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  WINDY CITY TIMES

REELING FILM FEST 'Fourth' actor Todd on casting, furniture, coming out
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times.
2015-09-16

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In the movie Fourth Man Out, Adam ( played by Evan Todd ) comes out to his blue-collar buddies, resulting in all sorts of hilarity as he and his friends try to sort out their feelings.

Windy City Times recently talked with Todd ( who's out in real life as well ) about the movie's script and color-blind casting—as well as what he likes to do during his spare time.

Windy City Times: I caught Fourth Man Out—which, looking at the title, I thought might have something to do with baseball...

Evan Todd: [Laughs] Yeah, some people think it's a baseball comedy.

WCT: I thought it was really well-made.

ET: Thanks—I'm glad you enjoyed it. I was happy that everything played the way it did, and that it wasn't a tragic coming-out story. It was a little more optimistic and positive.

WCT: Is that what attracted you to the script?

ET: Yeah, it did. I'm not against playing gay parts at all, but I'm not interested in playing anything that's cliched. I like that it's an interesting, fun movie [in which] the character happens to be gay. The humor, the honesty and that it feels like a buddy movie—that's what drew me to the script.

WCT: How much do you personally identify with your character [Adam]?

ET: Oh, I understand that story very well! The fear, the group dynamic... I think people my age understand that on a certain level.

WCT: Yes—and I think everyone can identify with those dates from hell Adam went on as well.

ET: [Laughs] Yes, I'm sure they can. With all those dating apps—Tinder and Grindr—you never know what you're gonna get.

WCT: Yes, it's sort of a minefield. By the way, one of my favorite lines in the film is from Adam's friend Ortu, who says, "He can't be gay. He eats steak every day!"

ET: [Laughs] That's a pretty great line. It's another example of someone coming out that's unexpected. The whole group of friends gets to learn that nothing has to change—although everything does change. [Adam] is not a cliche of what they expect a gay man to be.

WCT: Exactly. For a second, can we give a shout-out to Kate Flannery [who plays Adam's mother]?

ET: Right?!? Can we? She's incredible. She cracks me up, and she's one of the sweetest people. She wasn't on the set for very long, and she came in near the tail end of things—and she just wanted to make everything better.

WCT: In fact, I came up with the term "Flann-tastic" to describe her.

ET: [Laughs] She is "Flann-tastic." She'd love that. And she's a really great spokesperson for whatever project she's working on.

WCT: I read about your background, Mr. Julliard. You started a gay-straight alliance at that school, right?

ET: Yes, I did. I started the gay-straight alliance there—and it's counterintuitive on some level, as it's a conservatory with an openly gay population. When I got there, I realized there wasn't active conversation about openly gay artists and what that means for their careers—and things are changing so quickly. I was thinking, "Sexual orientation can play a part in certain decisions. How does that affect people's careers? What's the right and ethical way to go through the industry without being closeted?"

It all started because I wanted to get professional, successful, openly gay actors in a room to talk about their experiences—although there are, of course, openly gay dancers and musicians as well.

WCT: On a related [note], I'm sure you've heard the whole argument about LGBT actors playing straight roles, and vice versa. Where do you stand regarding that issue? There were people who initially objected to Jared Leto playing a trans role in the movie Dallas Buyers Club.

ET: I think everything has its time, right? Right now, with trans issues at the forefront of people's minds, I don't think it's the right time for a non-trans actor to play a trans role, on some level. I think some incredible trans roles are being written, and [they should go to] trans actors who don't often get the chance to act—this is their time.

Straight actors playing gay? It doesn't really bother me. To me, it should just be who's best for the part. As for gay actors playing straight, it seems to be absurd that it's even a question anymore. I know for a fact that gay actors get passed over for parts because they're gay. I think as more leading man-type actors come out, it'll be less of a question. I think it's happening slowly, with the Matt Bomers and Zachary Quintos of the world; they're young, strapping guys who say, "I'm gay, and I'm going to play the parts I want to play." They're taking a hit to their careers, potentially, but it's for the greater good.

WCT: Who was the first person you came out to?

ET: I was in a summer drama program at Yale, and I was pretty young—I actually lied to get in, [as] you were supposed to be a rising senior, and I was a sophomore. I was 16, and I met this really cool girl. We started talking, and she thought I was going to say, "I don't care if you have a boyfriend and I have a girlfriend. I really like you."

Instead, I told her I was gay, and it was amazing. It was pretty emotional, with me crying—and I'm not usually a crier. She just sat there and listened to me. We had an amazing five weeks there. I didn't tell anyone else until the last day before I went home. It was just the perfect time and place—to be around newly formed friends. I was able to be open in a way that I wouldn't have able to be back home.

It was complicated, liberating time—and I never felt more like a guy than when I did come out. I felt like I could embrace this totally masculine side of myself. It was like, "I'm a man who likes men, but it doesn't make me any less of a man." I thought I'd become a cliche—which was my biggest fear. I came out, and discovered I could still connect to the community.

WCT: Going back to the movie, it's interesting because your friends are the ones who bring up all the cliches, talking about Les Miz and asking about power bottoms.

ET: Right—and it made sense because that's what happened with me. He says it because he's come to terms with it. His friends have their own assumptions about gay culture.

WCT: What do you want people to take away from this film?

ET: I'd love for people to take away that nothing has to change. The relationship dynamic may change slightly, or there might be some awkwardness—but, at the end of the day, the relationship is stronger. I think it's an accurate representation of what coming out is like.

Also, I hope that people say they saw this really great film, but not that it's necessarily a "gay film." It's about a guy who happens to be gay; it's a buddy movie, with all these guys.

WCT: Do you have a dream actor or actress you'd like to work with?

ET: Yeah, absolutely; I have a list. [Laughs] This is going to sound cliched, but I'd love to work with Judi Dench; she's brilliant, and I don't know how much longer she plans on acting, but I'd kill to work with her. Rachel McAdams is another one—and, of course, there's Meryl Streep, Robert DeNiro, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith... I love all the Brits.

WCT: What's something about yourself that a lot of people don't know?

ET: People don't know this, but I run two nonprofits. I started two arts-space empowerment programs for kids. One [involves] middle and high school kids in my hometown; we bring Julliard students to work with them. The other has American artists paired with South African teaching artists, and we do a program for HIV-affected kids in Johannesburg.

Fun fact: I build custom industrial furniture. When I first moved to L.A., that's how I made money. I built furniture because I couldn't afford the furniture I wanted and I thought IKEA expires after six months. [Interviewer laughs]

WCT: It was really cool to see all the instances of interracial dating and bonding in the movie, by the way.

ET: That's so good to hear! Our casting directors, Karlee Fomalont and Erica A. Heart, deserve total props for doing that. They're young, talented female casting directors who killed it in terms of who they cast [as well as] being aware of interracial relations and making the cast as diverse as possible.

They have such a great eye and sensitivity to the importance of diversification in casting. They really represent what I hope is the new wave of casting.

Fourth Man Out will be the opening-night feature at Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival on Thursday, Sept. 17, at 7:30 p.m. at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave. See reelingfilmfestival.org/2015/ .


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