So, what's it like for you to be in a show where you've got these great gay role models? You've got (cast member) Stephen Spinella, (director) Michael Mayer, (choreographer) Bill T. Jones... does that have some impact on you as far as them being mentors in the theater?
Absolutely. I mean, the whole creative team is almost strictly gay. It's cool. Even the lighting designer... but what's wonderful is that they're gay, but they're all so brilliant and creative. I mean, I've always felt strongly about having a gay identity. You're you, and you're gay, but you don't have to be... gay, you know? You don't have to be just gay, like, 'Hi, I'm Gideon and I'm gay.' It's, 'Hi, I'm Gideon, and I'm this and this, and yes, I'm gay.' I think they are fine examples of that. They're special unique people, interesting, intelligent, and they're creating something which is very beautiful. And they're gay. But it's a side fact. I think that's what's important.
It's kind of weird, because I think that, but I'm in this strange position now where I have to keep going, "Who's gay???? Who can I interview that's gay? Is this one gay in the show?" I mean, I normally don't care, but I'm in this position now, where I saw, like, Avenue Q, and afterwards, I'll be sending e-mails, "Is Howie (Michael Smith) gay?"
And you feel like, "What the hell have I become?"
Yeah, I can imagine. But what you're doing is good and charitable for the youth generation.
And that whole element, especially dealing with young actors, I want to make sure this is something they want to do. Because for me, this is one interview. For you, this is your life. So, I always want to put people's lives over my very narrow needs.
For me, I guess because I grew up in a very liberal and accepting household, and I had a good strong friend base, so being gay was never important, you know? It's important to accept who you are and understand who you are, but don't make it the one thing you are. That's an important message, I feel.
So, you're gay, but at the same time you're over being gay. It's just there.
Yeah, it's not that I'm over being gay. It's just not who I am. It's my sexuality. And that's why I felt uncomfortable with them trying to make me a gay role model, because... it's not that I don't want to be a gay role model, but I'm in this business to be an actor. I want to be known for my acting. If people want to talk about my sexuality, that's fine, but I don't think they should advertise it like a selling point. That doesn't stand for what I believe in, personally and my own identity.
Initially, they told me you and the boy you kiss in the show have talked to the gay press before about the roles, and that would be okay. But that was the extent of it, and that was right under the line that said none of the young actors are openly gay, so...
The one question I was asked was, 'How do you relate to your character?' and I'm not going to deny there's a very blatant relation there.
The other thing that is always a concern is, since you do play a role where you're seduced by another guy in the show, it's like if you're gay in real life then you're not acting.
Yeah, but that's just so... so... so... I don't even know what the word is.
Ridiculous! I mean, you can see my movie and see this, and they're different roles. It's acting. I'm not ... Ernst is a fragile, delicate, little flower, that's how I put it, and I'm not that (laughs).
Oh, really? So who are you in real life?
(laughs) That's for me to know. (laughs)
Well, all we need to know is who you are onstage. Offstage is your business.
As it should be, I feel. Don't you think?
Yeah. So, do you get to see a lot of other shows? Your schedule seemed to be pretty all over the place, at least the holiday schedule was.
It's not as all over the place anymore, but it's still pretty intense. We have Saturday and Sunday matinees, and Saturday and Sunday night shows, and we have Monday as well, which is when most shows are dark. But we have Tuesday off. So, I could technically see other shows, but lately I just don't want to go back to Times Square on my day off. I want to stay inside and sleep and never come out.
And what neighborhood do you live in?
I live in the East Village.
OK. Now that I'm moving there I'm polling everyone I run into.
It's a nice area.
Well, whenever I'm in New York, I never want to leave, so I'm like, I'm getting too damned old, I'd better do this already.
That's how I used to feel, when I would have auditions for shows. I'd never want to leave, ever.
It's always weird, because when I'm there, it's this burst of intensity where it's ... well, when I saw your show, it was a matinee, then I had a quick dinner break, and I ran over to see Avenue Q. I intentionally showed up on days when I could stack shows, so I didn't have to keep driving in all the time. And then on another trip in, I saw the matinee of Company, and then the night show of The Little Dog Laughed.
You covered the whole gamut.
But I'm still unclear how exactly to just live in New York City. I don't know how to do it with everything just always there.
The spectacle dies down. That's what I used to do when I'd come in with my mother. We'd just do everything but, when you're here, there's no rush. Take your time, really.
Yeah, I'm sure it will work itself out once I'm there, but for now it's just like: how do you just sit home and write? There's always other options.
I rarely even go out. I'm just a sucker for doing my job and going home. I haven't even hit the bar scene yet.
Well, you can't.
That's true, but... not really.
It seems wrong that you can be in this hot show on Broadway, but still have to wait for 18 and up night at the clubs.
Well, if you have a fake ID, you don't have to wait for that night.
Or you can just look for the gay groupies at the stage door.
They've started, no worries. I mean, it has a big gay following. It's that kind of show.
Well, not to mention, gays and theater in general...
I was just surprised that I was able to catch your show a week after it opened. I still feel like I kind of scored on that one. So, when I'm in New York, and poor, I'll probably be up onstage in the $31 seats.
You should come see it again. See how it's changed. It'll be a while since you've seen it.
Yeah, but it took me like four or five showing of Rent before I really got to understand where the actors got to play around and mix things up a little. Moments where the cast would alter things to try and crack one another up.
It's cool. I'm learning that experience now. I never really thought about it, but you have to to keep it exciting.
Nothing that would derail the show, but just little gestures and things.
So, do you have any advice for gay kids reading this?
I think I said it already. Just be who you are, as corny as that is. Don't try to fit a stereotype or be gay just to be gay. Just accept it and get over it. I don't mean that so obnoxiously. That came out a little obnoxious, but I don't mean it that way.
How long are you going to be in the show now?
My thoughts are until the next fall semester, then I'm going to go to college and get a degree.
You going to do NYU?
Yeah, I already did some, but I'm going to go back.
I'm still debating because I want to take acting lessons, but I'm not sure where to go just yet.
Well, I'm not going to go to NYU for acting. I think I want to major in history or maybe religion. Or ... something. I don't know.
I'm curious because I want to write novels professionally. And I just think that actors are, first and foremost, readers, but then they have to take the second step of bringing those words to life.
It's finding the truthfulness in the text, and the sincerity, I think.
And it's not like I have any great desire to be an actor.
I'm sure you can learn quite a lot from taking acting lessons.
I just want to learn what things in the text really help provide a visual image of who this character is and which things in the text are irrelevant. Because then I can make my writing more impactful to readers in general.
I agree. I've never taken acting lessons, but I think next year when I start school, I might try out for the actor's center or something. I would like to have some tools to use, because I have nothing. (laughs) I'm making it up as I go along.
Well, it seems to be working for you.
(Photo on this page, taken at the Spring Awakening press preview in October 2006, is reprinted with permission of Ben Strothmann / BroadwayWorld.com.)