Hot List: Sebastian Stan

5.17.2009

By Bill Keith

It's just as well you get over Sebastian Stan's sexuality right off the bat. Yes, the actor with a striking resemblance to a young Brad Pitt and the onscreen bearing of Cary Grant on a particularly unpleasant day is, in fact, straight. That doesn't mean his show is any less worth tuning in to.

Putting an updated twist on the biblical tale of David, Kings tells the story of King Silas (played by Deadwood's Ian McShane), the ruler of a fictional kingdom that looks alarmingly like midtown Manhattan. Stan plays his apparent playboy son, prone to late-night drug and booze binges and extravagant shopping sprees. In the show's premiere, NBC made a very clear and promising political statement when King Silas confronted Jack for the first time about his closeted sexuality: 'What you do at night with your boys after your show of skirt-chasing is a disgrace. If you were my second son, I wouldn't care, but for a king it's not possible'. You cannot be what God made you, not if you mean to take my place.'

Taking an immediate stance on whether homosexuality is a choice, the show quickly established that it wasn't interested in telling a one-dimensional coming-out story. 'Is it really a big deal for a network to have a gay character anymore?' Stan asks. 'The question is whether or not Jack can be an influential political figure by being who he is.' And at the advice of the show's creator, Michael Green, he turned to an interesting source to gain a greater understanding of where gays stand in the political arena.

'He advised me to watch Keith Olbermann's response to the passing of California's Prop 8. I'd never really seen him before, but to hear him speak so passionately about understanding it as a pure human thing, even though it wasn't something he was brought up to think, was awesome,' he says. 'And thinking about that as it relates to my character, who becomes more secure and stops thinking that he has to be the prototypical leader he was taught to be as a child, was very moving.' Michael Arden (who was adorable in 2004's Bare: A Pop Opera and as Kate Hudson's assistant in this year's Bride Wars) plays Prince Jack's long-suffering boyfriend and eventual guardian angel.

This isn't the first time Stan has played the rich, entitled asshole. The prep school'reared 25-year-old has mastered the art of channeling his inner James Spader in movies like this spring's The Education of Charlie Banks and on the CW's Gossip Girl, where he plays scene-stealing Chuck Bass's archnemesis, Carter Baizen. Before becoming a literally royal asshole on Kings, he stole away Leighton Meester's Blair Waldorf and took her to her darkest depths. He's stolen Meester's heart offscreen too. Though the engagement rumors are false, he couldn't be happier: 'I'm an extremely lucky person, absolutely! I think she's just amazing!' he gushes.

Next up the Rutgers theater major, who made his Broadway debut in 2007's Talk Radio, is hoping to take his turn playing a decidedly more heroic role. Stan has spent the past two years workshopping the recently announced musical adaptation of Spider-Man, directed by The Lion King's Julie Taymor, with music and lyrics by U2. 'If it's meant to be, it's meant to be,' he says hopefully. 'You've only got one life to try everything!'

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