From The Advocate,
November 25, 2003
His Grown-up Christmas List
Actor-producer Chad Allen opens up
about his good works,
boosting gay causes is especially important at
holidays, and the, blessings he's received since coming out two years
BY ADAM L VARY
Allen didn't ask to be on the' cover of this magazine. "Part of me really
wants to tell you about all the great things that I知 doing so you can
tell me what a good boy am," Allen says, grinning with sarcasm, but it was
idea to make him a pinup for good works during the
holidays. Allen simply played along, taking advantage of an opportunity to
focus more attention on the causes near to his heart.
He has a lot of them. The 29-year-old started working with
charity groups early in his acting career, which he says was at first more
about capitalizing on his teen heartthrob status during six seasons of the
TV series Dr.
Quinn, Medicine Woman .
(1993-1998). At some point, Allen is not entirely sure
when, he discovered that being of service in other people's lives
profoundly changed his own. He began pouring his energy and time into
myriad causes, including the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which helps
elect openly gay candidates nationwide, and the Trevor Project, which
sponsors a toll-free, round-the-clock suicide hotline for GLBT teens.
In the two years since he came out on the cover of
Allen's career has blossomed as well. An accomplished
theater producer-he brought Terrence McNally's controversial
to Los Angeles-he's also trying his hand at movie moguldom.
His company, Mythgarden, is currently developing the sameｭ-sex romance
Save Me, costarring Allen, Judith Light, and
Queer as Folk's
Robert Gant, which Allen hopes to start filming in the
spring. He's also taking night classes toward a degree in psychology and
volunteering at shelters specializing in serving runaway youths, many of
whom are on the street simply because they're gay. Coincidentally, his
latest film as an actor,
(due out later this year), is about a homeless-youth
program in New York City. "I play a junkie [who's] really nasty," Allen
says. "People will
you think working for good causes is especially important during the
Everybody gets so damn emotional around the holidays. All
of a sudden it becomes about family and "Oh, I知 alone, and I知 not
supposed to be alone for the holidays because the commercials tell me I'm
a loser if I don't have a boyfriend or a girlfriend." So in that sense it
might be especially useful to make yourself of service during the
holidays. Certainly if you're lonely. My goodness, there are so many
groups that are going to be celebrating Christmas and the holidays with
the lads who are in their faciliｭties. I keep saying "kids" just because
that's my frame of reference; that's where I知 active. But it certainly
isn't just relegated to children. I mean, there are so many organizations
out there serving adults.
Have you experienced more people reaching out to you since
Absolutely. There's a fan Web site, and that's become the
epicenter for people, especially gay kids, who want to communicate and
know about my story. Every E-mail that gets sent there eventually gets
passed on to me.
I spend a lot of time, more time than ever, working with
young people, especially in the arena of drug abuse and dependency, people
in chemical recovery programs-those issues and sexuality, and the way that
those two go hand in hand so often, especially in our community. I think
it's one of the issues that's worth us taking a look at. It just means the
world: being on the cover of
coming out officially, being willing to talk about it in
the public arena in my work. It just means a lot to a lot of people.
Is that part of why you've been so involved with gay
I think that I'm involved with those causes because I think
there's work to do, you know? That's the bottom line. At a time that those
of us who are blessed to be in cities like Los Angeles and New York-ｭwhere
we rarely have to think about the idea of homophobia or the idea of kids
being abused because of who they are-we need to work harder than ever to
make sure that those kids are being taken care of and that we're taking
care of each other.
Do you think your need to get involved has any connection
to your Catholic upbringing?
It's a really good question. I can credit, certainly, my
education. I can credit the people who taught me along the way, my family
and my teachers. I went to Catholic school for 12 years. I wouldn't go so
far to say that it's a Catholic thing, but I did receive a very good sense
of community and of service, the idea of being of service.
I also spent a good amount of time completely messed up on
drugs and battling that. I think the truest sense of my sense of service
came from the battle to overcome addiction. Because being of service and
being useful and helpful became vital to my sobriety and vital to my life.
I am clean and sober today as a result of making myself useful to others.
When service becomes that vital to your survival, you're
going to be darn sure that it's going to be important to you-so important
that I've launched a really big, cool new theater project we're doing in
New York and L.A. tight now.
