Straight talk with "Screen Kiss" co-star Brad Rowe
It's late afternoon, but Brad Rowe is still a little beat from a late night on San Francisco's gay nightclub circuit.
One of the stars of "Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss," a mock melodrama about a shy, gay photographer's frustrating crush on a sexually ambiguous friend, Rowe spent last night club hopping with the movie's writer-director Tommy O'Haver.
"We went to some dumb straight clubs," a groggy O'Haver says as he nurses a high-octane latte, "then we dragged him to Esta Noche, because I wanted to look at the boys at Esta Noche."
Smoothly handsome (he looks a bit like another hunky actor named Brad), and extremely straight, Rowe has gotten used to the gay scene since taking the part as the is-he-or-isn't-he object of Billy's affection in this comedy that harks of a Doris Day romance, with a gay guy in the Day role.
Sitting in a board room at the Prescott Hotel on Post Street, kicking his feet up in a deep leather chair like it was lawn furniture, Rowe says their night out was pretty slow.
Did anyone hit on him?
"No, not really. There were only about 15 people there. We were just hanging out talking. No news to report," he winks.
Rowe came into acting by way of a mail room job at United Talent Agency, a job he got after returning from two years in Spain, and playing Gabriel in "Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss" is his first major movie role (he's been in two other films).
The Milwaukee native, looking conspicuously stylish for a straight guy, in a silk avocado shirt and chinos, says he's been mistaken for gay quite a bit over the years.
"I went through the whole sort of getting over being freaked out by that while waiting tables at school and then working with the Republican Party in Washington. There were a lot of those kinds of characters there."
What kinds of characters?
"Guys who would hit on me," he says without a hint of irony.
Republicans? You got all the closeted people coming after you, was that it?
"Exactly. While they're writing policy to persecute homosexuals."
Rowe acknowledged in our conversation, however, that playing Gabriel in this film has made him a little cautious again since the movie is getting a lot of exposure.
SPLICED: With the movie coming out, do you have any new worries about guys coming on to you or women thinking you're gay?
Rowe: I have to admit that I did have some reservations about going out dancing a couple weeks ago. My roommates and a couple of girlfriends were gonna go out dancing in West Hollywood at a gay club, and I decided "Guys, I can't do it." Because my poster is going to be plastered all over the bar, and I just...no way. I didn't go.
So it did actually prevent me from doing something I would have done otherwise. But for the most part I'm cool with it.
SPLICED: Have you ever found yourself in a position like Gabriel, in awkward friendship with somebody who has a crush on you, but you don't return the feelings?
Rowe: I had a very "Billy"-esque experience when I was living in Spain the first time. It was the second semester I was studying over there and I had this guy who had this total crush on me. Everywhere we went -- I had a girlfriend while I was over there -- he would come with us. He always wanted to be there, and we so many of these conversations like Billy and Gabriel. He hadn't outed himself, but he was definitely interested in guys. I hope he did (come out) eventually.
SPLICED: You ever been on the other side of it? Unrequitedly in love?
Rowe: Yeah, yeah. There was this girl in college, at the University of Wisconsin. We were friends, I walked her home from parties all the time, and we would hang out, but she never even so much as invited me up to the door when I would walk her home. It was just the most bizarre thing. I had a revelation rather recently that perhaps she wasn't interested in guys.
(Director Tommy O'Haver, who has been sitting by sipping his latte, can't let this go by without comment and pipes up.)
O'Haver: Oh, come on!
Rowe: I'm serious!
O'Haver: What if she just didn't want to have sex with you? What if you were the one guy she wasn't attracted to?
Rowe: That's probably the case, too. (Laughing.)
O'Haver: What if she hated dishwater blondes?
Rowe: That's could be. Maybe she just didn't like the fact that I'm just a dork.
O'Haver: ...just a stud.
SPLICED: Or maybe you're like me and you just couldn't take a hint.
(Both laugh at this, but O'Haver laughs harder.)
SPLICED: Did you do any sort of research for the role? I mean, I don't know what it would have been, but...
Rowe: No I didn't, and the reason I didn't was because I didn't want the character to play like he was gay in any way. He had to be straight so the end of the film would still be in question. His ambiguity is the driving force that keeps the character of Billy pushing to try and figure out this enigma through the whole films.
SPLICED: When did you become an actor? You said you had traveled in Spain and all that.
Rowe: I moved to L.A. about three and a half years ago, and I was working at United Talent Agency, working in the script library and in the mail room, and they helped me out. I was taking acting classes and they started sending me out on auditions, which I was absolutely miserable at, at first. But eventually I got the hang of it.
SPLICED: What was your first paid acting job?
Rowe: Oh, God. I did an Internet sci-fi adventure show called "Eon 4." I played a galaxy-jumping cultural anthropologist...with an edge. (Laughs.)
SPLICED: I'm sure you get comparisons to Brad Pitt all the time. Do you get tired of that?
Rowe: (Deadpan.) Actually, it's usually Tom Arnold.
Yeah, I get that quite often. It's cool. He's a great actor and I'd like to follow in his footsteps of success.
SPLICED: Have you ever thought about going to the post office and filing a change of address form for him, so all his scripts start coming to your house?
Rowe: Oh, yeah. I'll take his projects. Nine million? Yeah, all right.
SPLICED: Who would you kill to work with?
(O'Haver, who is readying a big screen version of the "Archie" comics, jumps in again.)
O'Haver: Say me.
Rowe: Tommy O'Haver! Again.
SPLICED: You could play Archie. Color your hair.
Rowe: I would love to play Archie. And have Jennifer Lopez play Veronica. And Pamela Anderson could play Betty!
(That settles it. He's definitely straight.)