LORENZO “TOTO” FERRO – THE STAR OF LUIS ORTEGA’S “EL ANGEL”

Buenos Aires, 1971. Carlitos was a seventeen-year-old with movie star swagger, blond curls and a baby face. Together with his friend Ramon, the two embark on a journey of discovery, love and crime in Director Luis Ortega’s breathtaking film “El Angel,” produced by the legendary Pedro Almodovar, a twisted “coming of age” tale based on the true crimes of the “Baby Faced Monster” Carlos Robledo Puch.

Lorenzo “Toto” Ferro plays the titular character of Carlitos in a very memorable and haunting acting debut. Luis Ortega, Lorenzo Ferro, and the talented cast behind the film take us on a beautiful journey into the half-real half-imagined life of one of Argentina’s most famous killers. We had the chance to speak with the young actor about his newfound fame, growing up around the movie-making business, and his future as an actor/rapper.

Interview by Rene Garza
Transcribed by Daniel Gomez

“El Angel” is your first leading role as an actor, as well as your first feature film, how did you find yourself in an audition for this role and were you surprised when you got it?

My father actually told me about the film. He said they were looking for someone to portray “The Angel,” but I really didn’t know his story or who he was. But I did a lot of research and went to a casting the following week. The week after, I got a call that the director wanted to meet with me. I ended up doing seven call-backs until they said “you’ve got the movie,” and that all took about six months.

Were you surprised when you landed the role? Or having gone through seven castings, did you feel that you were going to get it?

Well, I was going to be very sad if they said no. (laughs) Obviously I was surprised, I had dropped everything to be in the movie, without knowing if it would ever happen. It was blind faith.

Good, you have to give it your all.

Yes, you always have to give it your all.

Did you always want to be an actor? Did you have interest in movies or theater growing up?

Acting interested me because my father is an actor. I remember as a kid I went on to movie sets where he was filming. He always showed me movies or took me to the movies. So unconsciously I started to be interested in that world…and obviously the theater too, but more movies. As a kid I would ask my dad to watch three movies a day. I remember that when I was 6 years old I got to see “Kill Bill”, and we went to the cinema to see it. Later, when all this (El Angel) happened, I thought maybe it’s in my blood or something… or, let’s say, it was ingrained in me.

How did you get into the character of Carlitos? Even though in real life he was a notorious criminal, did you relate with Carlitos on some level?

Well…after the initial six months of casting, I worked for another seven months with the director Luis and an acting coach. The three of us met almost every day to read the script, to dance, to shout, to do everything. Luis would put a camera in front of me and say “go and try to break into this house” and we filmed it, we documented it. Then, little by little, the three of us got into the skin of the characters… He is so simple yet so complex, at least that’s how I see him… And it helped listening to Luis talk all the time, all the information he threw at me, and his thoughts on how he saw the character. What I really had to do to get into the character was to get rid of the pressures I put on myself and laugh my ass off, as if there were no problems in life. I was looking at life through rose-colored glasses, more or less how I think Carlitos is.

Are you personally interested in crime? Did you find the material fascinating?

Yes. I mean, I’m interested, but not so much that I’d be a criminologist. Those stories attract because they happened in real life and could have happened to you. And that really draws you in and gives you goosebumps, and it’s very rich material to make movies with. Crime is much better to do on film; unless you want to go to prison. (laughing)

How was your experience working with director Luis Ortega?

The truth is that it was great because of his process. We became friends, we became like brothers, and when we started shooting the film we were like siamese twins. If he was scratching, I was scratching. (laughs) With just a look we already understood what one or the other wanted. Then a bond of friendship formed through the work, it was like getting on a boat in which we only reached land when we wrapped filming, receiving the love from all the people. But the experience was the best, and I think that that is what I take away most of all. Maybe it will never happen again, but for now it’s the only movie I have done, so that’s my idea of what it’s like to make movies.

The main character is a beautiful and famous killer/thief, did the material intimidate you?

Ah no! To tell you the truth, you have to open your wings and let yourself fly like…a proper angel… It did not scare me; it intrigued me more than anything because one tries to understand these kind of people, but one only has assumptions. We will never know how it is, and the good thing is our movie is pure assumption. We did not want to get to the real case; Luis based the story on that picture of Carlitos coming out of the patrol car, the one that looks like a criminal shampoo ad. (laughs) The truth is that it did intrigue, it did not scare me, it made me curious.

Carlitos sees himself as a spy for God, how did you feel about his views of human nature vs Christianity? Did you find it difficult to separate the two?

Yes and no. You see, if you judge the character then things will go wrong. It is better to put on their skin and their shoes, because if there is distance between you and the character then that will be seen in the film. You have to stop judging because otherwise it will be seen in the camera, regardless of whether it is moral or not, you need to understand it. Even though acting is a job, it’s also a game, and if you do not let yourself play…then you have to rethink why you are doing it.

Do you have a role of your dreams?

I’m not sure “of my dreams,” but I would like to do Joker’s childhood for example, eh…and also maybe a gymnastics teacher addicted to heroin.

Do you have a director that you would like to work with?

Here in Argentina, I would like to work with Luis again, maybe with Lucrecia Martel, I’m interested in her films, she has a lot of personality. If we’re speaking in the United States, I do not know; I have a huge list of directors. I saw a new director, who was an actor, called Paul Dano. He made a cool movie called Wildlife, so if I go to the United States I would like to work with Paul Dano.

Many of the actors you worked with in the film are veteran actors. Did some of them take you under their wing and teach you some things? And what was the best advice you received from them?

No, it was not exactly like that, but they gave me all the experience they had through a glance. They did not need to say anything, just watching them I already understood what the situation was like, and  at the same time, I helped them too because I had the fresh perspective of a child who had never made movies. It became something reciprocal, we fed off one another, some with the freshness and others with experience.

Did your dad give you advice on acting?

Yes, but not on acting. As every parent gives advice, he did not give me advice on acting or working, but about life. If I try to explain now, it would take three hours or more on the phone.

Pedro Almodovar and his company were the executive producers for “EL ANGEL;” was he on the set?

Not on the set, but he was present in France and in Spain when we screened the film. I had the opportunity to meet him, not in the manner I would have liked, but what little I learned about him is astonishing; you see that magic that he has from afar.

Were you a fan?

Um no, to tell you the truth, no. I don’t know even know if I  am now, but I do not have to be a fan of his films. I’m a fan of his career, maybe of his imprint. But I have not seen all of his movies, I saw some, and the ones I saw I like. I would have to see them all to be able to say it, but they have a lot of personality.

In what movies or television programs can we expect to see in the future? Or what upcoming projects can you tell us about?

The truth is that I have enough circling, but I still do not know which ones to say yes. So I better not tell you anything, so I do not lie to you. What I can tell you is that I am currently making rap music with my friends, and between November and December we are going to drop a mixtape. I am the rapper and my friends are producing.

How do you feel about all the attention the movie is getting in Latin America?

It is very difficult, because I became famous over night, and I don’t know if that’s what I want… But hey, it’s also great because people received the movie with a lot of love. On that note I’m very happy, but on the other hand I’m a bit paranoid.

But there have been many actors who also make music, do you think that makes it easier?

I did rap before I made the movie, but after the movie I forgot about it a bit, and once I finished and was able to get the weight of the movie off my shoulders, I started doing music again. I knew I wanted to make music, even before being an actor.

Will you concentrate on one or the other? Or see what comes your way?

I don’t know if something is more important than the other, but the importance that one assigns to something gives it importance. I think both are like therapy.

There’s a phrase in the movie that says “I am a thief by birth” do you think that life is predestined from birth?

Ehh… no. I do not think so…uhh, maybe in my case, yes, but no, no. Like I was saying before, it’s just an assumption, but I don’t think it is destined from birth. I know that everything we do is a gift. There are people who would die to find it and live being a slave of the system.

Carlitos based his life on destiny, what is Toto’s destiny?

The destiny of Toto is: to continue working, to continue being happy, to get together with his friends, and to make more music.

“El Angel” is released in US theaters November 9.

EXCLUSIVE: RICKY MARTIN

Jacket by Tom Ford

Photography by Greg Swales
Styling and Interview by Marc Sifuentes

Taking over the legendary Sin City strip, making history as the first Latino to headline a Las Vegas residency, and jumping headlong into the world of acting, Ricky Martin shows he is one of the most intriguing and impactful entertainers of our time.

Father, husband, singer, dancer, and actor. Ricky Martin is constantly juggling his many roles with seemingly effortless ease. Currently a resident on the Vegas strip at the Park Theater at Monte Carlo for his solo show, Martin is also eager to further pursue his acting career, release a new album, create a new world tour, and continue helping the people of Puerto Rico and the victims of human trafficking. Filled with love, down-to-earth spirituality, and an effervescent charm, Ricky Martin has proven himself to be an everlasting icon of pop culture.

In an exclusive interview with Iris Covet Book Editor-in-Chief Marc Sifuentes, the Puerto Rican star gets personal about his daily life with his husband and twins, life in the limelight, and his continuous efforts to make the world a better place.

Hi Ricky! I wanted to thank you for doing this interview and for being so fun and easy-going on the day of the shoot.

Well, thank you! You and your team were amazing and had such a beautiful energy in the studio.

Thank you! So, I want to start with asking about your second “back by popular demand” Vegas residency at the Park Theater, what is the key to producing such a successful and in-demand show?

I give credit to the people that I work with: the producers, directors, all of the people behind the scenes, the musicians, and the dancers. It really takes a village, and I wouldn’t be able to do this show without an amazing group of people behind me. I’m happy to have these talented producers and directors who can translate my vision and make it magic! To be the first Latino male to have a residency in Vegas is a big responsibility. What I love about this show is having the opportunity to perform every night in front of a very international crowd. Just to be on stage and see all of these faces from all over the world really motivates and inspires me. What I want to do is break boundaries and unite cultures. To see the crowd disconnect from their everyday problems in life and leave the theater with a smile is a very beautiful thing. I wish we could do this show for many more years.

Will you be taking this show on the road at the end of it’s Vegas run?

Well since I have an exclusivity contract I won’t be able to take this particular show on the road or perform it outside of the Park Theater. But I will hopefully be on the road touring a new show next year through Latin America and the United States. The idea is to take a new show all over the world, hopefully by next year.

I was watching clips of the show and it just looks amazing, you seem larger than life and so confident. Do you ever feel insecure? And if you do, what do you tell yourself to get out of that headspace?

I am very insecure. I am insecure when I write music, when I perform, when I act…but what gets me through are my years of experience. I am human and I go through a lot of highs and lows before I go on stage. If you see the show, for the first song I’m coming down from a 300-foot drop! I may look super confident, but I’m not! (laughs) I suffer from vertigo and it can be very difficult to focus, but it is part of confronting my demons and breaking that trauma that triggers my vertigo. By the time the music starts, I just have to forget everything and jump into storytelling mode.

Well it’s been getting really great reviews! Would you consider extending your residency for a third round?

Oh, I would love that! And funny you should ask because that’s exactly what we are in discussions about at the moment, and if we do, I will need to create a whole new show for the international audience.

jacket and t-shirt by Philipp Plein, jeans by Tom Ford, rings by John Hardy

t-shirt by Philipp Plein, jeans by Tom Ford, ring by John Hardy

shirt by Ferragamo, jeans by Tom Ford

You recently teased your fans with a new single, “Fiebre”, when can we expect a new full length album?

I am thinking hopefully by the beginning of next year, but right now we have been pretty focused on the Vegas show and American Crime Story, which we were shooting for eight months. Today, the record company no longer needs the record out at a very specific time so the artists have more freedom, and if a song is ready then I can just release it. Obviously numbers are important in this industry, but it gives us an idea of what the audience likes or dislikes, and I have never felt more relaxed doing music.

Since you mentioned American Crime Story, how did you become involved and what made you say yes to the story?

A few years ago I had the opportunity to work with Ryan Murphy on an episode of Glee. We’ve kept in touch and he invited me to dinner to tell me that he thinks he has a role for me. Once I read the script I immediately said yes because it was personal. I knew I wanted to be a part of telling Versace’s story. I wanted to remind the viewers the injustice behind what happened. Because it’s not how Gianni Versace died, but how we allowed it to happen. What angers me most is that Cunanan was on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, living on Miami Beach which is a very small community, but the FBI turned the other way because he was a gay man killing gay men. There is no denying to me that this was really an issue of homophobia. I think we did a great job covering that aspect of the story.

I read that Ryan Murphy wants to give you your own show, any word on that project?

Well he told me about it and then made it public, and I got really excited! We haven’t spoken in detail about it because he is transitioning from one network to another and he told me that he will be busy until June, but I’m not in a rush. (laughs) I would love to do something behind the scenes as well. But no, we haven’t talked about it yet.

You brought up the issue of homophobia and it made me think of your new music video. “Fiebre” and of course American Crime Story both show you openly embracing your sexuality. After being forced into the closet for so long, how does it feel for you to finally be able to express being gay through your music videos and now your acting roles?

Amazing! If I could go back and come out in the late ‘90s or early 2000’s then I would, because it felt amazing to come out. When I talk to people who are struggling with their identity, I tell them that it may be bumpy for awhile but in the long run the love that I received from my friends, family, from social media…it was spectacular. I know this is not the case for everyone but at the end of the day it is about dignity and self love.

You recently received a Trailblazer award from The LGBT Community Center in NYC, what did receiving that award mean to you?

Well like receiving any award, it is a big responsibility, but at the end of the day I am proud because it lets me talk about where I have been, who I am, and what I did to finally understand my real essence. In my case, I get to share my story. I meet so many people in the streets or on social media who tell me, “Ricky, thank you so much because I know what you went through and I can better understand my gay father, gay uncle, gay brother, lesbian aunt…” and I think it is a beautiful thing and it is important.

I wanted to talk about your husband, artist Jwan Yosef, a bit. You met on Instagram and I was reading you instant messaged for six months before meeting—

Yes! And nothing sexy! It was very romantic. We talked a lot just about our problems and lives. I never even heard his voice until six months later when I went to visit him in London, where he was based. I said to myself, “This is it. I just met the man who I am going to marry.” Two years later we were married. He is a great man, he loves my kids, and we have so many things in common.

He is a conceptual painter and I have mad respect and admiration for what he does. When I see him and his creative process… it is so sexy. I just love when he locks himself in his studio and starts creating. I become a fly on the wall, watching him paint and create works of art. I am in love, man, I am so in love.

jacket by DSquared2, ring by John Hardy


shirt, pants, and sneakers by Dior Homme, rings by John Hardy

 

shirt, pants, and shoes by Louis Vuitton, rings by John Hardy

You’ve mentioned in the past that you want more children, what do you love about being a father and what is the most challenging part of raising twins?

Yes, I want more; I’m just getting started! If it was my decision I would have six more, but Jwan says let’s take it one step at a time. (laughs) With kids, and I’m sure every parent out there will say this, but everything is new every day and being a single father with twins was extremely challenging, especially in the first year. No one is sleeping, and it’s two against one. Now that they’re older it’s still two against one, but they are amazing kids and the bonding time over the first year was so important. I took a sabbatical, and I did not accept any help. I wanted to do it all, change every diaper, bathe them everyday, and the relationship I have with my kids… there’s just so much love. They are almost 10 years old and this is when dads stop being cool and they start making fun of you! I’m really happy because I’m not there yet with them (laughs).

I’m sure your spirituality plays a big part in your parenting too, what helped you to discover your spirituality?

When we talk about spirituality we go back in time. Religion has nothing to do with spirituality, but I would say that growing up Catholic, even being an altar boy, was too much for me. I kept searching and looking for other philosophies and dogmas to ascribe to. There was a moment where I was obsessed with India and going about four times a year because they call it the “Cradle of Spirituality.”Then my kids became my religion. It doesn’t matter how late I go to bed, I religiously wake up at 7:00 a.m. everyday to have breakfast with them, and that bonding experience with the three of us is the only way I want to start my day. But once a Catholic, always a Catholic. To this day I sometimes look to God when the boys ask me questions because they ask some really hard questions, and I just want to give them the right answer.

I want to talk about Puerto Rico, from your experience can you give us an update on how the country is doing currently? I know that you were and still are very involved in fundraising after hurricane Maria.

Oh man, well 43% of the island still has no power, and if you go up to the more rural mountain areas, even now nine month later, people still have no power, no running water, and are bathing in the river and using candlelight. It is really frustrating and I wish the federal government would have done more. You have to wonder, if this were any other city in the continental US, would we ever hear that nine months later people have no power? No, I don’t think that would happen. But we have to do our part, and Puerto Ricans have experienced a great level of compassion, empathy, and care from volunteers, and the country has become creative and adapted. This too shall pass, but it will take a long time to go back to normal.

Another cause that is close to your heart is bringing awareness to human trafficking, can you explain where this compassion comes from and tell us more about the Ricky Martin Foundation?

With natural disasters like hurricanes for example, the community becomes more vulnerable and human traffickers take advantage. Traffickers come to the island and see all of these people who have lost everything and need money to buy things, and these kids end up selling their bodies or getting forced into pornography.

jacket by Valentino, shirt by COS

 

sweater by COS, pants by Dior Homme, rings by John Hardy

How did it first come to your attention?

More than a decade ago a friend of mine was building an orphanage in India, and this was when I was looking for any excuse to go to India. I flew to Calcutta, and he took me to the slums and said, “Come on, let’s rescue girls!” I had no idea what this meant, but when I got to the slums he started to point out girls like, “You see those three? They could be forced into prostitution.” and I’m standing there like, “What?! What do you mean? That girl must be five and her sister must be eight and her older sister must be eleven” and he says, “Yes, Rick. This is human trafficking. These girls live on the streets and they need money to help their family and they get paid for selling their bodies.” I was so astounded and went back home and started to educate myself on the subject. I went to Congress and told them we needed to bring more awareness to this global $150 billion industry. The victims are sex slaves.

Did you know there are more slaves today then back in the slave trade of the 18th century? Today, as soon as you open your computer you could easily fall victim to a criminal persuading you into the world of prostitution.

It’s encouraging to hear you are using your platform to educate others of these injustices.

It’s not easy. Ten years ago I wanted to stop. I said I couldn’t do it anymore because we couldn’t keep up. We were working so hard but I felt like I didn’t see any change. My mentor looked at me and said, “Ricky, you’ve got to stop being so arrogant. Who do you think you are? Do you think you will change the world? You’re not Superman! How about focusing on saving one life? And one life can become two.” We went back and built a holistic center in Puerto Rico in an area affected by trafficking, and right now we have 132 children coming to the center. We are educating them about human trafficking and opening their eyes to the predators. It’s a lifetime commitment. We are not going to save everyone, but we will save one person at a time.

What else can we expect from you this year?

I’m getting more prepared as an actor, meeting with great writers, producers, and directors and I think there are some great opportunities on the table. I am so lucky to be at a place where I can pick and choose the projects that speak to me. Aside from still making my music, I really want to jump into acting more and playing amazing roles that can have a positive impact on society. My acting career is very personal to me right now; I am obsessed and don’t want to stop!

coat and shirt by Prada, pants by COS, sneakers by Dior Homme, ring by John Hardy

Hair by Joey Nieves @ Grey Matter LA using Hanz de Fuko, Makeup by Maital Sabban @ MS Management, BTS Video by Lavoisier Clemente, Photo Assistant Amanda Yanez, Art Direction by Louis Liu, Editor-in-Chief Marc Sifuentes, Production by Benjamin Price

PARKER KIT HILL

Black Patent leather collar blouse Johna Stone

Photographer Emmanuel Sanchez-Monsalve, Fashion Stylist Brit Cato, Hair by Julia Kim, Makeup by Cyler

Dancer and actor Parker Kit Hill has found himself a home in the worlds of entertainment and social media stardom. Whether dancing in a bobbed wig in his apartment or starring across from RuPaul in the hit TV show Broad City, Parker makes an impact whenever a camera is near. Parker’s unique looks, style, and personality have made him a perfect candidate for fame in the age of viral videos and influence. Spend a surreal day dancing with Parker, equipped with a rainbow of eyebrow pencils, a towers of hats, and all of the platforms you could need!

