Robert Gant doesn't mind being controversial. Sure, there was a time when the actor would only play straight (laced) roles, like Phoebe's boyfriend on Friends or the high school principal on WB's Popular. But those "straight" days are over.
As one of the cast members of Showtime's 4-year-old hit series, Queer as Folk, Gant's showing Hollywood that actors can be as queer as they want to be, on-screen and off, and still find success. "There's more interest in me as an actor," says the 34-year-old who, after a lot of soul searching, came out during the show's first season.
On Queer, Gant (his given last name is Gonzalez) plays writer and college professor, Ben Bruckner, who is HIV-positive and in a serious relationship. The show pushes the limits of cable TV, and viewers love it--making it one of the network's top-rated series. New viewers to the show may cringe if they're: a) not gay b) not used to very steamy sex scenes between men.
As a Queer as Folk fan (and a serious journalist), I've had a list of questions handy since the show's inception. Who doesn't want to know more about these men? Thanks to CATALINA, and Gant's generosity, I've put my questions to good use. I asked the actor everything that many of the show's viewers--and Gant followers--have ever wanted to know. If you're new to the show and Gant, I asked him a little something for you too. Read on:
Why don't you go by "Gonzalez" instead of "Gant"?
[Gant] probably did serve me early on. People just want to slot you into a cookie cutter slot. If my last name were Gonzalez, and they were looking for a Western guy or whatever, they would look and see something else. People are strange that way, especially in casting. I remember calling [my representatives] for Hispanic roles saying, "Oh my God, send me." They would say, "You've got to be kidding." And casting wouldn't give them the time of day about it because I wasn't dark.
Will you ever switch back to "Gonzalez"?
I've been going back and forth with my manager, saying "I want to use my name." I was thinking of pulling a John Cougar Mellencamp. The problem is that so many people know me this way, that my manager thinks [Gonzalez] would be confusing.
What do you have in common with Ben [your character]?
There are some similarities. We're both literature guys. I was an English major, and he teaches literature. We both love to dance. And we both are spiritual, and we're both gay.
How are these sex scenes different than mainstream sex scenes, for you as an actor?
The difference is that there's no holds barred. As an actor, you have to be willing to literally expose yourself, to be vulnerable in a way you never have to be in any other circumstance.
How do you do that?
You swallow, take a deep breath, and throw yourself into it.
Do your parents watch the show?
They watch bits and pieces, you know. They love the look of the show. And they love the high quality. They've been very complimentary of me and my acting. They think the acting is well done.
Isn't "queer" a negative term?
Part of what has been done has been to take this negative language, and to turn it upside down. That's the point. It's like saying: "We're all queer." We're all strange. We're all odd." And I think that's part of the cleverness of the show. Everyone who watches can say, "Well, my life is kind of like that. And I'm looking for a relationship. And I'm trying to find satisfaction in my life." Granted, there are many differences.
Is the show real?
Depends on what you're talking about. The majority of it is very real. There are some things that are sensationalized. Pittsburgh is not like that. You can't walk down the street and have drag queens and guys dressed in leather. It's a bit of a fantasy in that respect. That aside, Ben's story is very real.
You seem to embrace controversy now in your career, unlike your earlier days. Do you?
I found that there's so much more power, and so much more joy, in telling the truth. Telling the truth very often means going against the grain. And I love it. I've really gotten to revel in it, because it ultimately means freedom. I'm getting to be freer in the way I think and in my life. And others are experiencing the same thing.
Do you think you can go back to playing a father figure and roles like that?
I think I'm the test case, really. You know, after generations of actors not having this experience--like Rock Hudson, Montgomery Cliff, and James Dean. All had to hide. This is a new thing.
The great question has been: Will women want to see a gay man playing a romantic lead? I get so many e-mails from straight women all over the world who make it clear that they don't give a damn and they'd be happy to see me in a leading role.
I don't think any openly gay actor has ever had such a role.
It hasn't happened, but it's about to. It's on the brink. I think Hollywood is ready for it. I think America's ready for it. I think the world is ready. It will be somewhat controversial, but I think that's what will make it work.
And you're not afraid to do it?
I've done plenty of love scenes with women before. That's not a problem.
One last question: Rumor has it that you're in a serious relationship with Kyan from Bravo's, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Will you give CATALINA an exclusive and tell us, once and for all, if you're really dating?
The bottom line is that Kyan and I had gone out on some dates early on, but we're totally just friends right now. And it's good. The reality is that our schedules are so different. We live on opposite sides of the country. It's turned into a nice friendship. There's your scoop, baby.
Look for Robert Gant in the upcoming independent film Marie and Bruce, a black comedy starring Julianne Moore and Matthew Broderick. He plays the straight, and sexy, bartender.
**Correction** Robert Gant came out during season two of Queer as Folk.
Courtesy of Catalina Magazine:http://www.catalinamagazine.com/