Polo Morín Was Scared to Come Out—Now He's One of Mexico's Most Visible Stars
While America -- and most of the world -- was glued to Who Killed Sara? on Netflix earlier this year, actor Polo Morin was basking in the success of being the first of his generation to both come out, play a gay character, and become a household name while continuing his career in his native Mexico.
He was only 8 years old in 1999 when Gabriel Romero played the first positive gay character in Spanish-language television, Fernandito, on Telemundo's Los Beltran. His coming out as bisexual was a years-long process after he moved to America. Nearly a decade later, Christian Chavez became the first high-profile, Mexican showbiz personality to come out in 2007, but his career was overshadowed by tabloid reports of rehab, a suicide attempt, and relationship violence. Morin and Chavez -- whose TV shows Rebelde and RBD were worldwide hits -- are friends now.
"I love him," Morin says of the actor whose career preceded him by more than a decade. "He's the nicest. I used to watch him on TV. I used to see Christian Chavez on TV and everything around him was sex and drugs because the media made it look that way. I know him personally, he's not like that at all. He's a really sweet guy. He's a really charming guy, and he's a really nice person. But the media decided that he wasn't because he was gay. All the tabloids were about him getting divorced, him having sex with a lot of people, they even invented that he had HIV, which he doesn't. It was always negative, negative, negative, and there was nothing about his career. So that's why I was so scared. I didn't want that to be my story, too."
Fortunately, it hasn't been. Netflix's Mexican mystery thriller Who Killed Sara? is one of the most-watched non-English language shows the streaming giant has ever aired, making it tops in America as well as Guatemala, Columbia, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Chile, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, and Brazil. The thriller, about a man wrongfully convicted of his sister's death, gave us murder, sex trafficking, gay love, and dozens of delicious red herrings -- and it introduced U.S. audiences to Morin.
The 31-year-old actor, who was born in Celaya, Guanajuato, Mexico, has been steadily acting in films and TV in his home country, beginning in 2010 in La rosa de Guadalupe (for which he won a Bravo Award). He was featured in several works, including MTV Mexico's Ultimo ano, the telenovelas Mi corazon es Tuyo and Sueno de amor, and the south of the border remake, Gossip Girl: Acapulco.
We caught up with Morin for 20 questions about his life and career. (All photography by Luis De La Luz)
Out: Tell me about making Who Killed Sara? What was that experience like for you?
Polo Morin: Well, I mean, it was a huge challenge in my career, obviously. And personally, it was also a huge challenge. I came out of the closet in Mexico and Latin America a while ago, but I kind of refused to do gay characters or community characters for a while, because...usually in Latin America, they don't represent the community the way I think it should be represented. It's always a little...comedy, and they always mock it a little bit. I think that's okay, because we can also be funny, we can also be happy. But it's not all there is. So I had been reluctant to do it. But this script immediately caught my eye. And I thought it was really good. I loved it. I think it's very respectful. And also the part that got me the most is how Alex reacts to Chema coming out to him. And the way he says like, he's, he's straight...but still, he loves him very much. It doesn't change anything [between them].
Yeah, that was lovely.
I think in the whole world, but at least in Latin America -- specifically in Mexico -- there's a lack of empathy. A lack of not only tolerance, not only acceptance, but empathy. I love the message that made sense. And that's pretty much why I decided that I did want to do this show. And I'm so happy with the result. It was pretty shocking. It was a surprise for all of us. And happy, just happy.
I think that it's one of a few shows, in the last year or two, where when people come out, they aren't reacted to with homophobia. That's really a big change from screen appearances in the past.
Yeah, that's literally what I loved about the script and about the way the directors wanted to make the scene. They were really specific about it and they talked to Leo Deluglio, who is the actor that plays the younger version of Alex, and that's literally what they said. They were like, "We do not want homophobia at all, we want you to be very respectful. We want you to be a true friend, because a true friend wouldn't be scared or wouldn't be pushed away at all." On the contrary, he would be a better friend now. Because he knows that maybe Chema needs a hug. And maybe he needs support. And that's what we try to try to do. And I think we got there a little bit.
