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Robert Gant works it out

What kind of conversations did you have with Randy and Peter on the set of Queer as Folk?

They absolutely wanted me to come out. [Laughs] There’s no question. I knew Peter beforehand, and he’s really the person with whom I had this dialogue most often. And I should say that when I mentioned this article to a couple of folks—“Oh, I’m coming out”—the response has invariably been, “I didn’t know you weren’t.” [Laughs] Because I made a point of living my life without that sort of hiding.

Well, when Nathan Lane did his coming-out interview, he said, “Until I did The Birdcage, nobody cared about my sex life.” Until you do the gay role, people don’t ask. It’s the industry standard that you’re heterosexual until proved otherwise, and no one even asks until you play that gay role. Look what happened on Larry King—Larry went to every single actor on that show without question and said, “So—are you gay?”

Yup. And there were only two who were openly gay. Larry’s presumption, then, was that if there were only two who were openly gay, then all others must be straight.

So when you finally decided to go ahead and let it all hang out, it was more of a personal decision for you than a professional one. It sounds like you’d run it through both sides of the brain, though.

Well, to get back to what you were saying, the producers were very encouraging of this being my choice. And a lot of my friends were disappointed that I was even contemplating waiting. My rationale for myself was I was basically ready to [come out right away] until, as I said, I was counseled to consider the fact that I only had—at that point—a 12-episode deal. (I ended up doing 14 episodes in the first season.) It was in great part a job stability issue at that juncture because everybody else had a five-year contract. Peter and Randy came into the deal knowing that they had—assuming the show went and worked—five years on the show.

But if you came out for the purpose of a 12-episode run, then what do you do afterward?

Exactly. I didn’t want to be rash, you know. There was a lot happening very quickly. The way that I got the part and was flown up [to audition] without knowing that I had it, and if I got it, if I was supposed to stay and start [filming immediately]. It was crazy.

You went to Toronto not knowing whether you would come back to Los Angeles a day later with no job or stay for months to play the part?

It was bizarre. They said, “Pack clothes. In case you get it, you’re staying.” And I started filming the next day. So it was just a whirlwind, and I was having to focus so much on trying to get this character—who in the first episode reveals that he’s HIV-positive—and it goes through a lot very quickly. I thought it was too much to have to make a life decision like that on the fly.

Why is it important to you to come out?

Because I’m not living the life that I want to live. Because being on Larry King Live and not being able to say to him, “Larry, sorry, you have some misinformation. I’m actually gay”—it was painful for me. I guess this whole thing has been a process; I’ve been inching into the water along the way. But [pauses] I think it’s amazing how, on the other side, one can’t see how that freedom is going to feel. And I have enough other examples of that to know it’s gonna feel really good, because it already does.

Are you prepared for what comes next? To be urged to appear at every gay pride event and fund-raising dinner from coast to coast?

The truth is, we could speculate until the cows come home. But who really knows if any pride parades or whatever are going to ask me. They may; they probably will. I don’t really know. And I think I may do myself a disservice by getting into that inner debate because what I’ve learned is that that robs me of right now. And I think also it’s something that I have to be careful of. As a kid, I yearned for the applause. I yearned for the stage, and I wanted to be a star. Really, it was about self-worth—because I had a lot of self-worth issues, I yearned for that. What’s nice now is not to need that so much. It’s still there—like everything else, it takes time.

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