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From The Advocate, November 25, 2003

His Grown-up Christmas List

Actor-producer Chad Allen opens up about his good works,
why boosting gay causes is especially important at the
holidays, and the, blessings he's received since coming out two years ago

BY ADAM L VARY

Chad 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 The Advocate's 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. 

Read Letters to the Editor in response to this article.

In the two years since he came out on the cover of The Advocate, Allen's career has blossomed as well. An accomplished theater producer-he brought Terrence McNally's controversial Corpus Christi 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, Downtown (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 hate me."

Do you think working for good causes is especially important during the holidays?

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 your coming-out?  

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 The Advocate, 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 causes?

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?

[Pauses] 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. Period.

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.

It's 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 deserved reputation?

[Leans into microphone] It's my perception- [Interrupts himself]  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!"

[Pauses] Is 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 good causes?

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 The Advocate help you get a boyfriend?

Well, 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. [Laughs]

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 Weekly

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 Outfitters
 

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