There have been a number of very kind pieces written about my new book, REQUIRED READING: How to Get Your Life for Good. Dr. Sheena Howard was the first to approach me for Philly Mag... Check it out HERE.
If you know me, you know I'm generally very private about my personal life. As an actor, I was taught that sharing too much of my own story can potentially make it harder for audiences to believe the story of the character I'm playing. It's one of the things we told ourselves back when Noah's Arc was on the air and we weren't discussing our personal lives in the press. "Let the work speak for itself and let the actors go home to their unnamed significant others and do whatever it is they do in private."
But the world has changed a lot in the last ten years. These days, we're all very involved in the personal lives and back stories of celebrities. Every time an actor goes through a breakup or a relapse, the tabloids are there, ready to pounce on the story. And we're all waiting to eat it up as if it was somehow relevant to our own daily routine. This fascination with the personal lives of people we don't know personally seems to be dumbing us down as a culture. I bet more people could tell you who Ciara's baby daddy is than could tell you who the current Speaker of the House is. That's a little troubling, no?
But without perspective or context, all this informaton is useless. Like reality television, we're just killing off brain cells. If we insist on getting caught up in the lives of the artists we adore, we should at least be learning something about ourselves or applying the lessons Ciara learned to improve our own lives. (Note to self: NEVER come for Rihanna in the press.)
So I wrote a book. It's kind of a tell-all memoir. But more than that, it's me sharing what I've learned so far. I put it all in the context of personal stories and anecdotes because I think it helps people to know that we're all insecure about silly shit, we all have baggage we need to let go of, and we're all just trying to make our dreams real.
I haven't been posting here for a few months, because I've been deep in this book. I'm happy to say the book is finally here and available for me to share.
Check it out here: http://bit.ly/1IBqDmk
I have a supporting role in Gina Prince-Bythewood's new film BEYOND THE LIGHTS (formerly Blackbird) and my friend Nathaniel Grey wrote a little blurb about it and my new project. Check it out!
A little Flashback Friday action for you guys. Reggie Cameron did this piece on me six years ago...
I'm shooting an episode of a new show in Atlanta this week and a few of the regular cast members are very well known. I've been really impressed with the level of professionalism most of these actors exude on set. Gratitude abounds and these people are eager to work and excited to do a good job. It's a great reminder of how well WORKING actors treat their crew and support team.
It's also a great reminder that this is a business and we are all cogs in a much larger machine. As my mother likes to say, "One monkey don't stop no show... so don't start none, won't be none!" She rarely combines those two statements but when you're on a set that works this smoothly, it becomes very easy to spot the people who are slowing the process down. A runaway sense of entitlement and believing in one's own hype is something I've alwasy been very careful to avoid. I feel very lucky to be here and optimistic about continuing to stay busy creating and performing. Thank you, as always, for your support.
Shows are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7PM and Sunday at 2PM through July 13.
My understudy is on June 19, June 27 and July 6, but any other show, I'M THERE! Come see us ACT A FOOL!
Bootleg Theater is located at 2220 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles.
If you've already been to my merchandise page, had your fill of all the brown flesh, and finally decided that you love me for my MIND and not my body, my novel SHORTCOMINGS is on sale now at lulu.com.
It's an adult novel. You've been warned...
I'm doing my third play with award winning playwright Gary Lennon and this one is INSANE!
Here are a couple reviews...
As for Stephens, the Logo TV favorite’s sensational, scene-stealingly sassy performance as Patrick makes it crystal clear why playwright Lennon wrote the role with the A Family Thing star in mind. That Stephens looks as fabulous in a dress as he was heartthrob-handsome in A Family Thing (and on Logo’s Noah’s Arc and DTLA) is icing on the cake.
The best overall performance was by Darryl Stephens as Eve’s confident, and hilarious transvestite neighbor. During times of tension or points where the play slowed, Stephens was always there to provide comic relief. He truly anchored Dates and Nuts with his delivery of sharp one liners and impeccable physical comedy.
And here is an interview I did with LA theater critic Steven Stanley...Bootleg Theater in Silver Lake.
