10:01 am - 05/26/2014

Taylor Kitsch on Gay Rights, Homophobic Right-Wingers, and Gays in the Military


Say the name “Taylor Kitsch.” Nine times out of ten, it will conjure up an image of a brooding, sweaty, long-haired hunk. The ghost of Tim Riggins, the football-playing dreamboat of Friday Night Lights, still haunts the Canadian actor who, in the years since, has played a string of macho, tortured men in films like John Carter and Lone Survivor.

So the 33-year-old Canadian wouldn’t be the first fella that came to mind when casting the role of Bruce Niles, a closeted Wall Street investor and gay rights activist in Ryan Murphy’s The Normal Heart.

“It scared me to do it,” Kitsch told The Daily Beast. “It was a big challenge.”

The Normal Heart is written by Larry Kramer and based on his acclaimed 1985 play of the same name, centering on a coterie of gay rights activists in New York City who struggle to gain the attention of politicians and the public and warn them of the rise of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the early ’80s—even though the city’s mayor was gay. It centers on Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo), a passionate, openly gay activist whose chutzpah gradually overwhelms those around him, including his dying lover, Felix, played by the brilliant Matt Bomer, and the president of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Bruce Niles (Kitsch).

The Daily Beast spoke with Kitsch about his exciting new role, the idiocy of gay-bashing, and much more.

This is a pretty big departure from your previous roles. How did you land Bruce Niles?

My manager sent it to me and I was in my apartment in Austin, Texas, in my living room, and she just said, “You’ve got to sit down and read this. They’re in a time-crunch because they’d cast the majority of the roles, but it’s also that kind of script.” I got halfway through and emailed my team and said, “I’m willing to fight for this.” So, I flew out to L.A. to meet with [Ryan] Murphy for a long, two-hour meeting, and we kept exchanging emails about where we wanted to take the character. I really envisioned the character in my head—the duality of Bruce, and the inner torment he felt over not being able to be himself, as well as letting himself love. It’s a fucking tragedy that there’s a guy like that—and a lot of people like him—who feel they can’t be themselves.

How did you occupy the headspace of Bruce?

I watched a ton of documentaries, read a bunch of articles and books, and I know some actors don’t believe in it, but I’m a big fan of how the wardrobe helps shape the character—all the Wall Street three-piece suits. I lost about 20 pounds. The hair, of course, I loved. All that combined takes you to that period where you’re not even questioning it anymore.


Was that the first time you’d gone blond?
Yes. And hopefully the last. [Laughs]

Your character in the film suffers the loss of a loved one, which really leaves him traumatized. Have you ever lost someone close to you?

No, thank God, man. I have my parents and my brothers and sisters, and I haven’t lost a dear, dear friend. I grew up in a trailer park on the outskirts of Vancouver and was friends with a kid, and I heard about eight years ago that he died in a car crash. That hit me hard, but it wasn’t someone in my immediate circle.

It’s great to see an honest, raw portrait of the gay community. It’s pretty crazy that, in 2014, there are still a lot of people—particularly on the right—who are anti-gay.

To me, The Normal Heart is a human rights story. The gay community depicted in the film was fighting for equality and the right to be heard, but the AIDS crisis is a global issue; it’s not just gay people getting the disease. It really points to the naiveté of the people on the right because this is a human story. I don’t understand where this comes from. Who are these people who think they can fucking say who other people can love and shit? There’s a conditioning that must start at an early age where they start to believe this, but if you expose people to something real, they’ll end up liking [gays]. It’s so ridiculous, to me, that I can’t even wrap my head around it.


People fear what they don’t understand.

That’s part of it. People are just so afraid of things that they don’t know, so they just shoot it down.

Homophobia also seems to come from, perhaps, a deep insecurity on the part of “straight” people—that it will somehow challenge their sexuality in some way and force them to confront it.

