Photography by Tyler Shields
Calling Shiloh Fernandez a queer ally is as much an understatement as it is a reductive take on the actor’s nature. He has an extraordinarily unfazed view on the fluidity of love and desire.
In between talking about the Portuguese, Russian, and Native American heritage that gave him his puppy-dog-with-a-bite good looks, and that time he drove to Saigon on a motorcycle to help a children’s nonprofit, Fernandez explains how, while shooting last year’s Evil Dead remake, he was directing his own experimental movie, Queen of Carthage, about a pansexual nomad “who falls in love with people, not gender.”
Viewers fell for Fernandez after 2011’s Red Riding Hood, which was arguably kept afloat by the 29-year-old’s smolder. This month he plays an enigmatic stud-next-door in White Bird in a Blizzard, the latest angst-fest from Gregg Araki — and the latest example of Fernandez embracing all types of attraction.
Birds of a Feather
“When I moved to L.A., I was watching tons of films, and when I saw Gregg Araki’s movies I really felt like I would fit in them. He and I didn’t discuss that, and I was just happy he included me, but there is a long line of young male actors [from his films] who have a look — a bit like mine, I guess. And Araki’s got a complete look himself. He’s a beautiful man.”
From Flashbulbs to Folding
“When I was 15, Dov Charney, the founder of American Apparel, wanted to photograph me. My dad eventually agreed, we shot for a day in New York, and when I was 17, he flew me down to L.A. for more pictures. A couple of years later, I was like, ‘Hey, can you pay me for photos again?’ And he said, ‘No, but I’m opening a store and you can work there [as a stock boy].’ I can fold a shirt now, but the tags had pictures of models on them, so I’d be looking at my face. It was god-awful.”
The Company He’s Kept
“I’m from a really small town, and when I was in high school, I had a friend I spent more time with than my own family. He liked being with boys, but he wasn’t allowed to. And all these guys — these jocks — would ask for sexual favors, but they were also tormentors. He didn’t want to perpetuate rumors by fighting it, and the whole thing somehow made him super-noble. He’s living with me now, and I get to see firsthand how noble and amazing he is.”
Constructing a Career
“My last day job was in construction, and one day this manager called and said, ‘You have an audition at Warner Bros. for [TV’s] Cold Case.’ I made something up, drove over there, and auditioned for the part of a male prostitute who’s friends with another male prostitute who wanted to be with him. I did the audition and they were like, ‘Hey, that was great. Can you wait six hours? The directing starts tonight.’ I decided to stay, and got my first role playing a male prostitute with ambiguous sexuality. I obviously made the right choice because I got my agent from that job, and I never stopped working.”
On My Own Private Idaho
“Everyone pointed me toward that movie. The ambiguity is what I liked most about it. I really enjoyed that it didn’t put labels on anything, and that it was really just about connection and love and being lost within relationships and being with someone who just fills you up and accepts you.”
White Bird In a Blizzard is now On Demand & iTunes; in theaters Oct. 24. Watch the trailer below: