Fresh from MTV’s groundbreaking show Faking It, Gregg Sulkin is taking a break from filming his sexuality-bending new flick to make a splash on the cover of GT. But there’s more than just a pretty face and chiseled body behind this British actor, as we fo
Staring deep into the eyes of a Hollywood heartthrob while he serenades you with a song is a dream come true for most of us. It’s just that when we’re having that dream, the song is usually a little more romantic than Britney Spears’ Baby One More Time.
“My loneliness is killing meeeee…” wails laughter. We’re talking gay anthems, and the 23-year-old actor has just picked the Princess of Pop’s 1998 breakthrough hit as his.
“It’s a timeless track,” Gregg explains, “and I’ve seen how gay men react to her – it’s out of control! They love her. I think people have had their doubts about her and her beautiful talent, but she’s always been an entertainer and she does that amazingly. Especially now. She’s still kicking arse!”
Gregg – originally born in London but now living in LA, hence the “arse” – also dubs Britney his favourite diva. And when it comes to his gay hero, he goes for Sir Elton John: “Wow, what a talent. It’s ridiculous. But I also respect what he does for charity.”
But why’re we putting Gregg’s knowledge of gay culture to the test? Well, asides from being a very, very, very pretty face, we invited Gregg onto the cover of our humble magazine which looks set to challenge the way we think about sexuality and labelling in society.
school quarterback. Well, sorta.
He plays popular jock Josh McIntyre, who longs to be a writer, but everyone expects him to just head to college on a football scholarship.
With no one taking him seriously, Josh starts a social experiment by changing his Facebook status to ‘interested in men’, in a bid to write an article about how people react and treat him. The story of the star quarterback being gay makes it into the national media’s spotlight, however, and overnight Josh becomes a hero to gay teens across the country. Leaving Josh in the sticky situation of somehow having to explain that he’s, y’know, straight…
“It’s basically a modern day version of an actor adopts a new identity as a woman to land a role],” he says enthusiastically. “And Dustin is one of my favourite actors of all time! The part of the story that was important to me was Josh not wanting to be a football player. He feels he has another passion that he wants to experiment with, and there are so many kids out there who’re trapped with whatever their parents are telling them. Kids should just be able to be kids!
“And when it comes to the sexuality side of the movie, I think it’s one of those that’s going to highlight and educate the audience into seeing the other side of the coin. It’s very easy for someone to judge and so many people have misconceptions about gay men, their struggles and so on.
“Josh is pretending to be gay because he really wants to see how gay people are treated differently. And it’s not just highlighting sexuality, but society’s pressures on labelling people, too.”
It’s something that rings true with Gregg, harking back to his own days at school.
“I remember when I was playing football, everyone used to think I was macho and the
‘sports kid’. But I was always like, ‘What’re you guys talking about? I love poetry!’ No one could accept that a kid who played sport would also write poems.”
It’s indicative of the way that we, as a society, are so easily able to stereotype and pigeonhole For example, looking at the cover of this very issue you hold in your hands – would you stop to think about Gregg’s creative and artistic sides? Or would you just see him as a great isn’t just a one-way street from straight men to women, after all. Any of us who’ve ever opened a dating app know just how easy it is to look at people as pieces of meat.
But it’s not something that particularly bothers Gregg, per se. He’s incredibly grounded when he explains: “I’m asked to sports, I was always changing in front of my team mates, and it wasn’t a big deal for me. I’m kind of used to it. When you think about it, there isn’t much difference between a guy being asked to do that and a girl being asked to do that. But if taking my shirt off is going to be the worst thing people are going to ask me, then whatever. To me, it’s not a big deal.”
Gratuitous toplessness aside, Gregg explains how important it was to him to be gracing the publication.
“It’s such an important time in the LGBT+ community’s history and I’m happy to be supporting,” he explains, with a sincere smile spreading across his face. “Even if it’s just in a small way, seeing straight men on gay magazines helps people realise that it’s completely acceptable to be gay. I didn’t want this to be just another photo shoot; it’s a lot more meaningful for me than anything else.
“I wanted to make sure that if there’s a person who looks up to me and they’re struggling with their sexuality – if they’re unhappy or feel trapped or feel like they can’t be themselves – I wanted be there to help them realise that it’s OK to be who they really are and how they truly feel.”
There seems to be two schools of thought when it comes to straight guys being on the cover of gay magazines. Some of the more militant in our community think it’s the responsibility of the gay press to push the queer agenda as much as possible, which is an argument not without its merit. But in a post-Orlando world, where there are young LGBT+ people suffering from mental health issues, high suicide rates and homelessness, as far as we’re concerned, every little helps when it comes to trying make people feel more accepted, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of turning to our straight allies for help with that.
It’s an earnest attempt to help people feel comfortable in their own skin that also led Gregg to his role on MTV’s recently-wrapped teen rom-com Faking It. The show ran from 2014 to earlier this year, and centred around two best friends who decided to come out as a lesbian couple in a desperate attempt to grasp popularity. The hit series – which also to play an intersex character – saw Gregg take up the mantle of Liam Booker; a hunk artist, the most desired kid in school and best-friend to popular gay student Shane. If you’ve never seen it, it’s basically the TV equivalent of bringing hormones to the boil.
“I did Faking It for the same reasons I wanted to be on the cover of GT,” starts Gregg, “and that’s to try and educate the ignorant. Just because someone is attracted to the same sex doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the same human rights that everyone has. And we’re certainly not there yet when it comes to gay men and women being able to comfortably come out.
“A few nights ago, though, a girl came up to me in the supermarket and said, ‘Faking It changed my life. I’m in love with my best friend and by watching your show I was able to comfortably express my feelings towards her.’ It’s so inspiring to know that you’ve been a part of the kind of show which someone started watching not feeling comfortable with themselves, but by the end, their life had changed because of it.
“You do a comedy to make people laugh, you do a drama to get people engaged, but it’s very different when you’re dealing with sensitive subject matter and you’re able to successfully help people feel good about
Gregg tells us that there are no gay men or women in his biological family, but that his work family – the cast and crew who were with him on Faking It – was “60% LGBT+, and those guys are lifelong friends now”. And
“If there’s a person who looks up to me and they’re struggling with their sexuality, I want them to realise it’s OK.”
“I’ve had people say, ‘You can only play gay once!’ Or, ‘You don’t want to be playing gay right now...’ It’s so silly!”