That’s a great point. That’s something that I learned, too. Yes, Bruce is gay, but his sexuality has nothing to do with the man that he is, or his identity. Someone’s sexuality doesn’t make the person. It definitely comes from a place of insecurity. No doubt. If I have a fucking opinion on something, hopefully it’s grounded and I’ve done some sort of reconnaissance on it and listened to both sides. I just don’t get who the fuck you think you are to even think you have a say in who somebody loves. What a fucking waste of energy. Why not work towards a greater good?

AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease, and I’ve always wondered why the government doesn’t dedicate a bundle of money to creating the perfect condom. Because people would be OK with using condoms if they felt fine.

I think it’s more the education level. When I was growing up in a small town, I wasn’t exposed to what AIDS was until my mid-20s, and that came about by me going to Africa and working at one of the first AIDS clinics in Uganda. They try and scare you straight, in my experience growing up. “Can I get it from a cigarette?” “Can I get it from touching someone?” They try to scare you straight, and more money needs to be allotted to educate people about HIV/AIDS. But we should be more open about AIDS and not so fucking afraid to talk about it—let it be a real issue. Parents and everyone get so fucking worked up about it. The first time I went to Uganda, I went to an AIDS clinic and they give you this nine- or 11-minute test where they tell you whether you’re HIV-positive or not. It’s a dilapidated building with a long hallway and there’s a line all the way down, and you go to the left if you’re positive and there’s counseling. It was so bizarre, and that really affected me.

Another issue the film deals with is being gay in the military, since Bruce is an ex-Green Beret in the film, but was forced to stay in the closet. Now, gays can openly serve in the military.

Let’s put it quite simply: Are you going to be questioning the sexuality of the guy next to you in the trenches if he’s giving you CPR, going to save your life with a tourniquet, or is pulling you to safety? I think that answers its own question. It’s a no-brainer to me.


Have you ever had a fun night out at a gay club?

You know, I haven’t, but I definitely party pretty hard. I was just in New York, and it really has become more about the people. You won’t see me in a club, but we had a great group of guys in New York for the premiere—all my close friends and people who helped to get me where I am all flew in. There are two pro athletes, another works the stock market, and a musician. We were out ’til 7 a.m. My buddy owns a bar in New York and a couple restaurants so we always end up going there because it’s a safe place and we don’t have to worry about people tweeting and shit. We just let loose.

What’s the Kitsch drink of choice?

I can’t drink gin. I’ll be “that guy” at the bar if I drink gin.

Funny you mention that. Me and my friends, during the summer, love “Foghorns”—a double gin and ginger ale in a water cup.

Oh god! When I’m in Austin I’ll go for a strong margarita, because when in Rome, and in New York I got the night started with a little tequila, and then I moved over to vodka. The headaches have become so ridiculous in the morning because I don’t drink that often—they’re unbearable—so I’m way more conscious of it. I’m 33—I’m not 75, or anything—but when I was younger I could go four nights in a row. But now, two weeks before New York I lived monk-like working out hard and clean livin’ just because I knew I was going to light it up in New York.

What do you have coming up next?

I might do this gangster movie in January about the Westies—the Irish-American gang in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. We’re developing that, and it’s a true story about Mickey Featherstone. I’m trying to keep the bar as high as I can.

Right. Early on in people’s careers they just have to work to build their resume, but you’re at a place now where you can be a little picky.

Snakes on a Plane? Yes. The Covenant? I don’t know how we didn’t fuckin’ sweep the Oscars on that movie, but maybe we can do The Covenant 2 or something. Everyone has to start somewhere, and I’m not embarrassed by it, but I’m in a fortunate place right now where I can say, “No, I’m not doing that because my heart won’t be in it.”


