Ten years after the debut of the life-altering movie that is Mean Girls, actor Daniel Franzese, who played openly gay high schooler Damian, has come out as gay.
Franzese, now 36, wrote a letter to his character that was published in IndieWire. He asks himself why it had taken him so long to come out as gay, saying that his portrayal of Damian actually set him back in Hollywood and in his own personal coming to terms with himself.
The whole thing is damn insightful and meaningful, but here’s a particularly telling excerpt about how Daniel’s career took an unexpected turn after he played Damian:
One time I wanted to audition for a supporting character in a low-budget indie movie described as a “doughy, blue-collar lug of a guy.” The role was to play the husband of an actress friend of mine who I had been in two movies and an Off-Broadway play with. She and I had even moved to L.A. together. I figured I was perfect for it.
They said they were looking for a real “man’s man.” The casting director wouldn’t even let me audition. This wasn’t the last time this happened. There were industry people who had seen me play you in Mean Girls but never seen me read in an audition but still denied me to be seen for “masculine” roles.
However, I did turn down many offers to play flamboyant, feather-boa-slinging stereotypes that always seemed to be laughed at BECAUSE they were gay. How could I go from playing an inspirational, progressive gay youth to the embarrassing, cliched butt-of-a-joke?
So, there it was. Damian, you had ruined my life and I was really pissed at you. I became celibate for a year and a half. I didn’t go to any gay bars, have any flings and I lied to anyone who asked if I was gay. I even brought a girl to the ‘Mean Girls’ premiere and kissed her on the red carpet, making her my unwitting beard.
Why come out now, then?
It wasn’t until years later that grown men started to coming up to me on the street - some of them in tears - and thanking me for being a role model to them. Telling me I gave them comfort not only being young and gay but also being a big dude. It was then that I realized how much of an impact YOU had made on them.
Before you make the “too gay to function” joke, which I totally did before I finished reading the article, listen to what he has to say about it:
I hate it when people say I’m ‘too gay to function.’ I know you do, too. Those people are part of the problem. They should refrain from using that phrase. It really is only OK when Janis says it.
It takes some serious guts to be this open about the intermingling of your career and your personal life, especially when admitting that playing a beloved character in a classic movie has impacted you in a negative way. I have loads of respect for this man. Congrats, Daniel.