa: Brett is great. I met him the first day. He is a great guy and funny. I think Scott is very lucky to work with this group of people. Everyone was interesting and caring. I was so happy my baby gets to work in a job he loves. Scott works with great people, and I am “knocking on wood” as we speak.
How many episodes do the two of you appear in together?
Scott: Four episodes. The first episode airs on September 16.
When you got scripts about Fish coming out to his mom and dad and the other coming-out material, did you have any input into the scripts? Head writer Ron Carlivati and his team seem to be doing an excellent job.
Scott: I got to tell you, I feel so lucky to have this team writing this. Honestly, I got these scripts and I read them one time through. You know it’s well-written because you can read it once and it’s already in your head. This stuff was so easy to do and so easy to say that they made my job great. I could not wait to get on set and play out this material. In respect to this story line, I am having the time of my life.
In the recently aired coming-out episodes of Fish telling Layla and Cristian he was gay, we all needed hankies!
Lisa: My daughter has been in Tika’s position. The joke in our family is, if Scott’s older sister has a crush on a guy, then guaranteed he is gay. Not her husband now, but prior to that. [Laughs]
Scott, if you have a man in your life, would you bring him home to Mom’s house?
Scott: I am really not the relationship type. So, at this point, I have not met anyone that I really want to take to Mom’s. When Mom visits me in New York she hangs out with me and all my friends anyway. We go out to the gay bars together. If one day it happens, I will have no hesitation in bringing someone home.
Mom, your other son is very famous: Chris Evans.
Lisa:My sweet boy, yes.
Scott told Advocate.com in his last interview that it was easy telling everyone in his family except Chris. Did you know about that?
Lisa: I did know about that, and it’s hard for them. When Scott came out to his sister and me, it was right after he left high school and got to NYU. He knew he wanted to identify himself by starting college as a gay man. Carly [Scott’s sister] and I were just sort of sitting back waiting going, “When do you think he is going to tell us?” He wanted to do it in person. Chris is not around as much, and when he is, it’s all family, all the time. So when I knew at one point the two of them were driving together from New York, I said, “Ah, I know this will be it. They have got four hours in the car and that’s really good.” I have to tell you something. Honestly, I have not told this to Scott. Chris came to me several times and went, “So, Mom, is Scott gay or what?” And I said, “You know, that is something Scott is going to have to tell you himself.” And he said, “Well, when is he going to tell me?” I said, “Scott probably needs to do it when he can be alone with you.” Chris went, “OK. Well, then I am going to be make myself available as best I can.”
Scott: That is just it. When I did finally came out to Chris, he said, “I am a little pissed.” I said, “Why?” Chris said, “You told everyone else six months ago. Why did it take you so long?” I was terrified to tell him. I look back on it now kind of laughing hysterically, thinking that I thought I couldn’t.
Gay fans were thrilled that there was an on-screen kiss for Kish. Were you at all trepidatious about the kiss? How did you feel it turned out?
Scott: I think it turned out great. I was nervous. It was tough for Brett at the beginning because he got a part on the show playing a different kind of character, and then all of a sudden he was told he is playing gay. His journey has been different. Brett has been extremely professional, and on getting to the set for the kiss, there seemed on my part no worry, and then our stage manager asked me if I wanted everybody to leave. To me, it did not seem like a big deal because everyone is so close. Then if I looked at it, I was terrified about the kiss. The director yelled, “Cut,” and he said, “Scott you got to get more into it,” and I was like, “Oh, I do?” Clearly, I was nervous in the first take, but I think it came out great. I watched it and I liked the way it came out.
Will Fish’s mom come to terms with his sexuality in the upcoming episodes?
Scott: I think there is a more a resolution with Fish and his mother than with Fish and his father. There is a resolution there, but everything is not better ... but not as bad as it was. There are some very touching scenes that I am very excited to see play out.
Lisa: I am really hoping to see Fish’s father come around. What you will see is something resolved with him and Barbara, but the way it will be left with Fish and his father is not great. I would like to see that change, and people need to see that. There needs to be a change because it breaks my heart to think this may be the way things are with some families. I know that’s true, but it’s hard for me to wrap my head around because I am not familiar with that sort of thing.
Mom, did you take this role not only to work with your son on-screen but in the hope it would help other mothers and their sons struggling with acceptance?
Lisa: Absolutely. There is always the hope. As we always say in our family, “There are things that we cannot believe that still exist,” whether it’s parents struggling with the gay issue with their children or something else. Every bit of gay rights is important to me. When I listen to television news programs, there is still bigotry out there, and I do hope this helps.
Would you do a return engagement to OLTL?
Lisa: I would do whatever Scott wanted me to do. Of course I would.
Scott: Careful what you wish for!
What if she becomes a major character?
Scott: Watch, they will put her on contract before me!
Lisa: My boys did not believe in me before I taped the show, right? What did you and Chris discuss?
Scott: We believed in you; we were just nervous. We know how you get.
Lisa:They were on the phone constantly with each other going, “What do you think will happen? Do you think Mom will crack? Will she fall apart or blow it?”
Scott: I now better be her favorite child. Chris is a lot older than me, but I got her her first job!
Mom, did you watch OLTL prior to this?
Lisa: I work full-time now, but all through high school, college, and the first few years as a stay-at-home mother with my babies, I would watch One Life religiously. Erika Slezak [Viki] is a goddess. I was in her dressing room and using her room to change, and I was afraid to touch anything or sit on anything. I wanted to leave her a note, but I did not want her to think I was crazy. [Laughs]
Once Fish comes out to Mom and Dad, will his coming-out struggles cease?
Scott: No, the struggles have not stopped, and we are still shooting the struggling stuff. They are just telling the story very truthfully and true to real life. Look, Fish has not been nice to Kyle, and that is not going to be skirted away, and they will be dealing with it.
Have you read any negative feedback on the Kish story?
Scott: I have seen some posts on message boards saying, “I can’t believe this! We should get a warning before we see two men kiss,” and for every person that says that, there are another hundred supporters who say something positive about it, and those people tell the others to shut their mouths politely.
Lisa: Between you and me, I have responded to a couple of the boards. People that say, “I don’t want to see that. I don’t want to know what goes on in people's bedrooms.” OK, but they are watching soap operas, and isn’t that what soap operas are about? What’s going on in everyone’s bedroom? I did respond. But I did not put my name! [Laughs]