Remembering Pedro


By Tim Murphy

This Wednesday, April 1, the MTV networks debut Pedro, a biopic about Pedro Zamora, the openly gay, openly HIV-positive Miamian who rocked the world in 1994 on the landmark third season of The Real World before he died of AIDS complications, at 22, later that year. Handsome, charismatic and just a touch diva-fied despite his self-described "butchness," Zamora humanized being a gay, HIV-positive immigrant (he'd come as a child from Miami to Cuba on the 1980 Mariel boat lift) with a jolt that shot all the way up to President Bill Clinton, who called him shortly before his death to thank him for helping to destigmatize AIDS. (In a very special meta-moment, a recent Real World episode had its Brooklyn-based cast -- whose gay Latino J.D. and transgender Katelynn have brought back some of the meaty issue-y-ness of TRW's early, best years -- sat down to weepily watch a screening of Pedro.)

We checked in with fellow Miami-bred Cuban-American Alex Loynas, 27, who plays Zamora (It's his first feature film!) in the biopic, which has a screenplay written by Dustin Lance Black before he nabbed an Oscar for his Milk script.

OutSo you were only 12 when the Real World season with Pedro aired. Do you have any memories of it?
Alex Loynas: I remember watching it because it was a big deal in Miami and Pedro was on the news all the time. It was kind of hard to understand at that age'of course you knew that HIV and AIDS were out there. But it was amazing to see this guy that was so young and strong and brave fighting for what he believed in.

Did you know anyone gay growing up?
Um -- let me think -- no, not really.

I'm trying to think. Of course, I probably did.

So the scene where you and DaJuan Johnson, who plays Pedro's boyfriend Sean Sasser, first make out is very hot and very moving. Have you ever had to do a hot stage or screen kiss before?
No, I haven't. I really didn't think about it much. It was just, Okay, I just gotta do this. When I'm working, I'm working. I take it very seriously and just get lost in the moment. DaJuan and I felt really comfortable with each other.

So you watched the whole season with Pedro for research. What did you make of this guy and what about him did you want to get across?
One of the most fascinating things about him, and one of the biggest challenges for me, was that he never wanted any pity. He opted for activism instead of depression. I couldn't have made a decision like that at 17, like he did. I felt like it was very honest and real and I wanted to make sure that that came across.