Red kimono and Pants by: Gustav Von Aschenbach, Black Hat by Essenshel, White Hat by Essenshel, Black Platforms by iRi


Top Image: Coat by Sharon Wang
Bottom Image: Red kimono and Pants by: Gustav Von Aschenbach, Black Hat by Essenshel, White Hat by Essenshel, Black Platforms by iRi Coat by Sharon Wang

Yellow denim jacket by Johna Stone, Black windbreaker pants by XB OFCL, Black Platforms by iRi, White Sheer Knee socks by we love colors

Right Bottom Image: Beige coat by Sharon Wang, Caramel Jacket by FGJ, Black Platforms by iRi
Black Patent leather collar blouse Johna Stone

WEB EXCLUSIVE – JULIAN MORRIS ON MODERN INTIMACY, TRUMP’S ASSAULT ON FREE SPEECH, AND HOLLYWOOD SEX SCANDALS

Photographed by Karl Simone | Styled by Alvin Stillwell @ Celestine Agency | Interviewed by Matthew Rettenmund
Michael Kors jacket and shirt

After three seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company, he built a following with magnetic turns in horror fare like Cry Wolf (2005), Donkey Punch (2008) and cult-fave Sorority Row (2009). Though originally from England, he honed a foolproof American accent studying his Valkyrie (2007) co-star Tom Cruise.

Hot off a role on New Girl (2014-2015) and a return to the ABC Family teen drama Pretty Little Liars as Dr. Wren Kingston this year, just in time for that series’ sign-off, he appears to be making a clean break with less challenging roles, stunning in this summer’s British miniseries Man in an Orange Shirt as a gay man navigating empty hookup culture who discovers his grandfather was himself closeted — and had far more serious roadblocks to maneuver in the ‘40s.

Continuing his pattern of upward mobility, he is currently playing Watergate lid-blower Bob Woodward in Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House, and will next be seen in a new film adaptation of Little Women.

His good looks have made him an easy casting decision, whether in genre flicks or on PLL, but he has always given layered performances that rise about what’s on the printed page, which may be why he’s managed to work with Carrie Fisher, Vanessa Redgrave, Liam Neeson and Dame Angela Lansbury. Unsurprisingly, in his Iris Covet Book interview, he was similarly complex, speaking comfortably about politics, the abuse scandals sweeping Hollywood, and his sex-symbol status.


COS trench coat and trousers, Jacob Holston shirt

You started with some very intense training at the Royal Shakespeare Company. How did that stage training compare to your Hollywood experience?

Never at any point did it feel intense — it was just fun! I think what I learned in that time was that it’s about teamwork and the importance of the company and that it takes many, many people to build a production. When I got to America, I starting doing film and TV, and film work is very different, but in terms of what you do as an actor, the approach is the same. I’m lucky that as a teenager it was fun — and it still is.

You soon had a following for doing suspense and horror films like Sorority Row and Donkey Punch — are you naturally attracted to darker roles like that?

It’s not the genre. As long as the character has many layers and is interesting and challenging, that’s what I’m drawn to. I really dig horror. Some movies I’ve seen the last couple of years — The Witch (2015) and Under the Shadow (2016) — I love how they utilized horror to tell a bigger story. I’m in talks right now with a director named Kieran Evans, who I worked on Kelly + Victor with, to do a psychological horror.

There was a lot of psychological horror of a different type going on in Pretty Little Liars! Did being a part of PLL expose you to a whole new level of fandom?

Yeah, that happened. It was a really fun job. It wasn’t the most challenging work, but I had a really enjoyable time doing it from the get-go. I met one of my best friends on it, Ian Harding, and the girls and I always got along great. I remember at the time when I got the role I was supposed to go on this big trip to Africa and it was like, “Am I going to delay this trip or play this role in this pilot that may or may not go?” I wasn’t fully committed to the pilot and looked into who was making it, and it was Alloy Entertainment, who’d done tons of really successful shows, and Marlene King, whose work I really enjoyed. My gut told me that it would go, it would be special, and do well, and it did.

I never signed an option agreement with the show, despite one being offered, because I loved the people and I believed in the project, but I definitely always had an eye toward wanting to do more challenging material. The first few months of shooting that show, I was also shooting My Generation (2010-2011) in Austin, TX with Noah Hawley and Warren Littlefield. It was one of those shows where the ratings were not great. They’d be amazing now, but back then, they weren’t good enough and it was ripped off the air. Noah Hawley and Warren Littlefield went on to make Fargo (2014-present).

You left PLL and then returned this year for the final season. Was that strange leaving and coming back?

It wasn’t a strange thing; it was familiar. I continued to see and hang out with the people in the show. What was great was that in that time in-between I’d done work I was really proud of, in Hand of God (2014-2017) and New Girl and Kelly + Victor, and I’d told them I wanted to come back for the fans.


Banana Republic cardigan, Slow Build Heavy Grind shirt, Wings and Horns trouser

The great thing about that project is that once you’ve done it, you could have two Oscars in the future, but there will always be a certain sector of people who will be like, “Oh, yeah — from Pretty Little Liars!”

You and my mom say the same thing. [Laughs]

You mentioned your trip to Africa, and I saw on your Instagram that you did eventually make it to Rwanda. What was that like?

I’ve always loved animals, and I had this incredible in Borneo when I was 18 working in an orangutan sanctuary and have wanted for years and years to see the gorillas in Rwanda. It finally happened last Christmas.

It’s utterly magical. What’s so magical about it is that you see another species that is so similar to us, so like us. They’re another species, and yet you have such a sense of their humanity — you see it in their eyes, you see it in the way they interact with each other, and you see it in the way they interact with you. It’s breathtaking, and you can’t help but leave a situation like that thinking we’ve got to do everything we possibly can to help these very close relatives of ours.

Seems like an amazing observational exercise for an actor.

You’re absolutely right. One of the powers of acting, or at least what drives me to it, and why I think it’s so important or can be so important, is how universal it is — I really believe that as different as we may be superficially from each other, and it really is a superficial thing, we all experience the same emotions and dream the same and hope the same and feel devastated in exactly the same way no matter our politics or our superficial identity.

You described Hand of God as a role of a lifetime because you admired Marc Forster, who directed Monster’s Ball (2001). It’s sometimes said you shouldn’t meet your idols.

I wouldn’t say that I have “idols” in terms of my industry, I just admire them deeply. I think one of my idols was Christopher Hitchens in terms of his work in human rights, in terms of his eloquence, in terms of his integrity — and I did get to meet him. It was the only time in my life where I was completely starstruck to the extent that I couldn’t speak! He was talking to me and I just remember I had this grin on my face. I think I was speaking to him — I couldn’t tell you what I said or even what he was saying to me, I was totally starstruck.


