For Blake Lee & Ben Lewis, A Chance Encounter in the Men's Room Became an Eight-Year Love Affair

Blake Lee + Ben Lewis
Photography: Luke Fontana

Blake Lee, Actor

We met in 2010. Aubrey Plaza is one of my best friends, and I went to the premiere of her movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. I’m in the bathroom of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, peeing at a urinal, minding my own business, and I look in the mirror and see this insanely handsome guy looking at me. I thought, Who is this? He’s like a 1950s movie star. I’m shy, and there were about 20 sinks, but I thought, I’m going to wash my hands next to him. So I walk up and say hi, and he goes, “Is your name Blake? I think we have mutual friends. I’m in the movie too.” I came back to my seat and said to my friend Jill, “I just met the man I’m going to marry — at the urinal.” But we laughed it off.

Ben’s from Toronto and was only in L.A. for a week, but we exchanged numbers at the movie’s after-party and ended up hanging out the rest of the week. After he flew back, we were talking on the phone, and I said, “This is crazy, but I think maybe we can make this work.” We did long distance for nearly three years before he moved here.

Before I proposed to Ben, I asked for his parents’ permission. We were all in Whistler on vacation, and I sandwiched myself between them on a ski lift. The metal bar came down, and I was sweating thinking, If you say this, you have to do it. You need to know this is what you really want. Then I just blurted out, “I bought a ring and I’m going to propose to Ben.” They were quiet for what seemed like an hour, and then his mom, in this high-pitched scream, was like, “Oh, my God!” She was so excited. They had to keep it a secret until I proposed six months later.

We’re both brown-haired white guys. We’ve been up for the same parts. He gets more jealous than I do, so when we first started dating we made a rule that we can’t be each other’s competition. If either of us gets a part, it’s going to benefit both of us. When my first series got picked up, he burst into tears. He said, “I’ve never cried out of happiness for someone else.”

I was more nervous to come out publicly than Ben was. I though it might hurt the show I was on, but when I was doing press for it I actually hurt Ben’s feelings. I was reluctant, and he thought it was ridiculous. Of course, when I listened to him, it all worked out. Nobody cared. Coming out made me a happier person, and my career was so much better after that.

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Ben Lewis, Actor and Writer
When I got to L.A. for the movie premiere, I called my friend Bert to say, “I’d like to hang out this week because I don’t really know anybody here.” He said, “You should look out for my friend Blake because he’s going to be at the movie tonight.” I actually saw Blake when I got out of the car at the premiere. I knew who he was because my writing partner and friend Lauren had been out in L.A. for pilot season that year, and she’d told me she’d met Aubrey Plaza’s gay boyfriend from Parks and Recreation. That’s when the Facebook stalking had started. I already knew exactly who Bert was talking about.

I was in the men’s room, and he saw me staring at him. It probably seemed creepy, but in my head it made sense. We found out we had friends in common and hung out at the after-party, and the next day I had a meeting and was going to lunch by myself, but I thought, Maybe this guy can meet me. We met at The Belmont. There’s a big patio, and he brought his dog, Todd, who’s now our dog. I think he was a security blanket for Blake, but it was a little off-putting because I didn’t grow up with pets. I thought, This is never going to work. The dog is darting around under the table and being disruptive. Now I sorta love that about Todd.

I didn’t think we’d spend the whole week together, let alone the next eight years. I started coming to L.A. every six to eight weeks, and we’d talk on the phone every day. In all my other relationships I’d get suffocated quickly. I think distance helped because I had space. Also, Blake makes people feel very comfortable. After a couple of weeks of talking, I’d gotten to know him better than anyone I’d ever been with. We met at the end of July, and when he came to Toronto in September I had an instinct that he could meet my family right away. I remember he went to the bathroom at dinner and Mom whispered, “I love him.”

I never felt like we were hiding our relationship until he was in Mixology a few years ago. Suddenly he had this platform, and I think he was scared. Had I been the one to book a show first, I probably would have had a similar struggle. When you’re starting out, it’s hard enough to get jobs without having to worry about bias or discrimination. I understood why it was difficult for him, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hurtful. It tested us.

As you get older and further along in your career, you figure out what your bottom line is in terms of what you need to be happy. The culture will never shift unless people are willing to make sacrifices for what they believe in. It’s been nice to compare Blake’s experience on Wisdom of the Crowd with the last time around—to see our growth as a couple and his as an individual and an artist with a platform. I’m very grateful we made it through that difficult period, and that we’re on the other side of it now.  

 

Photography: Luke Fontana

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