Your younger self on the show is discovering his sexuality. Were there parts of the character that you identified with?
Yeah, of course, many. Pretty much the way he lives it, I think it's the way most of the young boys might live it. It's pretty usual, I would think. That's literally my story, I think I would say. I didn't fall in love with a friend of mine, but I was very confused, and I was really scared to come out and I was really scared of people's reactions. And I didn't have the luck that Chema has to come out to his friends and then they take it well. My friends didn't take it very well at the beginning. Right now I love them and they are okay with everything, but at the beginning, they weren't. And that's also why I wanted to do this and why I think it's so important what we just mentioned, that we represent a part of the society that doesn't get creeped out about it or get scared. I think most of my friends, when I told them, they reacted in a wrong way but not because they thought I was wrong, but because they thought that's what they should do. Because that's what they saw on TV. That's what they show in series, in movies, and that's how you're supposed to react. That's what they learned on TV and books and everything because they see it in a movie. If your best friend comes out, you're supposed to be scared. You're supposed to like, push them away, and then maybe you can push them back. That's why I think it is so important to represent something else. Hopefully, in future generations, it'll help.
You were initially outed by hackers who posted photos of you on Facebook, and you went back and forth in the media. It sounds very stressful.
It was very stressful. That's why I decided, at a point in my career, that I wanted to just be myself. I started acting eight years ago and everything started going really, really well. And I started getting better and better characters and started getting a little popular here in Mexico and Latin America. I never felt happy. I never felt accepted. Because every time somebody looked at me and said, "I'm your biggest fan," deep inside, I knew they weren't. They were a fan of the character that I was playing. They were a fan of who I was pretending to be. I never pretended to be somebody else, but I was never myself. They didn't know entirely who I was.
Right, then someone hacked your account, posted images, and pretended you had come out.
So then I tried to clean the mess, but it was already too late. And then I was really scared because my managers back then were telling me that I had to say that it was a mistake, that I wasn't gay, that everything was just a show that the media was trying to set up because they didn't want my career to fall apart. So that's pretty scary, right? Especially if you're starting. I was really young and I was only starting to grow and my career was just starting and I was so scared. I thought everything was gonna go away. But then I talked to my parents and then I talked to my boyfriend back then and I talked to everyone around me. What I found out about myself is that I hadn't been happy for a long time. I had been stressing out about something that I shouldn't. The main reason why I decided to come out and start talking about myself and start not hiding was that I remembered when I was young, when I was a little boy, I really kind of knew what I was going through. I thought it was really awful, and I thought I was really wrong, and I thought I was a bad person. I thought I should go to hell. I think that if at that point of my life, I'd known at least one guy that was the same way that I was, and that he was okay and that he was doing okay, and that he was mentally okay and professionally okay and healthy and a sane person, I would have felt better. Maybe I wouldn't have been so scared. I decided that for my little Polo, and for all the kids that were [watching at] home, I was going to come out. And I did and it was pretty harsh. It was a couple of harsh days, because Mexico is still very macho. So I did lose many, many fans. My Instagram account lost, I don't know, 100,000 followers in a couple of days.
That must have been tough.
I thought it was going to be, but it was surprisingly really relieving. Because then I started gaining followers back and I knew that honestly...I don't care if it's 1 million, 2 million, 3 million. It's about the quality of the followers and the quality of the fans that I have now. Nowadays, every time I post a photo with my boyfriend, who is the cutest guy you'll ever meet, we get a lot of nice comments and my girl fandom is so happy for me. And my guy fandom, too. I got real fans now, people who actually know who I am. And that makes me the happiest.
They're happy for you. They're happy to see you and your boyfriend. Yeah, the same way they are for any other star.