Vilebrequin shirt, COS trousers, Hermès bracelet

You’re currently playing Bob Woodward in Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House. Why did you refer to it as “almost impossibly timed for its relevance”?

Clearly, we’re living in a time when institutions that support our democracy, that are fundamental to it, are under attack. I love what The Washington Post said: “Democracy dies in darkness.” It’s absolutely right. We need a functioning free press, and yet we have our leaders attack it daily and also of course institutions like the FBI, or our court system, our legal system, which I think is a really dangerous thing to do for politicians. I think when you use our court system to attack a political opponent or you defame an institution like the FBI when it is legitimately investigating something that is vital to our interest that it be investigated properly, that is when our institutions are under attack. In this film about Watergate, its relevancy today was very timely and striking.

What did you learn about how Woodward and Bernstein were looked upon by their fellow Americans while they were reporting these unpopular facts about Nixon. Were they similarly attacked?

I didn’t know, embarrassingly, nearly enough about Watergate going into it. It is incredible how similar it is to today, although they are very different. I think the level of attack today is really concerning and it’s coming from so many different places, not just the White House, that it makes our time, I think, so much more dangerous. Whereas back then, you had political parties that I think stood for something, today… I think they’re so… I don’t want to get too into politics, but I think at least back then you had really good people who could withstand an attack on democracy in many different places, and I think that today, it seems that we’re really wanting for good people in our legislature, and that’s concerning.

In terms of the role, it was fascinating to me to see how someone as young as Woodward was at the time of his investigation could take on someone so much more powerful than him in Mark Felt, and sort of manipulate him as any good journalist does to acquire information that would eventually bring down a government. That was an incredible discovery to look into Bob Woodward’s history to see how he might have been changed by fame.

Did Bob Woodward do a courageous thing? I think he was doing his job and was driven by his personal destiny, and that’s how I wanted to play him.

It was really an incredible time in my life making that project.


Ralph Lauren sweater

Your miniseries that aired in the UK in August, Man in an Orange Shirt, is another look back at a very different time. You play a gay man struggling with relationships who discovers his grandfather was gay and closeted in the ‘40s. Aside from working with the legendary Vanessa Redgrave, who I’m going to come back to, what did you find most compelling about the project?

There’s a number of things. I guess the first thing was the story. I think it showed something that I think is really important in society that should be revealed, and I think that any great film or artwork has that imperative to do so. It was this character that I found so moving and painful to read on the page and thinking how I might play him and thinking, “I have to play him,” and then of course the joy of working with Redgrave. But it really was a story that I felt was really important to tell.

It’s incredible to think that things were so different not so long ago.

It’s incredible how things have really changed and also how they haven’t. What was really interesting to me was to see how — it’s a multigenerational story— in the first episode it looks at what it was like to be a gay man in the ‘40s, where society deemed that an impossibility and a criminal offense. You have a man who falls in love and is denied that love by society, and then compared to my character, which takes place today in our time, where you’re able to get married and have a job and be yourself, at least in most places, although certainly not everywhere, and yet the shame that my character has carried with him all his life forced upon him by the relationship he has with his own grandmother, played by Vanessa Redgrave, makes him his own jailer. He is the one who, because of his shame, the shame that has been put upon him, his repression, denies himself love. I can’t think of anything more important in life and more sacred than that — to be loved and to allow yourself to be loved.


3.1 Phillip Lim sweater, COS shorts, Michael Kors belt

My impression is that Man in an Orange Shirt is very much about intimacy. What do you think about social media? Is it a doubled-edged sword because while in some ways we’re able to be much more connected much more easily, we question whether it’s a true connection?

One thing about social media and the internet is that it does connect. It connects people together and people who certainly might not feel a ready connection in their small environments. So, if you’re in a small town and put-upon, you can reach out and find someone who’s like you and there’s a strength in that. You can reach out and find people who are similar to you and then find people who are not like you and that connection is wonderful, too.

The challenge, though, is that it’s such a new technology and the change is happening so rapidly that its challenges are here and yet we’re taking too long to adapt to them. Before, when change came about, we had time to adapt to it, and yet now clearly we’re finding that hard to do. You see how the promise of social media to be this great connector, to be great for democracy, for freedom of speech, was in fact not so great in the last election or in Europe and is no doubt being utilized as a tool of propaganda by the enemies of free speech and liberalism and democracy… and we didn’t even know it! It was happening and yet we allowed it to happen because we didn’t know it was happening. Now, the conversation is about how we adapt to it. How do we prevent the manipulation of a tool of such potentially good things to be used against us?

I’m really against identity politics. I don’t like the atomization of it where we’re just individuals living alongside each other without any connection. I think that type of atomization leads to the populism that we’ve been seeing, certainly in Europe, and is the source of the dysfunction in society that I think we have.

Speaking of change, you’re in an industry going through turmoil due to sex-abuse allegations. Is it an exciting time? A scary time?

I have two feelings about what’s happening right now, and of course it’s not just happening in our industry, it’s happening across the board. I’m devastated reading the stories of these women and men who have been preyed upon. But also, there seems to be a cultural shift that hopefully will prevent these sorts of acts from happening again. I think if you look at any shift in terms of a progression of society, whether it’s civil rights or gay rights, the liberalization of society, it’s a cultural one and it’s a really positive one. So I think if we can come out of this time with a change, determined to really help people feel open enough to tell their story, we can hopefully stop people from preying on the vulnerable.

Chris Evans has talked about a provocative shoot he did for Flaunt, saying his publicist was against it because it showed too much skin. You show a lot of your body in Man in an Orange Shirt, and also did a revealing shoot a few years ago that was every gay man’s screensaver for a while — what’s your approach to nudity, whether on film or for a photo shoot?

 I’m not fazed by nudity. I don’t have a hang-up about being naked. In terms of work, it has to serve the story and the director’s vision or it becomes gratuitous.

Back to Vanessa Redgrave.

Genuinely, she is amazing to work with. I love and adore her. We got really close making Man in an Orange Shirt, in part because the material was so intimate, and all her scenes were with me, long days, just the two of us. I really admire her, I admire her of course for her talent, her intelligence, her silliness. She’s so silly on set in a fun, dramatic, and really funny way. I adore her. I loved being with her. As an actress, she is formidable. She is fierce. She is highly intelligent. She picks apart the script like only a truly great and truly intelligent actor can. You’ll do takes and she’ll be good — she’s always good — and then suddenly it will connect and something amazing will happen! And I’m like, “Fuck! How do I match that? How do I bring my game up to her level?” You’re pushing yourself and she’s pushing you and it’s wonderful. The other great thing is — and this isn’t true of every big actor that I’ve worked with — she is always there for you. She is giving her all. She is always there for you.

Leaving Pretty Little Liars, the dream was to work with people like this and be challenged. This is the dream.


