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10 Qs: Eastsiders' Van Hansis on Playing an Unlikeable Gay, and Growing Up Without a TV

10 Qs: Eastsiders' Van Hansis on Playing an Unlikeable Gay, and Growing Up Without a TV

Van Hansis and Kit Williamson on Eastsiders
Van Hansis (left) and Kit Williamson (right) on 'Eastsiders' (Photo Courtesy of Eastsiders)

The star of Eastsiders and Kiss Me, Kill Me answers Out's 10 most burning questions.

It wasn't long ago that Van Hansis made history by becoming one half of the first gay kiss in a soap opera, As the World Turns. Since then, the world has turned quite a bit, allowing more and more LGBT characters to take the spotlight.

Hansis currently stars in Eastsiders, a gay series at the forefront of the indie Internet platform. As the second season rolls out, he's making the festival rounds for his gay noir film, Kiss Me, Kill Me. Somehow, he found the time to answer our 10 most burning questions:

Out: I first remember hearing about you on As the World Turns. What was it like to have such a groundbreaking role like that and see how far we've come since then?

Van Hansis: It's incredibly amazing to see how far we've come since then, especially since it wasn't all that long ago. Culturally, how far we've come in such a quick amount of time is really amazing. It kind of seems like with every rights movement, the amount of time gets shorter and shorter before people start getting recognized for who they are and what they deserve. But especially with the gay rights movement, I think a lot of it has to do with the Internet and how connected people are now. At the time, I'd never watched soaps growing up or anything, so I didn't know how groundbreaking it was. In retrospect, I do and I'm so honored to be a part of it. But at the time, it didn't all register for me.

Did you watch Queer as Folk or any other gay TV shows at the time?

I went to boarding school and then I went to college, so I kind of missed all the late '90s, early 2000s television cause I didn't have a TV. And that was kind of before you could watch things online so I actually haven't seen Queer as Folk. But I've never seen a lot of television from that time period. Like I never watched Twin Peaks, and now I'm going back on Netflix and watching all of Twin Peaks. And now that you have online platforms where you can just kind of see everything, it's awesome.

You currently star in Kiss Me, Kill Me with Gale Harold among a really amazing cast. What's it like working with so many talented LGBT actors?

It's amazing. And I think Kit (Williamson) brought a lot of that cast from Eastsiders to Kiss Me, Kill Me. And Eastsiders also has a ton of super talented LGBT actors. I think it's wonderful that LGBT actors are being cast in LGBT roles. But I mean it's called acting. Gay actors can play straight roles and straight actors can play gay roles. But there's a lot of LGBT actors in Kiss Me, Kill Me and it's an LGBT story so I think there's a connection, and sometimes if you cast straight actors in gay roles, they don't fully get that connection. But as I said, it's called acting so it's great to be a part of these films that have a lot of LGBT people but they also have a lot of straight people. And it's great that everybody can mix together.

So what's the sense of community like within the gay indie film scene?

I think there's a strong sense of community. We had a screening of Eastsiders last weekend in LA, and so many people who are part of the LGBT filmmaking community in LA showed up, because you know everyone likes to support each other. It's still pretty small, but it's good to get to know everybody and everybody's work within the umbrella of queer filmmaking. There are so many different stories to be told now. I think especially now that people's lives have become more of a reality, I think that kind of opens the doors for filmmakers. You know, not every gay film now is what it was in the '90s or in the '80s. They were very specific to the coming out process or to HIV/AIDS or something like that. And now, those stories are still incredibly relevant but there's also room for different kinds of stories. Kiss Me, Kill Me is like a noir thriller, and I've never seen that as a gay film before, so that's a lot of fun.

Do you think we'll see more LGBT films emerging from the indie market and becoming mainstream soon?

I don't know how mainstream they're ever gonna be, which is kinda sad. I hope so but I'm not sure. It feels to me that indie films are in a place that they weren't in a decade ago where you could make an indie film and it could go to Toronto and get picked up by this awesome distributor, and then it would be in movie theaters everywhere. Some of the films that I really wanted to see in Toronto are now on demand immediately and missed the whole theatrical release. I just saw this amazing horror comedy called The Final Girls. It was at the festival and now it's just on-demand. I think it's harder for anything to become a mainstream crossover that's not a studio film. I think it's gonna be up to the individual viewer to look for what they want and find the stories they want to see.

Eastsiders really strives for a sense of reality in its characters and storylines. Why do you think that's so popular with shows like Eastsiders and Looking as opposed to the soap opera style of Queer as Folk or the sitcom style of Will & Grace?

I think it's a sign of the times honestly. Will & Grace came out in a time when you had Friends, you had Frasier, you had Seinfeld. You had all of these three camera sitcoms with a laugh track or a live audience and that's how comedy was made back then. It was sort of the only way. And now we have things like The Office or Modern Family, or all of these single camera comedies, so the taste has changed. And I feel like with Looking or Eastsiders, the taste has also changed. While there's always a place for soap operas and sitcoms, I think there's a lot of need for more personal smaller stories. There's maybe more of a need for less style and more substance right now.

What would you say you most relate to in your character in Eastsiders?

I think the idea of trying to do the right thing, even though sometimes you don't know what the right thing is.

Is it difficult playing Thom, who isn't always the most likeable character on the show?

No, I love it. I think it gives you a lot of freedom. A lot of actors don't want to be an asshole. You want to be liked by people. I think it's kind of inherent in actors to seek approval in a way. So it's really nice to play a character who doesn't do that. Even though Thom makes a lot of mistakes, I don't think his heart is in the wrong place. He tries to navigate what this world's rules are, and he doesn't really know what he's doing.

As a gay actor, would you say you prefer gay roles?

I tend to not think about the sexuality of the characters I play. I have played a bunch of gay roles and I think what is interesting is the differences in character, not the orientation. I think Luke (As the World Turns) is very different from Thom (Eastsiders). They both like men, but they'd probably hate each other.

What's your spirit animal?

It changes. I want to be something like a bird, maybe a hawk, something at the top of the food chain. I don't want to be one of those nervous birds that get eaten by something bigger. Either that or maybe a dolphin... Probably a dolphin.

Eastsiders season 2 is available November 3 on DVD and now available digitally on Wolfe On Demand. Watch the trailer below:

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