And honestly, I do have to be honest about it and open about it, I did lose a couple of characters, a couple of roles, especially in soap operas, because, soap operas in Mexico are a little more stereotypical. A lot of producers called me, and they were like, "We cannot give you straight characters anymore, because like everybody knows that you're not straight, so they're not going to fall for the Polo being in love with the female character, so we cannot give you any more characters." That was pretty stressful at the beginning. It was a pretty stressful time until I found a different path in my career and I decided that I wanted to study more and do more deep acting in movies and shows and I wanted to do something else. And that's when Netflix came into my life. And I'm really happy.
You're one of the first of your generation to come out and play a gay character and stay in Mexico, because most actors do move to America. I want to talk about a couple of the guys that came before you to see if you were influenced by them at all. Gabriel Romero actually played the first positive, out gay character in 1999 on Los Beltran on Telemundo. Were you familiar with him at all?
Honestly, no, I'm not. I was, I was eight back then.
Yeah, you're young. You probably know Christian Chavez. He's kind of considered the first high-profile, Mexican showbiz personality to come out around 2007. And he's had a lot of personal problems, though, that have kind of overshadowed his career.
Yeah, nowadays he's a friend of mine. I love him. He's the nicest. I know him personally. I used to know of him, because he did Rebelde and RBD, which were worldwide phenomenons, so I used to watch him on TV. That's literally what I mean by what I want to do with my career and what I wish I can do eventually because I used to see Christian Chavez on TV and everything around him was sex and drugs because the media made it look that way. I know him personally, he's not like that at all. He's a really sweet guy, he's a really charming guy, and he's a really nice person. But the media decided that he wasn't because he was gay. All the tabloids were about him getting divorced, him having sex with a lot of people, they even invented that he had HIV, which he doesn't. They set up a bunch of things that were negative. It was always negative, negative, negative, and there was nothing about his career. So that's why I was so scared.
Yeah, the tabloids really bogged him down.
I didn't want it to be my story, too. That's why I didn't want to play gay characters either on TV because I came out, but I tried to remain private. And that's what I've been trying to do. I do not post a lot about my relationships. I do share that I do have a boyfriend and I think he's the cutest and I'm so in love and I'm really happy. But I don't think that I that I have to expose myself [too much]. And I think the media has been way more respectful about my life than they were about Christian. Hopefully, it'll keep [moving] in that direction. That's literally what I meant when I said that I really think we need sane people in the community, not meaning that Christian wasn't because I know he was, but the media made it look like he wasn't. I hope that I can be -- I don't want to say a role model, because I don't want to put myself there -- but I want to be just a gay man that works and that is seen and is a normal person that happens to love a guy.
I feel like Mexico is where Hollywood was 20 or 30 years ago. We had the first few out gay and lesbian characters (since good trans and bi+ characters came later) and they were sort of model minorities, but they had to be in order to just show that we're 'like everyone else.' And you've chosen to stay in Mexico instead of going to Hollywood.
Well, I am interested in going actually, but I am interested in growth. I'm interested in doing good shows and good things for my career. Right now. I'm so proud of Who Killed Sara? because it was made in Mexico and it's worldwide. So hopefully this will keep happening. It's one of the first shows that we produced in Mexico. And it's written by [showrunner] Jose Ignacio Valenzuela, who is Latin, too. He's from Chile and all the main heads and writers and directors and everyone else is either Mexican or from Chile or Argentina or Colombia. We're all Latin. And it's a worldwide success!
It was one of the most successful foreign language series on Netflix ever, which is saying a lot because they've had a number of foreign language shows that have been fantastic.
I am celebrating that, but I'm celebrating more the fact that that will open doors hopefully. And it should, at least in people's minds, because I think when you think about Mexican shows you think about soap operas, that's it. You never think that we could do something else. Hopefully, it'll open doors and we wouldn't have to move to Hollywood in order to do quality stuff, which I applaud from Eiza Gonzalez, Diego Luna Garcia, Salma Hayek, all those personalities that are already there. And I maybe I will one day.
It would be nice to have those as options even as Mexico's industry grows in this exponential way.