Michael Kors jacket and shirt

Grooming by Mira Chai Hyde at The Wall Group using Caudal Skincare Profound Beauty Hair
Special thanks to Simon Shwartz

HALEY BENNETT

Though press has angled her as a “girl on the rise” for years, Haley Bennett has proven herself as the screen siren she set out to become.

Photography by Diego Uchitel @Jones Management Styling by Sean Knight Interview by Dustin Mansyur
Top, Skirt and Belt by Michael Kors

It takes a special kind of girl from the Midwest to brave the shark-infested waters of Hollywood and emerge, not only unscathed, but also with one’s truest character still intact. In a world quick to tell you everything that you are not, Haley Bennett unapologetically beats her own drum to a tune that she is: grounded, earnest, and refreshingly honest. Her ability to play upon her vulnerabilities both on and off screen is what makes her most enticing. Having an “affinity for characters who have experienced loss” isn’t necessarily the kind of target P.R. strategy that most would choose for the path to becoming A-list. But then Bennett isn’t most.

For Haley’s convincing, intricate range of emotion as an actor, these are just the kind of roles that have given her career dimension and life. The whole of her experience has left her in touch with her humanity and its many complexities, in a way that makes her empathetic and aspirational. She is a different breed of protagonist, a new form of hero that captivates with a quiet strength – one that relies on the tools of good acting instead of flashy special effects. With exciting projects on the horizon, including the highlyanticipated directorial debut of Jason Hall’s Thank You For Your Service based on the Pulitzer-prize winning book by David Finkel, Bennett is positioned to beguile audiences yet again in what is certain to be a compelling story of love and war.

IRIS Covet Book recently had a chance to catch up with the winsome actress while on the set of her latest movie in production, Red Sea Diving Project. Bennett is perched inside of a production trailer on set, pandemonium ensues as the worker bees of wardrobe fawn over her, determining which pair of sunglasses best compliment her alabaster skin.


Dress by Jil Sander

How are you doing Haley? They told me you were going to be on set today for our interview.

I’m well thank you! I’m just in a hair and wardrobe test – we are dealing with wigs, sunglasses and all sorts of fun stuff!

I just want to start with a little bit about your background before we move into talking about your upcoming projects. Where did you grow up and what was your adolescence like?

I grew up near Akron, Ohio. Actually, my grandparents lived in a little town called Brimfield. It was delightfully Midwest, and quite outdoorsy as I still am. My dad was actually just visiting here in Africa, and we hiked to this incredible location called the Elephant’s Eye. It wasn’t far from what my life was like growing up. My dad would take me deer hunting, fishing, and four wheeling. I was climbing trees and swimming in creeks. It was all very idyllic.

Overalls by Palace Costume

It sounds picturesque. Growing up in the Midwest, what sparked your interest in acting? Was it something that you were drawn to early on?

I have a love for cinema. I grew up watching a lot of Time Warner classics – I was very fortunate to be able to view these incredible classics with my grandparents. I thought it was the closest thing to magic-making. I would think, ‘God, are they real people? Are these real people on real adventures?’ and when I learned that they weren’t real people I became fascinated with the process of filmmaking. Growing up in a small town, I didn’t know or understand what the path would be like in order to do that. But, of course, I wanted to be a part of that world of creating characters and storytelling – sorry, Dustin.

(We are interrupted as a wardrobe designer comes in with a mound of accessories for Haley to try on for screen tests amidst our interview. )

This is crazy! I feel like I’ve become a master juggler. This could be another hour so…

Don’t worry, we can make it work. Last year you had a banner year with a lot of lead roles. You were in The Magnificent Seven, Rules Don’t Apply and The Girl on the Train. I expect it’s only going to get crazier for you as the spotlight shines on you more with your upcoming projects.

This past year I have gotten a lot more exposure, but it has very little to do with me and everything to do with people’s perception I suppose. As an actor, you just continue to do the same work. You always hope that the story that you tell resonates and that the character you are portraying will strike a chord with the audiences. It is a lot of work, but you leave the work on the show and go home when the production is finished and you don’t think about it anymore. Naturally, the more projects you take on, the more constant your schedule is. One of the first things trying to be a master juggler is to do the best you can. It’s just like anything else.

Dress by Rag & Bone

I guess that’s your latest role right now, “master juggler”?

(Laughs) I guess that would be a natural progression. It’s been incredible to get more exposure because you do get more opportunities to come in, and to do films that you believe in. So even though I’m juggling my schedule, the opportunity to be a part of projects I am inspired by is very much welcome. That means that there is more freedom to do things that I set out to do.

Can you share with us a little about your character in the upcoming movie Thank You for Your Service? What is she like?

My character is Saskia, and the film is based on a true story about a battalion coming home from the Iraq War. David Finkel [who wrote The Good Soldier] wrote the [Pulitzer prize-winning] book upon which the film is based. He shadowed veterans who were returning home from Iraq and learned what it really meant for these soldiers to come home and to re-integrate themselves back into their civilian lives. He got to witness and be a part of their journey upon returning home. The film is a story of heartbreak, brotherhood, love and courage. These veterans like Adam Schumann and their families opened themselves up to David. Their stories became very important to us, and we all became very close as cast and crew while filming.

My dad and my grandfather are also veterans, so it was quite a personal journey working on this project. The film explores, not only what the soldiers experienced while in combat in Iraq, but also what their families were going through at home while they were away. When they came home, if they did come home, they were changed people and maybe in some cases unrecognizable to their loved ones. The film gives an intimate view of Saskia’s reality while her husband, Adam, was away – raising their two small children, one of which was under a year old when he returned; and then his journey discovering and coping with PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder].

Did you actually get to dialog and have conversations with the person whom your character is based upon so that you could better express and play her in the movie?

There was an enormous wealth of information in the book itself, which is very hard to read at times. It showed what Saskia went through. It’s a very complex story, but fortunately I had an opportunity to speak with Saskia prior to the film. Saskia and Adam inevitably separated and went on different paths. Since these are the lives of real people whom we are portraying, we wanted to be respectful and sensitive of their feelings. I wasn’t as close to Saskia as I would have liked, but the material and script that was adapted from the book was so rich.

Dress and Belt by Monse


Do you feel like you personally evolve by learning from the character while working on the project like this? Does it gives you a new perspective on things?

I believe we are constantly learning and evolving. Experiences merge with a person. Even if someone else has had a completely different experience than you have personally, they are still human. As humans, we all share the same spectrum of emotions. It’s innate to our humanity. I always say that I have an affinity for characters that have experienced loss. This film is no different because, in a way, Saskia has experienced an enormous loss. She loses her husband to PTSD and the aftermath of the war, and yet, the interesting part is that a lot of her friends lost their husbands to the war.

She is dealing with a complex and confusing aftermath from the war, and she has an enormous well of feelings of loss, grief, and loneliness that resulted from her husband’s return and diagnosis with PTSD. He isn’t the same man with whom she fell in love and had a full life with prior to the war. So I found her to be an incredibly strong woman to endure this lifestyle and her loss while still managing to be the light within the story.