Who watched The Normal Heart? So heartbreaking.
Page 1 of 3
<<[1] [2] [3] >>
numbedtoe 26th-May-2014 02:31 pm (UTC)
there are links in this post El Magnifco Wankmaster =)

said with love or something like it.
saintvlas22 26th-May-2014 02:18 pm (UTC)
SO many gay for pay dudes in that pic
boweeko 26th-May-2014 02:19 pm (UTC)
was the movie any good?
manda2119 26th-May-2014 02:29 pm (UTC)
It was very good, but a movie I'm not sure I could watch again. Just tough to watch.
littlebones 26th-May-2014 04:44 pm (UTC)
exactly. i dvred it but i don't think i'd be able to see it again.
celtic_thistle 26th-May-2014 08:04 pm (UTC)
Very powerful but very painful to watch.
bemythugtonight 26th-May-2014 02:20 pm (UTC)
he looks a little like brian krause in the gif
giantbutts 26th-May-2014 03:23 pm (UTC)
i can see it
man i had such a crush on him in charmed
wetnasty 26th-May-2014 02:21 pm (UTC)
I side eye every time I hear a straight person talking about how playing a gay role was "scary"
manda2119 26th-May-2014 02:28 pm (UTC)
He was asked about that before and he said it wasn't the fact that he had to play gay but that this role after the rough year he had in 2012 could define how he was perceived in Hollywood. He was scared because if he was badly received and he couldn't hang with this cast then he wasn't where he wanted to be as an actor because this was the kind of role he was looking for.
thelilyqueen 26th-May-2014 02:39 pm (UTC)
I usually hope they mean it's scary because they don't want to fuck up in a role with that kind of weight behind it (kinda like no one wants to go down in acting history as the worst [insert beloved historical figure]). Sometimes on clarification it does sound like that, others... oy.
viva_espanyol 28th-May-2014 07:15 am (UTC)
i'm so sick of it tbh
wickedmynx 26th-May-2014 02:21 pm (UTC)
I, for one, am enjoying the straight commentary on homophobia. It's like who needs to ask a queer person when you can ask a straight celeb???

Still waiting on links for this movie
niobeeh 26th-May-2014 06:51 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for the links!
numbedtoe 26th-May-2014 02:29 pm (UTC)
oh come on, don't be that person. it's too early in the morning for that. far too early. he's an actor in an adaption of a highly beloved and important gay play, of course he's going to be asked how he feels about certain issues related to the gay community. and i know it doesn't always seem like it, but this is a celeb gossip site. there are a lot of amazing LGBTQ people who are asked about the issues and speak on them every single day. and their views can be found in lots of places.


watch the movie, it's good so far. i just started.

mozilma 26th-May-2014 02:47 pm (UTC)

soul_amazinn LINK26th-May-2014 02:27 pm (UTC)
sarahfer Re: LINK27th-May-2014 11:21 am (UTC)
awesome, thank you
therearewords 26th-May-2014 02:31 pm (UTC)
Many thanks, Munch.
inknot 26th-May-2014 03:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you! my mom changed the password to our HBOGo a few months ago and it didn't save when I logged in and she's on an airplane rn so I'd have to wait to ask her
flamed65 26th-May-2014 10:43 pm (UTC)
its not working for me. says wrong ip address??
gartan18 26th-May-2014 02:30 pm (UTC)
Literally just finished watching it (after searching the internet for hours for a link). I felt physically ill watching Matt Bomer's decline in this movie. So heartbreaking.

My nose is dripping from sobbing for 2 hours straight.
wickedmynx 26th-May-2014 02:31 pm (UTC)
Also this bothers me:

It’s great to see an honest, raw portrait of the gay community. It’s pretty crazy that, in 2014, there are still a lot of people—particularly on the right—who are anti-gay.

To me, The Normal Heart is a human rights story. The gay community depicted in the film was fighting for equality and the right to be heard, but the AIDS crisis is a global issue; it’s not just gay people getting the disease. It really points to the naiveté of the people on the right because this is a human story.