In my ideal world, maybe one day Meryl Streep would wake up and say, "I would love to go to Mexico and work there." Right? That'd be my ideal world. If I can help the production world walk a little towards that, I want to stay here for a while. As long as it's possible, because I'm only one guy, but I think we're walking towards there.
How young were you when you started acting? How did you start?
Well, it's a really cute story because I always knew I [wanted to act]. I was born in Celaya, Guanajuato, which is a really, really, small town in south-central Mexico and nobody over there acts. Nobody I know does. I grew up watching TV. And I always knew, I don't know why or how, but I remember being, say, 4 years old and watching a TV show and saying, "Mom, that's literally what I want to do. Like, please take me there, because I want to do an audition. And I want to do that." So my parents pretended to send letters to Televisa [one of the largest producers of Spanish-language content], and television networks. And they were like, "We sent your pictures, but they didn't call you. We're so sorry." Nowadays, they told me they never sent them, obviously, because they thought I was just young, and I didn't know what I wanted with my life.
If you're not around anybody who does that kind of stuff. It's just pie in the sky, craziness to parents.
They were really scared when I started growing older. I did start taking acting lessons and I was always telling everybody that this is what I wanted to do with my life. They started getting a little worried, they talked to me a lot, and they were like, "We don't want you to do it because you're going to be a drug addict, and you're going to be gay, and you're going to be having orgies everywhere." And that's like the concept they have and they were really scared. They never thought that I was going to actually make it. They thought I was gonna leave poor and a drug addict and having sex everywhere. That's what they thought. And it was a pretty hard thing for my parents to accept. But I was pretty clear about it, which I'm really thankful to myself for, because I told them that's what I wanted to do and that there was like no other path. I started taking acting lessons and I started studying acting and then I came to Mexico City when I was 17 to live on my own. And that's when I actually started doing it professionally. And nowadays, they're really happy with it because they finally found out that I did want to do it and that I wanted to do it the right way, in a professional way, and I did study, and I audition all the time. I'm studying all the time and I'm such a geek when I work. My parents have been on set with me many times and they always tell me that that's when I look the happiest. Because whenever I have a call and I'm gonna go shoot and like I can wake up so early in the morning and be so hyped and happy and dancing. That's what I do when I want to be happy. I am living my dream. I do have a lot of dreams. And I do I want to grow a lot. And I want to keep studying. I want to keep planting a seed in society so I can help others. But I am pretty happy doing what I do right now.
Is there a moment in your career where you thought 'Oh, this is my big break?'
Well, there [were] many points. There was this one show that was called Mi Corazozon es Tuyo, "my heart is yours," which was a soap opera on Televisa I made seven years ago. No, like six years ago, I think. And that was the first main role I had on a TV show and it was huge. It blew up in a worldwide way that I didn't know. That's the first time that I started getting paparazzi outside my house. There was a point back then, where I said this was my break. But then again, this was before I came out. So this is literally what I was talking about earlier. A couple years later is when all the media [started] hacking my accounts, things happened. And that's when I talked about it with my family and my friends and they were like, "You don't seem happy? Even though you are getting what you dreamt, of you don't seem happy," because they knew my heart. They knew it. They knew how I was happy before. Because the more famous you get, the less you can trust people because everybody wants something from you. Or everybody wants information or everybody can get something out of you. So I was trusting nobody. I had a boyfriend and I had to hide it. So I was very lonely back then. So when I came out I started feeling more free, and right now with Who Killed Sara? hopefully, this will be my break because now I am myself. I'm already shooting a new show that hopefully will be really big, and I'm so excited about it.
Is it in Mexico as well?
It's in Mexico as well, but it's a worldwide project, which is what I was telling you. I'm hopeful this will keep happening.
We still have problems in Hollywood, too. A few years ago, there was a gay manager of a young A-list actor who is gay. The manager told the actor he wouldn't rep him if he came out. And I remember thinking, as a gay man, that's sort of the worst thing you could do to a young actor. Now this young actor is definitely very, very successful. He can do a movie and bring in a lot of money, but I'm always wondering how happy he is, you know, not being able to be authentic in his life.
