He’s gorgeous, multi-talented and openly gay. Meet Charlie David, the Canadian-born actor who’s made a splash in the gay soap Dante’s Cove and, more recently, in the acclaimed movie Judas Kiss, being screened at the Durban Gay & Lesbian Film Festival .
While he’s best-known as an actor, Charlie has been involved in just about every aspect of the entertainment business. After graduating from the Canadian College of Performing Arts he founded the boy band 4Now, in which he played piano, and opened for acts including Destiny’s Child, The Black Eyed Peas and Pink.
He’s hosted shows for various US television networks and has acted in guest roles in series including The L Word and Ugly Betty. It was, however, his role as Toby in the gay horror-soap series Dante’s Cove (fondly remembered for its steamy sex scenes) that really brought him to the attention of the gay world.
Charlie has also written a number of books and wrote the screenplay, produced and starred in the movie Mulligans (2008). His most recent starring role is that of Zachary Wells in Judas Kiss, about a failed, filmmaker who returns to his film school and ends up meeting his younger self.
Both Mulligans and Judas Kiss (it’s African premiere) will screen at the Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which runs from the 28th of October to the 6th of November.
Mambaonline chatted to Charlie David about his career and being openly gay in Hollywood.
You’ve said you came out to your family as a teen after watching an episode of (the original) Melrose Place…
Growing up in a small town in the province of Saskatchewan, Canada I did not have any LGBT role models. I didn’t have any points of reference for what it meant to be different in my sexuality. I came out when I was 16 and the fifteen years that have passed since have been remarkable in the progress we’ve made in human rights around the world.
Do you think that popular media can play a role in helping people come to grips with gay and lesbian issues – especially helping young people to come out?
As the LGBT community we are finally have not only visibility but positive representation within both mainstream and indie entertainment. That visibility serves as strongholds in many young people’s lives when they don’t have immediate access within their own families or communities to information and support in regards to their understanding of their sexuality. Having a positive role model on film or TV is the next best thing – and as a wider and wider audience sees and understands that differences are to be celebrated – we are well on our way to global acceptance.
Why did you decide to come out as an actor? Were you not concerned that it would impact your career negatively?
I was starting to work on Dante’s Cove which was a gay soap opera for a new gay TV network in the USA. I knew that the question was going to come up in the media and I’ve always tried to live my life honestly and authentically. Much of the decision stemmed from the fact that I didn’t have gay role models growing up. I wanted to take the opportunity that was being presented to me and be an example that it’s possible to live an extremely fulfilled, successful, and happy life as an open gay person. I think my career and more importantly my soul have flourished because of my decision.
Have you come across much homophobia in your career?
Yes, and, unfortunately, it often comes from within our own community. There’s still a level of disguised self-loathing that seeps out in conversation. The gist is, ‘it’s great you’ve ‘made it in the gay world’ but it’s not mainstream. Whether it’s an LGBT bookstore, an LGBT travel company, or gay entertainment – what’s the difference? Outwardly open LGBT business people, media and entertainers have paved the way for the larger community and in my opinion should be supported rather than chided for creating resources and services for their peers.
Based on your experience, what advice would you give to a closeted actor who is grappling with the idea of coming out?
Harvey Milk said it best, “Come out! Come out! Wherever you are!!” We’re nearing the post-gay age – what are you waiting for? All that fear you’re holding onto is killing you – literally. Fear paralyzes and changes us on a biochemical level. That’s not healthy – and truly – how can you give honest, authentic performances if you can’t be honest and authentic in your own life?
In addition to acting you’ve also been a model, producer, boyband member, TV host, writer, singer and more. Were your talents obvious when you were growing up?
I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller and all of these are ways to tell stories. Although my family is more athletic than entertainers they saw it was a passion for me and so encouraged it. There were many plays and musical performances held in our living room growing up. That kind of support and encouragement is fundamental to raising a human being who truly believes the sky has no limit.
As an actor, what kind of characters are you interested in portraying?
I’m definitely interested in expanding the range of roles that I’ve played thus far. I’m most drawn to dramatic roles but certainly enjoy comedy when I have the opportunity. The most exciting are characters who are written as neither purely good or purely evil. Often that’s our job as actors to find those nuances when they’re aren’t on the page.
Do you feel you have a responsibility in the gay characters that you choose to play?
Absolutely. I’ve turned down five films this year where the characters simply didn’t resonate or were uninteresting to me. I’m not a fan of visceral violence so I’m apt to turn down anything overly violent. I enjoy suspense and psychological thrillers but I don’t think the world needs anymore bloody films. I’m an activist at heart and while certainly not all LGBT people are good people – we’ve historically been depicted in cinema as something to be feared – swinging the pendulum the other way is not such a bad thing.
Do you feel that you have been typecast in gay roles or do you prefer gay characters?
It’s certainly both. It happens to nearly every actor – you become known from one show – and then that’s how producers, directors, writers and the general public sees you. I have absolutely no problem with working in LGBT entertainment – I really enjoy it.
What appealed to you about Judas Kiss – both in terms of your character as well as the film as a whole?
I had spent six months in southern Africa last year. I went on a bit of a hiatus from my real life, I was searching for what I wanted to do next, reflecting on work, relationships, and my goals. The character I play in Judas Kiss is going through a very similar experience and so it resonated with me. The film asks the question – if you had a second chance would you grab it? Essentially if we could revisit events in our past to change our present circumstances would we – I think the answer for most of us would be a very tempting yes.
How did it feel watching your screenplay for Mulligans coming to life on the big screen?
Producing Mulligans was an extremely rewarding experience and