Mitchell Anderson's Second Run

By Jim Farmer

Originally published on Advocate.com February 08 2008 1:00 AM ET

Actor Mitchell
Anderson, star of TV’s Party of Five and
the film Relax…It’s Just Sex,
lives life less in the spotlight these days. He moved to
Atlanta in 2002 to be with his partner of 11 years,
Richie Arpino.

Now 46, Anderson
quips that ''hair stylist to the stars'' Arpino is the
family’s true celebrity. ''He’s practically an
Atlanta institution, much more famous here than I ever
was,'' says Anderson. ''It’s funny, though—I
do occasionally get people who come to my restaurant looking
for the guy from Party of Five.''

Although he
tackled some local stage roles during his first years in
Atlanta, Anderson ultimately indulged in the challenge
of opening MetroFresh, a healthy fast-food restaurant.
''When I realized that keeping an acting career on a
national level was difficult [here], I looked around
for a new career. I had always been a good cook and enjoyed
bringing people together with food,” he says.

Yet the actor was
lured back recently for the play Octopus, a drama
having its world premiere at Actor’s Express,
an edgy Atlanta theater company. In it Anderson plays
one half of an older gay couple who share a night of sex
with a younger pair, only to have the evening lead to
dire consequences involving disease, a sea monster,
and Anderson’s character finding
himself—literally—at the bottom of the ocean.

“We are a
very sexual culture—gay and straight—and
[playwright] Steve Yockey addresses this in a very
interesting way,” Anderson says of the role.
“There are many repercussions of taking sex outside a
relationship. I have seen it destroy couples of long
standing, and I have seen it keep couples together. I
am not here to judge these characters; I think the
play and its outcome speaks for itself. It really gets
people talking about their own morality.”

Back in 1996
Anderson made a statement by coming out at a Gay and Lesbian
Alliance Against Defamation media event. Looking back, he
has no regrets about his decision to be public with
his sexual orientation.

“For me,
coming out was a natural progression of the political work I
was doing,” Anderson says. “I feel like
my life changed that day. Pride is a sin, but of all
the things I have done in my life, coming out and being
able to speak for justice, equality, and acceptance is the
thing for which I am most proud. I spent several years
traveling the country, telling my story. Back then, it
was a new story. I was happy and free for the first
time in my adult life.”

Anderson's future
acting gigs will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
“I don't really have plans to go and pursue acting
again, but I have to say, it’s been
enjoyable,” says Anderson. “I am afraid a
little part of me has the ‘bug’ again,
but then I show up in the kitchen at 5 a.m. and the
bug goes away! If the right project presents itself,
it’s not an automatic ‘no’ like
it was for the last three years, but I have to really
respond to the work.”

Politically,
Anderson isn’t nearly the activist he used to be
either. “I feel like my political life is about
living, what I call the quiet activism of everyday
life,” he says. “Richie and I live and work in
a community in which we share our lives—openly
and happily. We are a happy family with our cat Elmo.
We let our world in, and I think that is about as
political as you can get, especially in Georgia.”