By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com August 15 2005 12:00 AM ET
On a sunny July
afternoon in Los Angeles, Chad Allen hovers over his
laptop, typing out some last-minute e-mails as its speakers
bathe him in a continuous stream of techno-trance and
Rufus Wainwright. We’re in the offices of
Mythgarden, the production company Allen formed with
producer Christopher Racster and Queer as Folk
actor Robert Gant, in a converted residential house on
a quiet one-way street near the Paramount Studios lot.
Allen is about to
debut Third Man Out on Here TV, the first of
what he hopes will be several made-for-TV movies based on
the popular Donald Strachey detective novels. The
eight-book series, penned by Richard Stevenson
beginning in 1981, follows an out private detective and
his longtime lover in Albany, N.Y. Set to air September 2,
Third Man Out gives Allen a chance to flex
his star power and honor his politics too.
such a positive member of our community,” says
Meredith Kadlec, vice president of original
programming at Here TV. “He does have that
energy that’s a little bit tough and scrappy, but
he’s also great-looking and a really fine
actor. As soon as we talked to him about the project,
we all realized this is a perfect fit.”
Strachey is only the most immediate of the conversation
topics on Allen’s crowded plate this afternoon.
He is working with all three gay cable
channels—Here TV, Viacom’s Logo, and Q
Television—in one capacity or another, and
Mythgarden is developing feature-film projects with
Robert Gant, Judith Light, David Mixner, and David Duchovny.
And then there are Allen’s recent—and,
he says, profound—experiences in Panama making
the film End of the Spear and in the Ecuadoran Amazon
after shooting wrapped. Scheduled for a January
release, Spear is a $20 million indie based on
the true story of a Christian missionary played by the
gay Allen, a role that he confides he landed in part thanks
to The Advocate.
It has been a
busy year for Chad Allen the actor, and it promises to be a
busy one for Chad Allen the producer. The former child
star’s rapid-fire optimism makes it clear that
for Allen, it’s all good.
You’ve said you hadn’t read the books when
you were first approached about Third Man Out. So
what was it that first hooked you into doing it?
I was immediately entranced at the idea of
[Donald’s] relationship [with his partner,
Timothy Calahan]. It’s a fantastic, real, gay,
monogamous, loving relationship. They have their ups
and their downs, they’ve been together for a
long time, they’re really dependent on each other,
and I just love that. And Donald was a great
character, a detective in the classic sense of an
old-school private eye detective. Gosh, it’s been a
long time—to even say “private eye”
anymore—you don’t even hear that. And
that’s what Donald is—and he’s gay. We
get to make this fun movie with all those classic
elements, like Columbo or even the noir films
from the ’40s, but our character gets to go home and
get into bed with a man.
The Strachey books aside, my concept of a “private
eye” is a serial loner who lives to
flirt—and then some—with a continuous
string of femmes fatales. Was that a consideration
when you were making it?
One of our major goals was to create a really
powerful, loving gay relationship that hasn’t
really been done in television. Donald doesn’t
have his life together. I think he’s good at what he
does, but without his partner he would probably fall
apart. They are a team, in a classic way like the Nick
and Nora [detective] series [from the Dashiell Hammett
novel The Thin Man and the movie series it spawned]
and those old noir detective films.
It was the thing
that I liked more than anything else about the series,
to be perfectly honest—that relationship is what made
me decide ultimately to do it. I’m not entirely
certain that it would have been as interesting to me
had it just been Donald on his own. I want to bring
this relationship to the world. We don’t have enough
examples of committed, loving gay relationships that
work out there.
you’re sitting in my office at Mythgarden, and our
company is entirely dedicated to turning the page on
gay and lesbian storytelling in film, television, and
theater. We believe that it’s time that our stories
can be told fully: good relationships, real relationships,
honest characters, in all of the genres of
storytelling—fantasy, fiction, fairy tales,
great mysteries, adventure films, and honest drama. [See
sidebar for a full list of Mythgarden’s
upcoming projects.] That’s what I love about
acting, what I love about great stories. I think that is
what is going to appeal to a lot of people.
The producer of the movie was telling me how great it was
to have an openly gay actor play Donald Strachey.
Was that important to you as well?
Oh, man, I’ve wanted to play a gay
character for 10 years. I’ve always been told I
wasn’t gay enough, quote-unquote, to play gay, even
though there have been a lot of [gay] roles that I
would like to play. So, other than theater, this is
the first gay character that I’ve ever played. And
yeah, it’s really important. Apparently, there was a
writers’ panel going on at Outfest the other
day, and they were talking
about—[sighs]—how difficult it is to
get gay actors to play gay roles, and all this crap
that sounds like it’s from another decade to me.