I've, got a group of actors in both cities, and for the
last eight months they've been aggressively volunteering, being of
service, and we've been documenting how that has changed their lives.
I consider actors to be at times the most selfish people
that I know. We're extraordinarily self-centered. I wanted to put [these
actors] in a position of having to get outside of themselves. There's
always this component of selfｭishness and self-centeredness that goes
along with being philanthropic, of being useful. That's an interesting
idea to explore. Can we ever truly be of service without having ourselves
be in the way? Is that OK? I don't know. But we're looking at it.
interesting that you bring that up, because there is a perception that
some gay men are particularly self-involved, so much so that they don't
really care about doing any kind of service. Do you think that's a
[Leans into microphone]
It's my perception-
And I'm sure that this will get me in trouble, but
understand that I make this statement as a member of the gay community, as
a gay man who is very proud of who I am. But I believe that this community
is very young. I believe that this community in many asｭpects is very
immature. We're a little bit like teenagers. I mean that in the communal
sense: What do we want to be when we grow up? You slap on these big issues
that have been handed us like AIDS and marriage, and I think there's a
segment of the community that says, "But we're teenagers. We just want to
have a good time!"
it a deserved reputation? I know this: I'm blown away by
some of the examples in the gay community in terms of spiritual development and the leaps forward that we're taking, helping society as a
whole to develop. At times we're messy and we run around and we do immature things. And we hurt each other too. But I don't think the answer
is to deny it and pretend that we're anything except who we are. The
answer is, take a good look at who we are, be grateful for it all and
accepting of it all, and continue to help each other the best that we can.
What do you consider a good day when you're working for
When you connect with a kid. It's hard to explain. It may
not be like something great happens to the kid or that he ends up all of a
sudden getting accepted to Stanford. It's not a postcard like that. It's
hard sometimes. You'll be working with these kids, and they're there one
day and gone the next. And it certainly can't be about going in there and
trying to change them. But it's just that connection,
that usefulness, that sudden and powerful click that happens with two
people who can connect.
Speaking of connecting, people have got to know: Did being
on the cover of
help you get a boyfriend?
I guess so, 'cause I have a boyfriend now [laughs] and I didn't then. I'll
tell you this: He absolutely loves that shot from the last Advocate cover
when I had no hair. He came across a copy of it somewhere in my files or
something, and he was like, "I want that!" So he kept it. So yeah, I guess
the answer would be yes.
Glad we could
be of help! Tell me a little bit about Save Me, the movie you're
developing from Craig Chester's original screenplay.
[It's] about the "ex-gay" movement. I read the script and
at the end I was crying, because I thought it was the best love story
between two guys that I'd ever read. Simultaneously, it explores this
ex-gay movement from a place where it doesn't need to make the Christian
right out to be the bad guys. I play a [gay] boy who's bottomed out in his
life. His family takes him to [an ex-gay ministry], and he genuinely wants
to give it a try. In the meantime, Robert Gant is this reporter who goes
undercover [into the same ex-gay ministry] to get the scoop, and he and I
fall in love. It's a beautiful, beautiful story.
You've spent over 20
years of your life working as an actor. Do you think you'll still be doing
this 20 years in the future?
I don't know. I don't, really care. I'll be honest: I could
be just as happy running my little theater-I say that, but I知 not sure
it's entirely true, because while I was doing that I might feel like, "Oh,
well, we have to take this show to Broadway!" I know that I can't not act
right now, so who knows? Twenty years from now I'll go wherever I'm most
needed-or, in a spiritual sense, where I'm supposed to be. And since, in
my spiritual understanding, I get to decide what that looks like, I'm
going to have my cake and eat it too. I'll do it all. I'll work with lads,
I'll finish my degree, I'll use my passion for human behavior to be a
great actor ands maybe, survive myself. So you know, I think we can really
have it all. [Laughs]
Vary also writes for Entertainment
Chad Allen photographed by Jerry Avenaim
for The Advocate.
Grooming by Colleen Campbell-Olwell for
ExclusiveArtistsmgmt.com; Wardrobe styling by Frank Helmer for
ExclusiveArtistsmgmt.com. Denim Shirt by J. Lindberg, jeans by Levi's;
scarf available at Urban