Photography by JUCO. Hair by Karina Vega.
“There’s no greater compliment than being compared to Nomi Malone!” says Salem, Mass.-born Matthew Risch.
The 32-year-old actor got his big Broadway break in 2008’s Pal Joey when the lead was injured during previews. Risch, who’d been the understudy, stepped up and took the role. Though he claims he never pushed anyone down a flight of stairs, the story is nevertheless the kind that sounds apocryphal, in a Showgirls way.
And it’s striking that a similar thing happens in the new film Test, in which Risch costars with Scott Marlowe as a modern dancer. Risch’s character, Todd, is both a crass antagonist and a brutish magnet for the shy, yet talented, Frankie (Marlowe).
The setting of Test, written and directed by Chris Mason Johnson, is San Francisco in 1985, the year that a test for AIDS antibodies was first made available to the public. Rock Hudson is dying of AIDS, people are still unsure if the disease is transmitted by blood or sweat or toilet seats, and gay men across the city are shrouded by a sense of doom. And doom does weird things to people.
“I love this dichotomy, this illusion that [Johnson] gives to his characters,” Risch says. “Todd comes off as this whorish boor, but he’s putting up a front. He’s accepted that he’s going to die, and he’s really fatalistic. There are layers of desperation in Todd.”
Risch, who is gay, recently relocated from New York to Los Angeles to concentrate on acting. For screenings of Test, he’s traveled to LGBT film festivals across the country. People routinely come up to him after the film to talk about their experiences, especially those who remember a time when gay men were first encouraged to use condoms. That advice has fallen by the wayside for too many young men now. “If we could all just use condoms, we could get rid of [the disease],” Risch says. “Sparking that conversation through the film is something I’m very proud of.”
Test opens in select theaters beginning June 6. Watch the trailer below: