Sex, Drugs, and YouTube: Creating Brian Jordan Alvarez
Photos by Glenn Garner
In recent years, the DIY accessibility of platforms like YouTube and Instagram have afforded a rare celebrity status to the likes of queer figures such as Tyler Oakley, Gigi Gorgeous, and Hannah Hart. With followings often in the millions, their passionate fandoms outshine those of some of Hollywood's biggest names. It's a unique and powerful form of queer representation that many wouldn't have imagined a decade ago.
"Going viral online is something that you kind of don't have control over," he says. "It just happens or it doesn't. I made that video, and I guess some force in the universe wanted everyone to see it. And then I just kept making those shorts for a long time, and there was a natural progression to making full-length content."
Alvarez has probably become most known for his YouTube series, The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo. He stars as Gallo, a young man navigating identity, love, and sex positivity. With a talented and diverse cast of some of his closest friends, he's expertly delved into the romantic and platonic dynamics of young adults through a queer lens, offering a lighthearted sense of humor and appreciation for life.
"I certainly like for people to think that life can be good, because I have a very good life, and I love life," he says of his work. "And I obviously know that life can be bad, but I like to give people a positive experience in general when they watch my content. Beyond that, I just really try to keep it interesting, and the fans will tell me when it's not interesting, you know? I'll hear about it."
The web series has earned its own devoted following of social media fandom. With GIFs and memes of some of the show's best one-liners circulating Twitter, it seems he's discovered a niche that queer fans just can't find on TV.
And although queer social media has no shortage of thirsty content, Alvarez approaches sex with a refreshing candor. The spectrum of sexuality and identity is depicted through ambiguity and a healthy curiosity. His characters don't have all the answers, just as most real people don't, but they have the insatiable appetite to discover them.
"I am sex positive," he says. "It comes naturally to me. I like love, I like good healthy sex, and I want people to feel free and happy in their lives. I think I grew up with a lot of shame, as many gay men do. So, to allow gay sex to be in my work as freely as straight sex is in mainstream work feels good."
Alvarez also recently starred in close friend, Stephanie Koenig's Stupid Idiots, a comedy about two friends trying to get rich while putting in the least work possible. It's currently in development as a series with Paramount Television and Anonymous Content.
Together, they've formed their own little community of creators who often collaborate on each other's work. Fellow actors and friends like Koenig, Freckle, Ken Kirby, and Daniele Watts make up the dynamic and entertaining cast of Caleb Gallo. Their cohesive chemistry and timing creates an ensemble worthy of primetime.
"I'm just really grateful that I have people that understand my style of work and my sense of humor or my sense of drama at certain times, who can go with me on that journey," he says. "They're all just really brilliant minds. It's the people around me that make all this stuff possible, and I'm forever indebted to them. I try to give to them as much as possible."
Throughout years of honing his creative process, Alvarez discovered clarity in sobriety. Having struggled with addiction during his early 20s, he's found inspiration and motivation through a cleaner lifestyle.
"Among all of its gifts, for me, the biggest one is it just frees up a lot of my time," he says of his sobriety. "So, I just have more hours every day when it feels natural to be doing something productive because I'm not getting intoxicated. The same inspired energy that was being eaten up by drugs and alcohol is now actually being used to make something that people can see and can relate to."
In creating such relatable and enjoyable content, Alvarez piqued the interest of Will & Grace creators, Max Mutchnick and David Kohan. He made his first appearance during last year's season finale of the show's revival. He can be seen this season as Estefan Gloria, Jack's flight attendant fiance.
For him, it's a dream come true getting to work on a show that contributed to his queer adolescence.
"It's like getting to work with masters," he says. "The creators did see some of Caleb Gallo, and I think me having that work out there and having a voice in the community and also having created something like Caleb Gallo, which can only exist because Will & Grace existed, I think they found that to be a cool thing that I had made that."
As Alvarez makes us laugh on Will & Grace, he continues to create his own content, while supporting his friends in theirs. Although his new role on the sitcom is his priority, it seems ingrained in his nature to utilize whatever platform is available. With such a voice and an ability to entertain, it almost seems wrong to deprive the world of that.