Cape by Chloe

Wow, that sounds like it was a very emotional project to work on. What is the experience like exiting a production like this after having been in such an emotional role?

It can be an extremely intimate and intense experience depending on the film. This film in particular we had forged these incredible bonds that really allowed us access to each other’s emotions and feelings. So it was quite painful to say goodbye to this cast, crew, and staff. It’s also hard to say goodbye to the character that has made an impact on you the way that Saskia did for me. We really exposed ourselves on this film. Going back to your day-to-day life, you kind of have to put your armor back on. You go back out into the world and adjust, so it is a bittersweet process.

Jason Hall is making his directorial debut with this film. So, what was the experience like working with him?

This story is a very personal story – the veterans whom Jason shadowed have become very important to him and he really had a deep understanding of the psychology of what it was like to be in Iraq and then to come home. He spent a lot of time with them. Jason immersed himself in this world for the past five years of his life. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affects those who have survived extremely traumatic events, and can affect anyone who has experienced trauma. As humans, we all will experience trauma to some degree within our lives.

I just think Jason had this incredible insight. He was able to personalize his own trauma and was very open about some of those issues. He had this way of making us really feel very connected, attached, vulnerable and empathetic to the material. He pushed us to explore emotional territory that wasn’t always comfortable. He was constantly pushing me, which I believe to be necessary. You need that push in order to lunge deeper into your work. Jason was the architect of that; working with him was a transformative experience in my life and work.

Slip Dress by Palace Costume

You’re on set of the production of Red Sea Diving Resort. Are you able to share with us any details about your role in this film, your character, and how you came on board the project?

Absolutely! I had spent a lot of time promoting Magnificent Seven and The Girl on the Train which was a completely new territory for me. After working on Magnificent Seven and Girl on the Train, I wanted to refocus on work, so I sought out a new project. I was reading a lot of material, but I wasn’t really connecting with any of what I was reading until I read the Red Sea Diving Resort. Then, it was all I could think about! Gideon Raff [creator and writer of Homeland] wrote the script and is directing the film. It is one of the most compelling, shocking, and evocative stories that I have ever read. It is based on a true story about a group of Mossad operatives in the 70’s with an incredible cast and crew. It’s amazing that the story hasn’t been told. But I’m glad Gideon uncovered this gem.

That’s very exciting to be involved with such stellar and exciting projects! Not only have you been busy with films, but fashion is keeping you busy as well. You are the new face of Chloé’s signature fragrance for their ten-year anniversary. How would you describe the Chloé woman and what about the brand speaks to you?

My collaboration with Chloé was a very organic one. Their brand philosophy is very aligned with my own personal aesthetic: effortless, easy, and elevated. It celebrates strong women who embrace their own femininity and freedom. The campaign film was directed by a woman named Stephanie DiGusto, who directed a film called The Dancer which is this incredibly poetic and lyrical film. I was really excited to work with a female director, and the theme of the campaign was freedom and female empowerment. Stephanie’s approach was very cinematic. We shot in South Africa in January, and the commercial itself looks like a film. It’s funny, when I was shooting the campaign, I had a feeling that I was going to be shooting my next film here. At that point, I didn’t know I was going to be doing Red Sea; but sure enough, here I am.

Coat by 3.1 Phillip Lim, Slip Dress by Palace Costume

Skirt and belt by Michael Kors

It all came full circle for you then. I am just guessing that in some ways you must feel like you are finally living the dream you had from childhood while growing up on those Time Warner classic movies. Is “the dream” constantly changing as it becomes a reality? What do you foresee in the future?

In my experience, I found that the more I tried to will something into existence, the more resistant it became. Now, I think that when you allow yourself to be the most open to all possibilities, that is when the most exciting things begin to happen. I live with a willingness to be surprised, to let life take me where it wants to. You can make your mind up about something, but in the end you really have very little say in things. I think it is important to live in the moment and to be open to life.

The sun is setting in South Africa. As I thank her for her time and juggling all the many distractions of being on set while managing to hold down an interview with charm and eloquence. She interjects just before we hang up, “The biggest distraction was that gorgeous sunset!”

 

Cardigan by No. 21, Vintage Slip and Boots from Palace Costume.

Dress and Belt by Alexander McQueen

Hair by Lona Vigi using Clairol at Starworks Artists, Makeup by Sabrina Bedrani using Dior, Nails by Morgan McGuire using Chanel, Prop styling by Ali Gallagher, Art Direction by Louis Liu, Editor Marc Sifuentes, Photographer’s 1st Assistant Jordan Jennings , 2nd Assistant Luc Richard Elle, Digital Tech Logan Bingham, Producer Monae Caviness @ Jones Management and XTheStudio, Stylist Assistant Jake Sammis.‡

IRIS MAN – CHEYENNE JACKSON

Cheyenne Jackson is a master of his own destiny. From sleepy Spokane, Washington, to the lights of Broadway, and now in the luxe hills of Hollywood, Jackson has scaled the ladder of success to become a leading man on stage and in film.


Photography by Karl Simone | Grooming by Lacy Boughton | Interview by Benjamin Price
Sweater by Gucci and Coat by Firetrap

Cheyenne Jackson is a Grammy-nominated singer, actor, and songwriter who, as a musician, dancer, artist, writer, husband and father of twins, is the definition of a “Renaissance Man”. Cheyenne has starred in a litany of noteworthy television shows, theatre productions, and films including the American Horror Story series, the critically acclaimed The Most Happy Fella in New York City, and David West Read’s play The Performers opposite Henry Winkler, Ari Graynor, and Alicia Silverstone. His performance in Steven Soderbergh’s award-winning Behind The Candelabra, with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, was multi-layered and added a new dimension to his on-screen acting reel. Whether it is singing and dancing onstage, or marrying Lady Gaga in a demonic hotel in American Horror Story: Hotel, Mr. Jackson brings new life to each character he plays.

Cheyenne will soon be on our television screens once again as one of Ryan Murphy’s elaborately crafted characters on American Horror Story: Cult, a new comedy series entitled American Woman, and he continues to work on his own writing, music, and an upcoming project in animated voiceovers.

In addition to all his artistic accolades, Jackson is fully immersed in several charities focusing on a variety of social issues. Cheyenne is a strong advocate for LGBT rights, marriage equality, animal welfare, and HIV/AIDS research. He is an international ambassador for The Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and serves as the national ambassador and spokesperson for The Hetrick-Martin Institute and the Harvey Milk High School. Jackson also actively supports “The Trevor Project” and the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network. Cheyenne Jackson sat down with IRIS Covet Book to discuss his journey as a small town boy on Broadway, our current political discourse, and dressing up as Wonder Woman.

