Hanging Ten

4.17.2008

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When offered the role of brooding graffiti artist Zach, Trevor Wright (above, left) was worried by the description 'gay surfer movie.' While the character's dramatic arc rested on balancing his awakening sexuality and personal fulfillment against the needs of his deadbeat sister and young nephew, there were plenty of action shots -- shirtless action shots. As images of chiseled, oiled gods loomed large in his mind, he had only six days before shooting began to get his abs in shape. 'I definitely started a diet and did thousands of sit-ups every night before shooting,' he laments. 'But I didn't have any time to try!'

Luckily for Wright and costar Brad Rowe (Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss), Shelter was never meant to be a beach blanket boink-o. Instead gay first-time feature director Jonah Markowitz set aside the body oil and rescued his hunky straight actors from the riptides of clich'.

'If we were too ripped, people wouldn't be able to pay attention to the story,' smirks Rowe. Emotional nuance checked the duo's sexual steam, making their slow-burn chemistry while riding waves (and then each other) believable rather than conveniently titillating. 'There was a very large gay and lesbian contingent on set with us, and they gave us the thumbs-up, so we felt we did OK.'

Wright credits Markowitz's keen pacing of the intense 19-day shoot to allow a natural progression in his sexual discovery as Zach. 'I always read that so-and-so celebrity lost 40 pounds for this role or that this actor went and did research and became homeless for two weeks for that role. It's so rad. I love that shit. I'd love to really get into that Method-y kind of role and really just be this guy.' So when buddy bonding finally overflowed into passion, Wright didn't need memories of past lady liaisons to keep the kiss action natural. 'I saw his eyes, and they were Brad's, and that was that.'

Shelter premieres on Here TV April 18 and DVD May 27.

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