After a hot Clash of the Titans in 1981, Harry Hamlin took on the role of seductive gay writer Bart McGuire in Paramounts breakthrough movie Making Love (recently released on DVD), the first gay movie produced by a major studio. He paid the price. As did Doug Savant, who took on the regular, openly gay role of Matt on Melrose Place. These days Savant is best known as Tom Scavo on Desperate Housewives, which boasts another unique gay character: Andrew Van De Kamp, played by Shawn Pyfrom. Andrew is TVs first gay sociopath, who also happens to be a teen with a very active on-screen sex life. Here are exclusive outtakes from our interviews with these three versatile actors.
Making Love was really groundbreaking.
Groundbreaking. Thats an interesting way to put it. When I first read the script for that, I had my doubts. The original script was much more cutting edge than the one we ended up shooting, by the way. They softened it way down. They were frightened. The script that Barry Levin wrote was really rawand I was willing to go there. The studio beiged it out by the end, which was disappointing to me.
What do you think, all these years later, to see actors play gay characters and it not having an affect on their careers?
I think the times have changed. Brokeback Mountain is a film that is a great love story. Its love with a huge obstacle and its very well done. It was done cleverly so it could be marketed as not only the male-male love story, but there were other love stories. The men were married. They had families. They had such conflict in their lives. Making Love was a little more one-sided than that. Im glad its coming out on DVD because I dont have a copy of the film. Im looking forward to getting a copy of the movie.
Youre kidding! Im just bummed it doesnt have any extras.
Im a little surprised they didnt call us up and say, Hey, why dont you do some commentary on this? I would have thought the opportunity was ripe. Michael Ontkean, Kate Jackson, and I are still breathing! We could have come in and given some dimension to the film. But they didnt do that.
Have you always had gay people in your life?
Because of Making Love, theres a big gay audience out there for me. [Laughs] That film came out at a time when there was a big transition happening culturally. It was before the AIDS epidemic. The only obstacles were really cultural, and it was all changing at that moment. I have had so many people over the years say Thank you for making that movie because it helped me talk to my parents, talk to my relatives, to come out.
Matt was such a breakthrough for television.
I even had this awareness at the time. I knew I was just going to be a blip on the evolutionary map of gay characters and television itself. I am thrilled to see the proliferation of gay characters throughout television and more substantive and full portrayals of life. When I was doing Melrose, I would get a ton of mail, but the mail was generallyyou could almost cut it right down the middle. Much of it was Thank God youre existing in television. And then I would receive other mail that said Youre not gay enough. Rather than be offended by that, what became really clear to me was that I was only one character and the spectrum of the gay community wanted to see themselves represented in the media and in that case through Matt, so if I wasnt a reflection of what each individual experience was, they were ultimately offended. Thats not what its like for me. There was a huge onus on the writers, on me, and no one character could do that. So thank God we are now at a place where we can have gay cowboys, where we can have a more complete picture of gay lives than we did well, I started back in 92.
The great thing I remember was that you owned it. You never shied away from Matts homosexuality.
Well, I was never out as a straight man. When I started on the show, the studio had no idea I wasnt going to go around and say, Im straight! Im straight! Im straight! I said, No. Its none of your business. Did anybody ask Mark Moses [from Desperate Housewives], Hey, youre playing a straight guydoes that mean youre straight? It went to the point where I would go to print interviews and have to take off my wedding ring. Theyd say, Oh, I see you have a ring! I was never trying to hide myself, but I said, You may assume whatever you want.
Thats pretty cool! Was the issue ever pressed?
For your magazine, we shot a photo session with all these gay characters. It was myself, Bill Brochtrup [from NYPD Blue], Nora Dunn from Sisters, and Mitchell Anderson [from Party of Five]. Bruce Bibby was doing the interview and I told Bruce that I dont talk about my sexuality, and that was news to him. So when he subsequently went to interview the other actors in the shoot, he said I know Doug doesnt talk about it. And that gave them the freedom to either say or not say. To me, that was a victory. I really believe that its an individual choice. In a world where were supposed to be able to take on other skins, if its going to prejudice someone elses opinion, I would respect an actor who chooses to say Im not saying. Its none of your business. Please judge me on my work and Ill fuck whoever I choose to fuck. It was a great photo spread, by the way.
When they told you Andrew was going to be gay, what were your thoughts?
I thought it would be a really cool twist and adding more depth to my character. How could you say no to an amazing character opportunity? And its all part of this gig.
How do you feel about being groundbreaking in that way?
I rarely ever think of him as groundbreaking. But I never thought I would do anything groundbreaking. I think its good, and Im glad that I get to be that person who crosses that line, who maybe starts a different way of thinking and possibly having other gay characters like him come out on TV. I think its good that were coming to a point where an actor wont be stereotyped because theyre playing a gay role.
Have you heard from young gay people? Not that Andrew is the best role model
Surprisingly, I have. I cant tell you how many fan letters Ive gotten from gay teens whove said that because Andrew is a strong gay character and is comfortable and doesnt let other people waver this thinking on who he is and what he wants to do, its inspired them to do the same and feel the same. I got a letter from one person in particular who said that by watching my role on the show, it has helped him come out to his parents and his friends. Before he was worried they wouldnt accept him for who he was. Hes not worried about that anymore. Hes happy with who he is. Im really happy he decided to write me. It encourages me to continue doing what Im doing.
Are you ready to go wherever Marc [Cherry, the shows openly gay creator] may lead Andrew?
I am. I trust Marc Cherry and his decisions. Hes writing an amazing show and I know he wont do any of us wrong.