Move over, Nuke! The soap world has a new gay couple to fawn over (and stalk). On September 23, Chad Allen joins General Hospital: Night Shift -- the venerable sudsers prime time SoapNet spinoff -- as Eric Whitlow, a schoolteacher in need of an organ transplant. Can his Dr. McDreamy (Kyle Julian, played by promising newcomer Adam Grimes) save Eric's liver and win his heart?
Along with his new soap role, Allen, 34, is keeping busy across the television dial. He plays gay private dick Donald Strachey in a mystery series on here!, is guest starring on an upcoming CSI: Miami as a suspected bomber, and finally see his passion project and critically acclaimed indie flick, Save Me, hit theaters.
Out spoke to Allen about his own ripped-from-the-headlines history, the boring real-life reality of gay relationships, and how hes hoping to be the industrys first out leading gay soap star.
Out: Welcome to soaps! How did the role of Eric come up?
Chad Allen: Head writer Sri Rao and I run in the same circles, and he told me if I ever wanted to enter the soap arena Id be welcome. So one day, SoapNet called me and offered me the part. After reading the script and watching a couple of episodes, I was really impressed. It was clear to me that Sri had the best of intentions -- and the writing is fantastic.
Have you ever watched General Hospital?
Never. I still havent seen the mother ship show itself. But I have watched most of the Night Shift episodes this season.
How are we introduced to Eric?
Eric comes to the hospital with cirrhosis of the liver due to an autoimmune deficiency, but unfortunately hes at the bottom of the donor list. Hes a sixth-grade teacher. Hes a mature, nice, and together adult. Erics not struggling with his sexuality. Hes got a healthy sensibility about himself. He meets Dr. Kyle Julian and sparks ignite. Im taping the second episode right now and they still havent kissed yet.
Well, cirrhosis of the liver isnt the most romantic of platforms!
Im surprised Kyle would want to touch me in that hospital bed! [Laughs] Erics not jaundiced or anything, but they did make me look sick. The drama, of course, is the inevitable fact that he will die if he doesnt get a transplant. Being a relatively young, virile guy hes at the bottom of the waiting list. It looks grim.
How long did you sign on for?
Three episodes. We havent discussed anything further.
Were you chastised for joining a soap?
Im blown away myself at how much I love working on Night Shift, and I sort of slap myself on the wrist for judging the medium so much. I had heard all the stories about how fast soaps move, [that] they dont care about the characters or performance. But its been the opposite. They really care about creating great moments, and nurturing the artistic process. That surprised me much to my shame.
Would you consider jumping over to General Hospital when Night Shift ends its second season in October?
Id be open to anything. I was hesitant to commit to daytime because I wasnt sure I would like it. Having filmed for a week, I think its a blast. I love Eric and Kyles relationship so much that I would hate to see it end.
Do you trust ABC and SoapNet to treat your gay storyline equally as their straight counterparts?
In the very first conversation I had with them, they said they have every intention to treat this storyline as every other story on the show. I was immediately impressed with the fact that this story isnt about struggling about being gay. Its a really honest storyline. I do think its a little too soon to say they are falling in love because at this point they are only flirting. But they relate, speak, and act like mature adults. The world has changed. My life isnt about figuring out who I am or being ashamed of being gay. Im in a three-year relationship with my partner -- our problems consist of how we get through daily life, and communicate and relate to each other in our relationship. You know, life stuff.
Will Eric and Kyle get physical soon?
I really dont know. I hope so.
Do you find that youre typecast as the gay go-to actor?
You know what? After I came out, I couldnt find a gay role to audition for at all. But now were no longer the quirky, funny sidekicks. Im enjoying playing gay leading men -- well, when Im not playing my other specialty, drug addicts and murderers!
Youve seen both sides of the gay actor story -- you were outed by The Globe when they published pictures of you and your then-boyfriend kissing. But then years later you confirmed you were gay in The Advocate and have become a real role model.
When I was outed by The Globe I was a 20-year-old kid, and I was scared to death. Since I was 5, all I ever wanted to do is act -- and then I was thrown into a room full of lawyers and agents making a very subtle point that if I chose to came out I would never work again. It was overwhelming. But they were wrong. I havent stopped working. In fact, my career is better than ever.
Would you encourage closeted actors to come out?
Yes. The best advice Ive ever given is: dont come out until its good news for you. When its good news for you, itll be good news for everyone else. Anything else is a disaster, because you wont be able to represent yourself or our community very well.
You sound really happy these days.
I am. Im in a happy, three-year monogamous relationship. I was voted least likely to find himself in a healthy relationship, so Im thrilled to say the least. We live together and just adopted a dog named Foxy Brown.
You must be very proud of where you are in life.
I am. You know I just came from a run before speaking to you, and I feel content. I used to run faster than I could keep up with myself. Im eight years sober. Its nice to be where I am at.