Photography by Nicholas Maggio. Styling by Alison Brooks. Hair: Candace Bossendorfer at Exclusive Artists. Makeup: Agostina at Exclusive Artists. Producer: Richard Villani. Suit by Klein Epstein & Parker. Shirt by Dior Homme
Avan Jogia is recalling an intimate scene in the forthcoming drama I Am Michael, the one in which he spoons his co-star and on-screen love interest James Franco in bed. Franco, he explains, was so at ease that he actually fell asleep in Jogia’s arms. “Either I’m an excellent cuddler, or he was exhausted,” the 23-year-old Canadian-born actor says with a laugh. “Maybe it was both!”
Or maybe Jogia’s presence was just that soothing. In the film, based on Benoit Denizet-Lewis’s 2011 New York Times Magazine article “My Ex-Gay Friend,” he plays Nico, a charming Buddhist who’s refreshingly untroubled about his sexuality. Franco’s conflicted Michael, a gay activist who renounces his sexuality, is bewitched by him, and in real life Jogia proves to be just as soulful and beguiling.
“I’m a spiritual person,” he says, his long brown hair pulled back in a messy but chic top knot. “Like my character, I’ve spent months as a Buddhist, and I have roots in Hinduism. I’ve looked at all kinds of ways of being, because I’m curious about what it takes to be human.”
While Jogia has had major roles on the Nickelodeon sitcom Victorious and the ABC Family thriller Twisted, it was his very first acting credit, in the TV movie A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story, that sparked his social conscience. Jogia played the brother of the slain trans teen, a part that “really influenced my awareness of some of the strife that gay men and women and transgender people go through,” he says. Inspired, Jogia founded the organization Straight but Not Narrow, which encourages straight teens to get involved in supporting gay rights; his friend Josh Hutcherson was a vocal supporter. “I saw a gap,” Jogia says. “There was no one making straight youth responsible for their apathy. When you see a bully beating up a kid and you stand idle, that’s as loud, or louder, than the actual oppression.”
That example isn’t merely hypothetical for Jogia: While he was growing up in a dicey neighborhood in Vancouver, his brother was attacked. The incident clearly left a mark on both siblings. “What pissed him off wasn’t the fact that he got jumped,” Jogia says. “The most annoying thing is the fact that 20 people were around, and not one of them went to go help. Not one! That kind of apathy is a contagion, a sickness.”
Hollywood is making good use of Jogia’s passion. This summer he can be seen playing another soulful type, the love interest to his former Victorious co-star Victoria Justice in the high school comedy The Outskirts. He’ll also put his charisma to the test as the title character in the epic miniseries Tut, premiering in July on Spike. Still, despite his earnest convictions, Jogia isn’t pretending to be anyone’s life coach. “I think the most important thing to realize is that you’ll always be asking questions, and searching,” he says. “Change is inevitable. Change is the only truth.”
Tut premieres July 19 on Spike. Watch the trailer below: