General Hospital�s New Gay Hottie
By Jon Sechrist
On General Hospital in the 1980s Luke and Laura were in. And in '05 their nephew, Lucas, is coming out. Ben Hogestyn, who just joined the soap opera as college kid Lucas, wasted no time getting tangled up in all the drama of the fictional town of Port Charles as he comes out to his family and friends on the October 11th episode. Out.com sat down with Ben to learn more about him, his daytime role, and whether he is ready to be part of the first daytime kiss between two men.
You obviously knew that the character of Lucas was going to be gay when you auditioned. Did you have any hesitation in taking the role?
I think there is always some apprehension when taking over a role [the role was previously played by Ryan Carnes of Desperate Housewives and Eating Out] and making the right choices to portray the character truthfully. As far as the character being gay, I didn't care.
It must have been difficult to take over a role at such a vital time in the story. You were really thrown into the fire with Lucas coming out. Did you have any past acting roles or real-life experiences that prepared you to play the role of Lucas?
It was only my third day of work when I actually shot the coming out scene. [The episode aired October 11.] It was tough. I just hope that I was able to portray that moment truthfully. As far as preparing for the role, the writing on GH is great so a lot of my initial choices came from the script. I also used some experiences that gay friends shared with me about their coming-out process.
You starred in a short film called Different in which you played a straight character living in a gay world. What did you learn playing a role where you were the outsider?
It definitely helped me prepare for the role of Lucas. It was a role reversal in society and I could tap into a lot of the same emotions for this role.
How has your family reacted?
They have been so excited. They actually went out and got TiVo so as not to miss any episodes.
How do you define your own sexuality?
Heterosexual. I'm definitely comfortable with my sexuality and I don't think anyone's sexuality should be an issue.
Do you have any gay friends? What have been their reactions?
They have been really excited. Lucas is the only gay male character on daytime right now and they are looking forward to seeing the character on the canvas.
Your father, Drake Hogestyn [John from Days of Our Lives], is daytime royalty. Has he given you any advice?
Definitely. He has been an example of a good work ethic. He has taught me about being prepared and coming into a work day with your homework done and making the right choices with characters. He has also shown me that your energy affects the rest of the crew so it is good to be up.
ABC Daytime has been really good about introducing gay characters over the years with Ryan Phillippe [Billy on One Life to Live] and Eden Riegel [Bianca on All My Children], but after the big outing of the characters the stories tend to fall flat and the characters fade into the background. What are the plans for Lucas?
This role is an integral part of the Spencer family so I think he will be integrated into the story more than the character has in the past and hopefully be in Port Charles for quite some time.
Your TV mom, Bobbie [Jacklyn Zeman], has been through a lot in her 25 years in Port Charles [i.e. prostitution, illegal adoption, her own daughter stealing her husband]. How do you think she is going to handle her son being gay?
I'm sure she is going to handle it with grace. She has been through a lot so I expect her to be really understanding. She can relate to the struggles she has had in her own life so I expect her to be there for her son.
In a time when gay issues are under the microscope with military and marriage issues in the media do you feel pressure to be playing a gay character?
I don't feel any outside pressures, but I do put pressure on myself since I think gay rights are an important issue.
What are you going to do to make sure that Lucas is seen as a fleshed-out character and not a stereotype?
Hopefully by doing my job and approaching this character as a real person with strengths and weaknesses. I'm not into playing a sexual stereotype. I will work hard to portray Lucas as three-dimensional.
Any gays in your life that you have looked to for inspiration?
Yeah. A close friend of the family that has lived with his partner for 10 years. He lives in the Midwest which isn't the easiest place to be gay. He has this strength and an 'I don't give shit' attitude about just being himself that I really respect. Can I say shit?
Of course you can!