How did your professional path as an actor take you from regional theatre in Seattle to the Broadway stage?

I had never had the guts to make the move to NYC up until 9/11 happened… and I didn’t want to waste any more time in my life. I was 27 years old at the time, which is considered late to be “starting”, I knew it was now or never. I decided to head to New York City because it is the home of Broadway. I was determined, I was prepared, and I was lucky. My first broadway audition was for Thoroughly Modern Millie and I booked it. I was on Broadway after six weeks of being in NYC. I was in the ensemble, was understudy to the two male leads, and it was heaven!

How did you make the jump from the theatre stage to television?

Tina Fey came and saw me in a production of DAMN YANKEES at the New York City Center when I was starring alongside Sean Hayes and Jane Krakowski, and she asked to meet me afterward. She said she liked my “big midwestern face” and my comedic timing, and I joined the cast of 30 Rock a few months later. It was the most amazing four years of comedy and television training. Baptism by friendly fire, as it were.

How young were you when you knew you wanted to be performing? Were there any signs as a child that you would be in the entertainment world?

As young as I can remember. I sang from the time I was 2 years old, and I knew music would be a big theme in my life. By the time I was 7 years old I was making my own Wonder Woman bracelets and tiaras out of cardboard, so there were signs that entertainment was in my future.

What is your favorite movie/musical and why?

It has to be Mary Poppins because it’s perfect and it reminds me of being a little kid when everything was safe and worry-free.

When your agent offers you a script or an audition, how do you decide which roles work for you?

For me, it is definitely a gut feeling that I need. If I find myself reading the material out loud rather than in my head, that’s usually a good sign. Then there is the logistics. I’m a new dad of twins so now I tend to pick things that will hopefully not take me away from them for too long. I took 6 months off to be a stay-at-home dad, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

You’ve had your time on the television screen, the stage, and the big screen, but is there a “dream role” that you would like to play?

I don’t think it’s been written yet. I’d love my own half hour dramedy series. Something that is topical, irreverent and funny. Like Veep on HBO.

Do you ever think of getting into the world of producing or directing?

I do sometimes. I love the whole process of film and television. I could definitely see myself pursuing something behind the camera at some point.

Speaking of behind the camera, how did you find yourself working with writer and producer Ryan Murphy on the American Horror Story series?

We met after he saw me in Xanadu on Broadway and he hired me for the second season of GLEE. We’ve worked together ever since. His mind is such a mystery to me, and I’m so thankful for him.

Can you tell us about your role in American Horror Story? What can we expect?

All I can tell you is my character’s name is Dr. Rudy Vincent and that I’m having a lot of fun this season. I’m sworn to secrecy, even in press, to give specifics, but I will say it was great fun to play a doctor. I learned a lot. It’s my third year on the show and it’s my favorite season so far.

Is there a dream actor that you would like to work with in your lifetime?

I’d love to have the opportunity to work on a project with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Nicole Kidman, or Robert Downey Jr.

What has been one of your favorite collaborations in your career?

I have a few so far. It was great working on Behind the Candelabra with Michael Douglas, 30 Rock alongside Alec Baldwin, a pilot called The Onion News Network with Jeffrey Tambor, and an episode I had with Gwyneth Paltrow on GLEE. These are just a few of the highlights.

When not on set or rehearsing for a role, how do you like to spend your time?

With my kids and my husband in a big dog pile in our TV room. I love traveling and I love to be outside. My mom lives in Laguna so we spend time with her.

Last year you became a father of two, how have they changed your outlook on life? Is it what you expected?

I always knew I was going to be a father. It’s the only thing I’ve ever been certain of. When it finally happened it’s as if my life began when they were born. Cliché? Maybe. True? Absolutely. It’s just so profound. My work is still important to me but my perspective has changed…the urge to provide for my family is stronger than ever, but the insignificant stuff I used to sweat in my career means so much less now that I know what’s really important.

You met your husband during at an AA meeting you both were attending, how did you two help each other cope with addiction during this period?

We were both newly sober and definitely at turning points in our lives. We found each other when we needed each other the most. In life, we just have to help each other get through this life together. He’s a magnificent person.

What advice would you give someone struggling with alcohol addiction?

Reach out and get help. There is no shame in asking for help; in fact, asking for help and admitting you need help actually takes more bravery than anything else.

What began your involvement with amfAR and Hetrick-Martin institute? Can you tell us about that work and why these charities are close to your heart?

I became personally affected by the disease when a friend of mine was diagnosed with HIV. I felt a desire to get more involved and help in any way I could. I contacted amfAR and asked how I could help. The Hetrick-Martin Institute came to me and asked me to come tour their facility and meet with their team. I went on the tour and loved the work they were doing, and I’ve supported them ever since.

You are involved with over a dozen charities focusing on social issues which include LGBT rights, marriage equality, animal welfare, and HIV/AIDS research, why do you find it so important to give back in this way?

Because I know how lucky I am to have what I have and live where I live. Giving back gets me out of my head and helps me focus on something other than what’s going on with me. I need to be of service in order to feel good about myself; it’s as simple as that.

Given the current state of the world in politics, environmental concerns, social change, etc. what advice would you give to anyone who want to get involved in giving back to their communities?

If you want more peace of mind, more relaxation, more harmony in your head, you should do some charity work. Being of service is the best way to get out of your own way and get some much needed perspective in this crazy world.

With the rhetoric coming from the White House that trans people should not serve in the military and legislature that will allow discrimination based on sexual orientation, are you worried that the LGBTQ community is in serious jeopardy?

How could one not be when under this abhorrent man that is our president? But I have faith in our community, and what I do know is that all this has lit a fire in many people who were previously fairly politically dormant. People are more awake than ever.

As a member of the media, and of the gay community, what do you think is your responsibility to the country when Hollywood and the LGBTQ world are under fire?

The best defense is to live out louder than ever. I am an open honest person and I live it out loud. I’m a gay father and I’ve been out of the closet for 23 years. I have no secrets and I treat people the way I want to be treated, and that’s what Jason and I are teaching our children. Live through example. Be open. Be interested in others.

What is next for you and your career? More music? More film? Maybe something completely different?

American Horror Story: Cult airs September 5th. American Woman airs early next year on Paramount TV. I’d love to continue to work on great television shows and continue to tell stories. I would also love to make more music. I am going to start writing again; I have a lot more to say now. I will always be open to making movies. Currently, I am getting into voiceover work now as well. I’m shooting my first animated pilot next month and have had the opportunity to work with some of the best animated voiceover artists in the country. It turns out I have all these voices in me. Who knew?

What advice would you give to a young actor/singer who is trying to make it in Hollywood or on Broadway today?

Be open. Do your homework. Be kind. Get a thick skin. Don’t google yourself. Don’t be an asshole. Work on your mix. Get it strong and consistent. (Singers will know what I’m talking about!)


Full Look by Calvin Klein