I think we’re in such a very unique, beautiful time
when we can finally tell our stories. We can finally
be out of the closet and be successful working actors
if we’re all willing just to show up. And it’s
happening. [See sidebar for the story on Chad’s
role as a Christian missionary—a role he landed
in spite of, or perhaps because of, his sexuality.]
By the same token, though, have you felt some frustration
at doors being closed to you because you are an
openly gay actor?
It’s a question that gets asked of me a
lot. I’m not naive enough to think that it
hasn’t had an effect; I’m sure that it has.
The truth is that the doors that get closed probably
get closed so far ahead of me actually seeing it that
I don’t even know [about it]. I’ve been acting
since I was 5 years old. I’ve done five top-10
television series in the last 25 years that
I’ve been at this. Are things different now? Yeah,
absolutely. My sexuality is talked about constantly
[regarding possible projects]. I was told seven years
ago, when I came out, that I would never work again,
and the truth is that my career is more interesting and
fun for me than it has ever been. I love what I’m
doing more. So I don’t see it as doors closing.
It just seems to me like those [projects that
aren’t available to me] are things that I’m
not supposed to do. And I’m certain that
I’ve had to work probably 10 times as hard to get
what I wanted.
If this is your first gay role, your love scene in the
movie was the first time you’ve done one
with a guy, wasn’t it?
[Brightens] Uh-huh. I was so excited!
I’ve done innumerable sex scenes and love
scenes [with women]. My very first kiss in life was with
a girl in a kissing scene in a TV show a million years ago
that I can’t even remember the name of.
[Breathes deeply] I was very excited to
finally be able to do a love scene with a man. My partner in
the film is straight [in real life], so I was a little
bummed about that [laughs]. He had a lot of
fear about it, which I get, but I wasn’t
willing to compromise on us making a beautiful, sexy love
scene. It sounds odd because actors are always saying,
“I just wanted to get that part over
with.” But I struggled for a long time with
understanding that my sexuality was good, and I want
beautiful, positive representations of gay male
sexuality out there. So it was very important to the
director, Ron Oliver, and me to make a really good sex
scene that wasn’t gratuitous or gross but was
healthy, sexy, and beautiful.
walking through some fears for both of us because inevitably
there’s fear, specifically for Sebastian [Spence, the
actor playing Timothy], who’d never kissed a
man before. It was kind of cool because I was able to
be like, “Now you know how I felt” being on
the other end [with women]. I was like, “Dude,
you’ve got a good imagination. You’ll be
fine.” But he was scared, and I don’t think
he’d mind me saying that. When it was all said
and done, he threw his arms around me at the wrap
party and was like, “Thank you, thank you.
You’re the only person I could’ve done
this with; you made me feel so comfortable.”
The plot of the film revolves around Strachey protecting
a gay man named John Rutka (Queer as
Folk’s Jack Wetherall) who has
dedicated his life to outing other gay men. This must
have struck a chord with you, given that you were
outed by a tabloid.
Absolutely. My character in the story is
adamantly against that, and so am I. One of the issues
that came up specifically is that when this book was
written, outing was very popular in the civil rights
struggle. It’s become a bit passé now, so
we had to figure out a way to bring [the story] up to
where it was relevant.
Do you think it’s a damaging any more to out
someone in that way?
I don’t know if it’s as damaging
on a public level, but I’m certain it’s
damaging on a personal level. I’m absolutely certain
that forcing any young person or not-so-young person
into dealing with the issue when they aren’t
ready to or simply don’t want to is damaging to the
soul. It’s just not right.
In dealing with Rutka especially, the script is often
quite direct in speaking to gay issues.
There’s not a lot of finessing when he starts
preaching about gay issues surrounding medical care,
say, or the indifference of local police.
What I think is interesting is that you get this
Rutka character, who’s a
grandstander—“The medical system is this and
does this and this”—[and] you oftentimes
get me standing there rolling my eyes. It’s not that
Donald doesn’t think that those things [Rutka rails
against] are true. He agrees, but he lives in a very
different world than Rutka. Donald and his partner
live a very suburban gay lifestyle, and to tell you the
truth, a lot of those issues don’t touch him
directly most of the time. So it’s easy for him
to shrug his shoulders and roll his eyes and say,
“God, you’re such a throwback to another
time.” So what’s interesting about that
to me is not that either side is particularly correct, but
the fact is that the issue [of the divide among gay
people] exists, and you have some very different
perspectives on it.
So if it creates
conversation, great. What I liked about it is that
we’re at a time when you can go down to gay
pride right now and find guys in buttless chaps, drag
queens walking the street, and guys dressed in
[mainstream] clothes like you have on, saying, “This
is ridiculous. What is gay pride all about?” We
have the luxury of rolling our eyes right now. It
doesn’t mean that this journey is over, but it is a