And when did you come out? Was it early or late?
You know, I did the whole 'come out slowly as bi' thing when I was in the eleventh grade, and I was out about that, openly. But I was out as gay, as in only gay, probably when I was 19? And I'm 22 now. And I'm totally out to my entire family. Everyone knows. Part of the reason I'm also out as an actor is I can't do the double life thing. I live my life way too openly, with everyone in my life. I don't think I have any ungenuine relationships in my life. If the relationships aren't genuine, I'd rather not have the relationships. So, it was important for me to have everyone know that in my family and whatnot. And career-wise, I could just never do that whole double standard thing or quietly living with your secrets so you can have a career. I don't find the payoff in that. I don't see it.
Especially if you do a movie like Camp. It's probably impossible to do the interview circuit without people asking you.
Asking, and I also remember I was so young when that came out. I was 18. That was like my first audition ever, and I remember being so naïve of the whole process and everything. I felt like I was just thrown into this whole world and I didn't know.... There were so many things I was dealing with myself, and I remember feeling, 'How horrible would it be to have that role, that could be so great for so many kids, and then closet myself?' I felt like it was totally going back on my word. I could never do that. Even if I wanted to, I probably wouldn't be able to.
I have no sense how big the audience for Camp actually was, but I just found it so delightful. I just love watching it.
It's low-key. It's still low-key. It's just different in the gay community and in the theater community, there are more people who know it. For what it was supposed to be originally when we were rehearsing it and filming, it was only supposed to be out in two cities. The director was like, 'I don't need this movie to be a hit. I just need it to be on video for kids who need it.' Todd (Graff) would always say that. It was only supposed to be New York and L.A. and then I remember them saying 100 cities in the states. I don't know if it ended up going beyond that, but it was in Japan, Australia, all theatres in England, all over Europe, so it definitely got bigger than we intended, but it wasn't like a massive hit. I think it's had more life now that it's on TV.
But you have to be getting people mentioning at the stage door, I would imagine...
They do mention it. My friends make fun of me for it, sometimes. My friends will come and after they see the show, they'll start screaming 'That's the kid from Camp!' Just as a joke, totally to annoy me. Or whenever I say something, they'll say, 'That was important. That was the kid from Camp.' They totally bust my balls. Totally.
Was Michael a very personal role for you?
In terms of Michael's personality, I think he is very similar to me. I was fortunate that I never had to go through the whole 'family not being there for me.' I never got beat up... thank God I never had that experience. When I came out in high school, it wasn't like I came out hardcore. People knew and people could ask, but if it didn't come up, I didn't feel the need to mention it. I didn't have a boyfriend. There was no one else who was really out.
I remember talking to my friend and I was open to it, but there wasn't anyone else that was out. So, I never had that experience, which to me would have a lasting effect on someone. It would be really hurtful and it really would affect their personality, so thank God that's never been a part of my life. But as far as the way he was with his friends in the movie, or his theater-lovingness, that's totally me.
Did you ever go the camp that was based on?
I went to government-funded camp in the projects when I was a kid. I was playing four squares. But I did, when I was in high school, I was a counselor at a theater camp. And it was the theater camp that actually got me started, and it was through that camp that I ended up booking Camp the movie. I was working as a counselor and one of the parents was in Aida on Broadway, and he told the counselors that they had an open call for this movie called Camp, and I went in for it. That was how I got it, just a random open call.
And how long had you been acting before that?
Four years, but nothing professional. As far as I was concerned that summer, I was going to school to be an opera singer. When I booked Camp, I was three weeks out of high school. And before that audition, I was going to be an opera singer. But that changed, thank God. I was only going to do opera because all my voice teachers told me I should. I always wanted to be in musical theater, and I was always told I would never make it because I'm short, because I was Hispanic, and they didn't write roles for people like me. And it's been the complete opposite because all the things that were considered to be faults are what have helped my career.
And a lot of the kids on our site are still debating whether they should be coming out and everything, but when did you first know you were gay?
I was one of the ones that knew since I was very young. I knew when I was in pre-school that I was... I didn't know there was a preference, I thought maybe I just didn't have a preference in terms of sexuality, but I really came to terms with it when I was in high school. I remember getting to a point when I was in tenth grade where I didn't deny it anymore if it ever came up, because I have very feminine qualities. So, it wasn't like a secret, really. It is what it is.
And I remember in eleventh grade, finally saying it to someone. And it was the first time the words came out of my mouth. And that was the jump off, that was like 'Whew!' It was like someone ignited a fire and it was going to just run off because I started coming out to everyone that was close to me. And then there was like this pressure released from my shoulders, and I can only compare it to physical therapy. Like someone cracking your back and feeling everything open up. Then my family found out, and then it was a painful process in that sense. But it was such a release, and it was so beautiful in that sense, coming to terms with who I was.
Because it was also one of those things where being closeted put limitations on other aspects of my life that I didn't realize. And that release ignited other releases in other parts of my life. I can't imagine to this day still being in the closet. I can't imagine it. I think I would be so incredibly depressed. I do know kids where it is a different process and it is different because of their families and whatnot, but being closeted you're going to be unhappy either way. Either way, there's going to be some sort of unhappiness. So, at least be unhappy and be yourself. (laughs)
Well, if you have to choose between you being unhappy and your family being unhappy, be selfish.
It's the one point in your life where you really do have to be selfish. You really do. Because, ultimately, it will affect others, your being closeted. You'll be alone in life if you're going to stay closeted, and if you pretend and go with a woman, you're affecting that person's life, as well. And that's not fair to the woman, either, to think that they're with someone who is not being fully loyal to them, is not in love with them, and is living a lie in a fantasy world. I don't think that's right.
I also think the longer you delay coming out, there's something of an emotional retardation. I mean, I came out at 23, but I was very clear about it at 15, so I think when I came out, I was a 23-year-old guy with a 15-year-old gay guy inside of me.
Because you were trying to experience everything...
I basically hit pause on that part of my life and it had eight years when it was just sitting there waiting. And it took a while to get the 15-year-old up to the right age.
I totally agree. I know people who are married and thought they could just live that lifestyle and finally came to terms with it, and it was like the party had started. They were catching up with everything they ever missed out on.