When did you first feel a connection with the gay community?
I have since I was really young. I grew up in a squat in the Lower East Side of New York, so I grew up around alternative lifestyles. That’s why it was really important to me when I did Rent. You’d see people in drag, you’d see male couples holding each other’s hands. I have a transgendered friend, Chloe, who I grew up with. She’s six-foot-something with blond hair, miniskirts, and a little poodle that she’d walk around with in Tompkins Square Park. I just idolized her and thought she was the perfect woman. I wanted to be her when I grew up. My uncle’s gay, I have a lot of gay family, and my mom was close friends with a really strong lesbian couple that we’d spend every Thanksgiving with. My first Gay Day parade was when I was 10 in San Francisco, and I’ll never forget it. There was this guy wearing just bits of leather and a codpiece, and he had these whip marks on his back, and this guy turns to him and says, “You had fun last night!” And I’m like, “Oh, my God, what’s going on here?” But I’m loving the whole thing.
You’re practically an honorary homo.
I do feel at home being embraced by that community, and I’m glad — and I’ve worked with GLAAD! I’ve spoken out about drug use in the gay community and how that’s spreading HIV and AIDS; I’ve talked about how many gay kids are pushed out onto the streets because their families won’t accept them. I’ve tried to do a lot, because I care about anybody who’s taken down for who they are. For me, there’s such bravery, more so than in the heterosexual community, that comes from being out and proud, risking abuse or negativity. So I’m very protective of that.
You were thrust into the spotlight at a young age. Were you ever as wild as today’s rehab-hopping Hollywood jailbirds?
No, I’m really boring. From a very early age I’ve been a bit of an old soul. My mom got pregnant with me at 16, she shaved her hair into a Mohawk for her 40th, and I got her pierced for Mother’s Day. I’ve heard all the stories of her partying at the Palladium. My uncle had a band, my aunt used to be really good friends with [Jean-Michel] Basquiat, and they all had these crazy lives. I have heroin addicts in my family and all kinds of crazy shit. Then it comes to me, and I walk into a club, and the first thing I did was notice how sticky the floor was from all the beer and how unattractive the lowlifes were. So I never got sucked into it. I’ve always just been a watcher. My uncle’s HIV-positive and his husband’s not, so I also grew up with people being really mindful and respectful of their bodies and appreciative of their mortality. So there’s an adultness to myself that I’ve never been able to shrug. I care too much.
If you were to go to jail, what would be the crime?
Well, I did go to jail! I did this movie called This Revolution  and I was wearing a mask, running around the [2004 Republican National Convention], and we were getting footage, and the cops arrested us thinking we were actual terrorists. I wish there had been a camera in there — I had blond cornrows, and I was hooking out my cornrows in the sheet metal they have as a mirror. It was kind of awesome, actually. But I wouldn’t want to go back again.
Finally, as his wife in Oliver Stone’s epic, weigh in on the debate: Colin Farrell’s Alexander —too gay or not gay enough?
You know, I have to see the last cut. I think a lot of that [gay content] was put back in, which is good. There’s a lot of history out there that’s honest about his sexuality, and when we first started we were really secure about pushing that and making sure that was a big part of the film. Then people got a little scared, and that bummed me out.