Actor Daniel Franzese, of Mean Girls fame, has come out in a really interesting open letter written to his iconic Mean Girls character, Damien. The letter, posted over at Indiewire, speaks of Franzese’s fear to come out, despite playing such a proud gay character, as well as his subsequent typecast into seemingly only gay roles.
When I was cast in the role of “Damian” in ‘Mean Girls,’ I was TERRIFIED to play this part. But this was a natural and true representation of a gay teenager – a character we laughed with instead of at. (You can thank Tina Fey and Mark Waters for that. I can only take partial credit.)
So, why the hell did it take me so long to come out of the closet?
When I first became an actor, I wanted to play lots of roles – Guidos, gangsters and goombahs were my specialty. So, would I be able to play all of those parts after portraying a sensitive, moisturizing, Ashton Kutcher-loving, pink-shirt-wearing kid? I was optimistic. Hollywood? Not so much. I was meeting a “gay glass ceiling” in casting.
The entire letter is well worth the read. Most of the comments that I’ve read are of people stating their absolute non-surprise, making awful little comments like “who did he think he was fooling” or “I’m surprised – said no one”. In actuality, I really am surprised that he’s gay. I’m willing to bet that none of those people have seen him in anything other than Mean Girls. I have, and he is as convincing as a straight character as he was as Damien. And I’ve gotta say, it’s this pathetic attitude of gay-shaming anyone who plays a convincing (often effeminate) gay character is the reason so many actors are hesitant to play gay roles… particularly gay actors who really just want to make it somewhere in Hollywood. How can we, especially those of the LGBT community, be so merciless towards actors in the closet – practically verbally lynching them for not coming out – when we so quickly associate their true personalities to the campy roles that they play? I think that if we can’t learn to separate an actor from their portrayed character, then we have no business demanding that an actor “be themself in public”.