I get what he's trying to say, making this as accessible and current to where we are now and how the epidemic is a global fight. But this particular story is about AIDs but in particular about our community which had MULTIPLE layers of discrimination/anti-gay bigotry at that time.

idk I get where he's going but I don't necessarily think he gets the full scope of things.
for_serious13 26th-May-2014 11:21 pm (UTC)
Of course he doesn't, and never will, he's a straight man.
landwarinasia 26th-May-2014 02:32 pm (UTC)
Yes, Bruce is gay, but his sexuality has nothing to do with the man that he is, or his identity. Someone’s sexuality doesn’t make the person.

Ehhhhh I kind of don't agree with this. Especially if you live in a culture where your sexuality is discriminated against I think it plays a huge part in who you are as a person.
itwalksamongus 26th-May-2014 02:47 pm (UTC)
I don't think Kramer himself would agree with that as well. I read an interview with him years ago where he stated that being a gay person always had been his most defining feature, even before being white, jewish, everything else. For some reason that quotation stuck with me.
teukiesu 26th-May-2014 03:27 pm (UTC)
I agree. When people come out and everyone says "Who cares?" I feel really awkward, because in a society where you're pressured to be straight, it can mean a lot to a person (including me) to come out or be themself.
hussel 26th-May-2014 06:24 pm (UTC)
Especially when this movie is about the 'gay cancer' era of the AIDS epidemic.
ugotnothinonme 26th-May-2014 09:47 pm (UTC)
i hate when people say this shit. like yes, people's sexual orientation is actually part of someone's identity and it affects how you experience the world.
_______awshucks 26th-May-2014 02:37 pm (UTC)
It kept the most heartbreaking and gut curling parts the stage show did. The one thing they did was instead of displaying names on the back wall of the theater and through out the theater (the play is VERY minimalist), they added the rolodex thing, which was an interesting change to get the point across, although the drawer really should have been completely full at the end..just like the theater was. Taylor did a nice job, Lee Pace will always be my Bruce tho. Mark was AMAZING, Matt's weight loss and deterioration made me sob, and Joe Mantello absolutely killed his monologue (but he was Ned on Bway and was so fucking amazing so I wouldn't expect any less). I was pleasantly surprised by Julia as well.
proleptical 26th-May-2014 03:13 pm (UTC)
Mantello was amazing, gosh he broke my heart. He's truly an amazing actor.

And yes, the chemistry between Mark and Matt was everything. I was kinda nervous, ngl, as I usually am when they they depict gay relationships in movies, but fuck was I sobbing by the end of the movie.

The performances really did make the movie. There were certain aspects of the directing that I wasn't too fond off, but thankfully the performances made up for that.
lovedhurtlost 26th-May-2014 02:44 pm (UTC)
Did Ryan Murphy ruin this like you all thought he would?

I can't bring myself to watch. It would be too heartbreaking.
_______awshucks 26th-May-2014 02:58 pm (UTC)
No, he didn't. He actually did a decent job.
lovedhurtlost 26th-May-2014 03:28 pm (UTC)
Well, that's good. I didn't really think he would botch it anyway.
pikapika217 26th-May-2014 03:28 pm (UTC)
RM seems to do well with pilots, movies and first seasons of tv shows. It's beyond that, however, where things tend to fall apart. The only exception to this seems to be 'Popular'
lloyd_llewellyn 26th-May-2014 02:44 pm (UTC)
the amount of dude bros in this movie patting themselves on the back for being so ~progressive~ is just staggering to me.
lipkinlip 26th-May-2014 02:48 pm (UTC)
what are dude bros?
baddiemey 26th-May-2014 02:57 pm (UTC)
like who.
leperheart 26th-May-2014 03:29 pm (UTC)
you mean the same way most of the people on here usually do?
henrycavills 26th-May-2014 02:56 pm (UTC)
I kinda wish he would play Gambit again. I don't want potato head channing tatum to do it :/
topherfy 26th-May-2014 07:55 pm (UTC)
He is the perfect Gambit, and I am sure if he is used properly, he could blow everyone out of the water. Tatum isn't going to impress me, I can already tell.
Page 1 of 3
<<[1] [2] [3] >>
This page was loaded Aug 28th 2014, 9:12 am GMT.