Breaking the Taboo

By Paris Barclay

Originally published on Advocate.com August 09 2011 4:25 AM ET

[This is an archived interview that was first published in the September 3, 2002 issue of The Advocate.]

  So there I was in London, thumbing through the June issue of Gay Times, the closest thing the United Kingdom has to The Advocate, when I'm startled on page 29 by Luke Evans. Three-dimensionally handsome, the 23-year-old actor costars in Boy George's musical Taboo, the hit West End show chronicling George's rise and fall and rise again. It isn't just the photograph — it's what he says that leaves me slack-jawed: "People come up to me in pubs, gay pubs mind you, and can't believe that I'm gay," he says. What did he just say? I'm thinking. Did this young actor in his first major role really announce that he's gay? Doesn't he have handlers or agents who know what's best for him?

Off I went to see the show — and found Luke to be a fine actor, a terrific singer, and completely at home playing the straight guy who's the object of the Boy George character's affections. So I decided I'd better talk to this young man — before Luke Evans becomes a household name here in the States and changes his mind!

Has Taboo met your expectations for your career?
Definitely. I hadn't really done a lot before Taboo. I graduated from drama college 2 1/2 years ago, played a small part in a musical called La Cava in the year 2000, then I did 15 episodes of a soap. I played their first baddie in a new soap on telly. And I didn't do anything for eight months, so this is my big break.

Where did you grow up?
I come from south Wales. A place called Aberbargoed.

A small town?
Oh, very small, yeah, too small for me and my ego! [Laughs] I had a very difficult upbringing. I was brought up as a Jehovah's Witness. And I'm the only child. And my mom and dad still are Jehovah's Witnesses, so I was never able to sort of naturally come out. It would have been very difficult anyway, even if my parents weren't Witnesses, to come out in the village that I was brought up in. [But] they both know now and they're both fantastic and they love Taboo. My mom and dad said, "You know, you're our boy and no matter how much we love our religion and our God, we're sure he's going to understand that we can never turn our backs on you."

How did you decide you're going to be open about your sexuality?

Well, it was something I'd spoken to a lot of people about, including my boyfriend at the time — we've broken up now — but at the time when I just got Taboo, I knew that even though my part was a straight character everybody knew me as a gay man, and in my life in London I never tried to hide…. I knew I was going to have to do interviews with gay magazines; I knew this was going to happen. So I thought, Well, I'm going to have to be open. It's who I am. And if people don't like it, then I don't want their jobs. I've never been a very good liar, which is another thing…

Aren't actors all good liars?
Well, it's not nice. Look at George Michael, let's say. I mean, he hid it for so many years, and then he gets found out in a really awful way…. Y'know, you start a slippery slope downward, and I didn't want to start that at 22. If that means I'm going to be a poor man at 60, then at least I've lived a happy, open, gay life and not had to hide it from anybody.

I've had letters from people who have read my articles and said, "I'm a guy, I'm 18, and I've not come out to my mom and dad yet, but it was so nice to hear your story, and you know, I wish your article would have been longer, because you gave me hope for the future." As far as I'm concerned it's not a big issue. You come out, that's it, the end.

Do you think it might be different in the U.K. than in America?

Well, it depends on how big you are. It's not a big issue, and it's never going to be a big issue for me; whether I'm successful or if I weren't successful, at least I'll never have that skeleton in the closet they can rattle out. Y'know what I mean?