Yeah, yeah, that happens a lot. And I think it's because we are taught to be scared. A lot of people did tell me that many times. "Polo, you're just starting, if you come out, everything that you've worked for, is going to go to trash, literally, you're not gonna make it, you're not going to get anywhere."
Do you want to call those people back now and say, 'Hey, did you watch my show? We're the most popular in the world.'
That's what I'm most excited about is that I don't have to, because they're gonna watch it. And they're gonna be like, "He got there." And that's what I'm so happy about. I don't want to be self-absorbed or anything, but I'm really proud of what we're achieving. And what I love the most about all of this situation is that I do get a lot of messages and DMs on Instagram and Facebook and everywhere from young gay boys or members of the community, people thanking me just for being myself, which is the most amazing thing that can happen. Having people thanking you for being yourself, it just lightens my day every day. That's excellent.
Let me ask one last question. I know your parents grew up in the same culture of machismo. I have family from Mexico, so I understand it well. And one of their fears was that if you became an actor, you'd become gay and have all these orgies. And part of that came true. You are gay. You were already gay.
Of course, I was already gay before becoming an actor.
Yes, of course. But how did they react to your coming out and how has that evolved over time?
Well, it was pretty harsh for them because, on top of it, they are really Catholic. They are Mexican and raised in the macho community and they are Catholic. So there was something inside them that was like...when I came out to my mom, back then I thought she was being really cool. She said she started crying a lot, and she said, "Please do not make me talk Polo, please just let me stay quiet. Because whatever I say right now is gonna scar you for life. And I don't want to hurt you. So please, just let me stay quiet. And just let me hug you because I love you. And I want you to know that I love you and just let me hug you. I don't want to say anything."
I thank her so much because she was really smart. Because she has admitted right now to me that back then she would have said that I was going to go to hell and that I was really wrong and whatever, and that would have been really bad to me. So she kept quiet and she started going to therapy with her psychologist and she talked to a bunch of priests about it and a bunch of psychologists and a bunch of friends and she concluded that no matter what, she was going to love me because I was her son. And she has been the greatest mom in the world. Even though she remains Catholic and she still goes to church every day. She knows my boyfriend and she loves my boyfriend and they're really good friends. My dad, on the other hand, I thought he was going to be really bad about it because he was the stereotypical macho man. I grew up in a house where I could hear my dad say really mean stuff about gay people. So I was really, really, really scared about coming out. I remember thinking that whenever I come out to my dad, I'm gonna lose my dad and I'm not gonna have a dad anymore. But then I thought that I hadn't had a dad, because he never knew who I was. And he was saying bad things about people that were the way I was. So I wasn't scared anymore. I thought he might, like hit me or something.
He was the biggest surprise of all. Ironically, ever since I came out to my dad, we've been the best of friends. It was pretty hard for him, of course, at first. But I finally opened up to him and I started being myself, he started being himself, and we weren't pretending anymore. And now we love each other. It's so funny because I mean it when everybody asks me who's my best friend is. It's my dad. When I got this part that I'm doing right now, the first people that I called were my dad or my mom and we became really close. They really love my new boyfriend. They are so in love with him and they see me really happy and that's what's the most important for them.
That's really amazing. And I know you don't want to say much, but what can you tell me about the boyfriend?
He's amazing. He makes me really happy. I wouldn't say anything bad about my ex, but at the end, it wasn't the happiest moment in my life. Then I decided that I was going to remain single for the rest of my life and I was going to stay focused on my career.
How long did it take you before you fell in love again?
Almost three years, two and a half years. I was really happy, just single and being happy. I came back to having a great relationship with my parents and having great relationships with my friends and with myself. That was very necessary. I started working out again. I started working on myself. And then out of the blue, I met my boyfriend on TikTok, which was so funny. He sent me a DM on TikTok. And I was like, "Oh, he's cute." I texted him back and we started talking and then we met in person and we loved each other and the rest is history.
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