With cable, Web series, and independent films offering openly gay actors exposure, a trio of out actors are generating attention and breaking stereotypes by playing gay characters that mirror viewers’ lives as well as their own.
Joe Komara made a splash as Tyler, the gay bartender on the Cinemax series, “The Girl’s Guide to Depravity.” Dispensing drinks and talking trash to Sam (Rebecca Blumhagen) and her friends in the sitcom, Komara recently chatted about “Depravity” with total decorum.
“Sex is easy to talk about. It’s not a big deal,” the attractive actor said, referring to his character’s no-holds-barred discussions in the show. In real life, Komara admits he mirrors his on-screen character in some ways. “I say what I’m thinking, I have a dirty mouth and [playing Tyler] made it even worse. There’s nothing I don’t think is inappropriate.”
He acknowledged that such candor is fine in Hollywood, but not in the Midwest, where Komara was raised. Still, he observed, “As an actor, you have to put yourself into a mindset — a mentality, a behavior pattern — that is the norm for that character. I have to accept that it’s OK to talk about the nasty most sexual thing possible.”
What Komara won’t discuss is religion and politics. “It is not what I want to talk about. It becomes conversation for how we are different. If we point at each other’s differences, we make those borders stronger, thicker, and wider.”
The actor also cited that barriers also arise when people try to identify Tyler —who has slept with men and women, and last season married a woman to get a green card — as gay, or bi, or queer. He even detests the stereotype of bartenders being “sexual creatures of the night.” He explained, “I dislike labels. The more we have the more we distance ourselves from people. I love that Tyler started out being an ‘equal opportunity whore,’ which sounds terrible, but is kind of awesome. I don’t need a label or excuses. That he got a boyfriend doesn’t mean he changed his label [from bi]. He’s a sexually open person. He’s broken barriers—he’s married, but not to a man.”
Komara emphasizes that while “Girl’s Guide to Depravity” looks at sex, dating and relationships, he sees the arcs of the characters — from Tyler to Sam — as coming from similar place.
“I think that what the girls do in the show mirrors the gay personal life. It’s where sex is such a big deal and such a definition of the cultural psyche.”
Komara is secure in having Tyler and the show on his growing resume. “I was worried about [being out] in the beginning, but I think the lines are getting blurred because out actors like Neil Patrick Harris are playing straight characters.”
He continued, “I’ve played a character and have experience—that should be the only thing that people see. But people want to judge and generalize. Being on a pay cable channel is still not mainstream. But it’s a notch, and experience.”
Komara, who also performs as a singer, dancer, and choreographer, indicated that his career has “picked up gig wise” as a result of his exposure on the show, and he is optimistic that things are going to continue to change. “I do want to create more of my own content and have that control and control over the message.”
Another comic talent, Sal Infantino, has a featured role on the Web series “The 3 Bits,” playing Grant, the handsome but — call him “shortchanged” — roommate to the series’ gay hero, Henry.
Grant’s arc in the show focused on the perils of sex and dating. He tries to coordinate an orgy for Henry in one episode, and had a date with a boy in another. His storylines form the basis for much of the show’s comedy, which stemmed from awkward moments his characters faced. When asked about why gay men find humor in sex, Infantino offered, “It’s still taboo to talk about. I turn to humor or sarcasm when I feel threatened or uncomfortable. I turn to it because it’s easier to break the ice with something funny rather than sad, deep or dark. Comedy is also a good way to get a sex joke in.”
The actor, who grew up performing in home movies and in pageants as a kid before “a nun forced me into a school play,” said that, “Half the fun of performing is making a fool of myself and doing something stupid.” And Infantino is very amusing as the confident roommate who feels insecure about his anatomy.
As for funny sex stories from his own life, the actor shares a tale about being in a bar where “everyone was dressed the same” and he didn’t know he was talking to two different people. “That happened to me once. I had a little too much to drink, and I brought this guy over to intro him to my friends. I didn’t remember his name, so I tried to intro him and there were two people there. And they both followed me out of the bar.”
While he does not necessarily share all of Grant’s characteristics, the actor aligns with what he calls Grant’s “lackadaisical approach to life.” He insisted, “I can get work done if I have it, but I will not seek it out. I get that vibe from Grant. He’s happy enough and would rather just enjoy life.”
As such, Infantino is content to be working on “The 3 Bits,” a series that was offered to him unexpectedly. “I’d actually decided to take a break [from acting], but this fell into my lap. I was waiting tables at a wedding and Max and Margaret, the writers/producers said, ‘We’re doing a Web series, and think you’d be good for it. Here’s our card, email us.’”
His work has attracted fans, and has helped him put together a reel to continue to pursue an acting career — if he chooses. Which suits Infantino just fine.
Out actor Andrew Glaszek appears on the Web series “Hustling” which just completed its third and final season earlier this year. He plays Jay, a gym trainer and budding porn star whose friendship with Ryan (writer/director/star Sebastian La Cause) is tested. In a Skype session, Glaszek explained that the character of Jay was created with him in mind. But the actor, who has not been a trainer since 2004 (although he works at a gym), said he “wanted to keep my personal life separate.” What he relates to is playing a character that has a day job but aspires to do something else.
“Hustling,” as well as a starring role in the independent queer film “Leather” (now out on DVD), have provided Glaszek with such a creative outlet. He describes himself as a character actor, and while openly gay, has not been pigeonholed in only gay roles. Glaszek has often played “the straight dude” on stage. He sees his craft as less “method acting” and more “instinctual.”
“You have to think about what is affecting the person [you’re playing]. You have to be in the moment and understand what situation you are in is and act accordingly. Jay is a character who goes along with what he’s given—to contrast Ryan.”
But despite Jay’s hot gym body, his penchant for drugs, sex, and porn, Glaszek does not see the character as a gay stereotype. “I think that no one is exactly what you assume or perceived them to be. Someone can be beautiful and not see himself as beautiful. A junkie thinks he is controlling his addiction. As an actor, you can’t play the judgment or analysis of the character, only the character in that moment: Find the love and goodness in a villain, otherwise he’s one note and boring.”
He adds that even the titles of his projects, “Hustling” and “Leather” have connotations that may be misleading for some viewers. For example, “Leather” is about the brown, shoe leather, not the black S&M variety. This lovely film is a romantic drama, set in the country. It is not sleazy, nor is it “Interior. Leather Bar.”
For Glaszek, these projects are opening doors for him, and he hopes they continue to do so. He is currently developing on an all-male version of “Dangerous Liaisons” that is likely to be made into a film. With luck it will propel him to greater exposure.