Four years after his queer sitcom fizzled, Jason Bateman earned a Golden Globe award and an Emmy nomination for playing the quintessential straight man on Fox’s Arrested Development; even so, gays are still some of his best friends. So with Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium now in theaters and Oscar-hopeful Juno out in December, we treated the ’80s teen idol — and onetime wolf — to some friendly ribbing about his sex symbol status and “uncool” career choices.
The Advocate: When The Advocate last spoke to you in 2001 you were promoting your role as gay journalist Warren in the series Some of My Best Friends, which was then canceled after five episodes. What went wrong?
Jason Bateman: It wasn’t the show’s fault, and it certainly wasn’t my fault, Brandon. I kept thinking that perhaps it was on the wrong network and the wrong night. Those are legitimate excuses — I don’t think they’re just things that help you get to sleep at night. There are certain networks that are better for liberal fare, and CBS, at least at the time, was not leading in that race as far as their audience and demographic. If it had been on NBC, on a more liberal night — like a Thursday — it probably would’ve had a better shot. Will & Grace was certainly having a good time there.
Maybe you should’ve played Warren like your flaming Captain Reggie in the “Gays in Space” sketch when you hosted Saturday Night Live in 2005.
The CBS demographic would’ve probably run screaming. That was a lot of fun, though. With that type of burlesque sketch comedy, one wants to take any character to the utmost extreme, cliché, and offensive place you possibly can. And that’s why it’s relegated to 11:30 p.m.
Trust me, I know some Reggies.
I know a few too — and they’re some of my best friends. Growing up in the entertainment industry, and also having a mother who was a flight attendant for 30 years, I’ve been surrounded by the best and the worst of the gay community. But I’ve always said that I’ve never met a dumb gay guy. You’ve got to be smart and insightful to know what’s going on with you and then live by it. It takes a lot of balls to walk proudly as a gay man, especially outside of the more liberal cities like Los Angeles and New York. So I’ve got a great deal of respect for the gay community. I think that it shows in my friend circle, and I’m really proud to be accepted by them.
Really, Jason? No gay idiots? Because that’s all I ever seem to date.
[Laughs] Well, I’m sure there’s quite a few. We gotta keep the bars filled with something, and you gotta sell the cheap booze to somebody.
You respect our “balls,” but do you have any closeted peers?
Yes, but it’s become less and less. In this day and age, at least in this town, you’re not truly hip and popular until you’re out and in AA. So that’s encouraging a lot of those who were on the fence. One of my best friends and ex-roommates, a producer, finally came out a couple of years ago, and he’s never been happier. He’s stopped a lot of his abusive, self-destructive behavior because he’s been able to get this big weight off his shoulders.
The Hogan Family was a contemporary of Doogie Howser, M.D. Were you just waiting for Neil Patrick Harris to come out?
I actually didn’t know him at all, and didn’t have my suspicions until he started doing musical theater. That’s usually a flag.
Have guys ever hit on you?
I don’t know if I’d be able to tell, only because I’m so flirtatious with gay men anyway. They usually have great senses of humor, so I just get my flirt on, and they’re probably not enjoying my humor as much as I’m enjoying theirs — maybe all those laughs are just come-ons and I’m getting hit on the whole time. But I do enjoy my time around homosexual men, to the point where people have thought I’m gay for years. I had to get myself a wife just to prove otherwise.
It seems to be working.
Yeah. I still don’t know her name, though.
If you were gay, who’d be your type?
Oh, God, who am I gay for… Well, Will Arnett, the guy who played G.O.B. on Arrested Development. I’ve been trying to get in his pants since the pilot, and he’s just not giving it up. His wife, Amy Poehler, is safely on the East Coast, but if she ever wanders out here, I got something for her ass.