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Anderson's Second Run

Anderson's Second Run


Party of Five's Mitchell Anderson left Hollywood for love, settling down with his longtime partner in Atlanta. Now the acting bug is calling him back to the stage in a local production, Octopus, where he plays a gay man looking to spice up his relationship.

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."

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