I wasn’t raised religious. In fact, I only recall Jesus’ name being mentioned on those Saturday mornings when my stepfather would wake up in a bad mood to find dirty dishes in the sink. Those days also included lots of fuming and stomping and curse words and hurt feelings, so while the ‘Lord’s name’ may have been uttered, there was nothing religious about that particular ritual. My early childhood provided little to no context for the Holy Trinity or sin or the bible or anything Christian at all. That is not to say I didn’t have an educational and meaningful upbringing.My mother had joined the Nation of Islam in the early 70s while attending Stanford University. Judging from how quickly she abandoned her head wraps to raise yours truly, I’ve always assumed she was more interested in the academic pursuit of Elijah Muhammad’s Black Nationalism than the Islamic religion. Even so, I grew up very familiar with phrases like, “Al hum du’ Allah” and “Asalaam Alaikum” and I never saw a piece of pork up close until I was away at college. Eating that slice of pepperoni pizza felt like more of a transgression than knocking back my first Zima (the even cheesier predecessor to Mike’s Hard Lemonade), which happened at the same party. I guess even without the fear of God’s wrath, I used to be sort of a goodie two-shoes.In elementary school, I remember a group of my friends talking one Monday morning about going to church and how much fun they’d all had at Sunday school together. I’d obviously heard of church, but at that point, it was like rugby or long line fishing; an activity I didn’t understand and had no interest in learning about. However, the fact that I was missing out on socializing was not cool. I was a chatty child and prided myself on being in on all the jokes and up to date on all the shenanigans. So that night, I asked my mother if I could go to church with my friends the following Sunday. Incredulous, she scoffed, “You clearly don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.” But I pleaded my case and told her it was important to me to see firsthand what it was all about. She eventually shrugged and said, “Fine. Knock yourself out.”
I can still remember the smell of that ecru glossy painted Sunday school room; it was tangy and stale and somehow homey all at once. I sat in class with two of my buddies (I think the other two couldn’t make it that week) and within minutes, was bored out of my mind. As the polite, gap-toothed, Jheri-curled lady sat under florescent lights reading bible stories in what sounded like cartoon slow motion, I looked around to see if anyone else was having as much trouble picking up what she was putting down. Every single set of eyes was glazed over. The lesson played like a bizarre form of child torture. The language was not the least bit engaging and the stories didn’t make any sense.I knew right away that Sunday school was not for me. I actually felt tricked, bamboozled by my friends into sacrificing my Sunday morning for this hogwash. To add insult to injury, after class, we had to sit through a sermon in the actual chapel with the adults. My eyes and ears were bleeding with boredom. By the time I got back home, my mother’s “told ya so” smirk was all I needed to confirm that my spiritual journey, whatever it was to be, would not involve sitting in a room with a bunch of overdressed, shiny folks, having someone talk at me in old English. That church shit was for the birds.A few months later, some Jehovah’s Witnesses talked my mother into purchasing a “Children’s Book of Bible Stories.” I had just started getting into Edith Hamilton’s book on Greek mythology and I was far more intrigued by superhuman Zeus turning into a swan to seduce a woman than some dude named Abraham setting a bush on fire, but I read both books. It’s all mythology, right? Fables and morality plays… Fiction.Cut to eight or nine years later. I’d had my official introduction to Zima and with it, a handful of clumsy encounters with guys in college. I knew I was gay before I went away to Berkeley and in truth, sought out the campus’ proximity to San Francisco on purpose. Every day of that first year, I chipped away at the terror of admitting to myself that I would ultimately have to share this secret with everyone in my life. I had no real concept of sin because I already knew that particular book of mythology didn’t apply to my life. As long as I didn’t buy into it, I could not be beholden to its laws and punishments. I wasn’t worried for one second about burning in Hell for being attracted to men. No, I was scared to death that my mother and my brother wouldn’t love me anymore and that I would have to create an entirely new life without them. I was petrified at the prospect of losing my family and friends over something I could not control and did not choose. I knew gay was considered bad by most people, but as far as I could ascertain, God and spirituality had nothing to do with it. Even then, I knew ignorance and shortsightedness were to blame for the unfortunate station of homosexuals in our society. To add to that stress, HIV and AIDS were still widely considered a warranted death sentence for men who dared to have (unsafe) sex with other men. The early 90s was a harrowing time to be coming into your sexuality.By my second year of college, I came out to my mother, who was surprised but ultimately supportive, and to my younger brother, who insisted he always knew (recalling the elaborate Janet Jackson dance routines I’d perform in our room) and then everything else just sort of fell into place. Extended family eventually caught wind. Most of my close friends had received the news even before my mother, and with the exception of maybe one or two, no one batted an eye. (My stepfather was fortunately already out of the picture. I’m not sure if I’d have come out at nineteen if he was still in the house.) I had built up this very elaborate, but in retrospect half-assed lie to hide my shocking secret, and when the shit hit the fan, most people were really not shocked at all. I mean, I had been in the show choir and dance production classes in my high school. Who was I kidding? My whole life had been a performance.Cut to about ten years later. I had graduated from the campus stage to star in a cable television series. Considered revolutionary for its depiction of black gay men, Noah’s Arc was cherished by many queer folks of color and, quite unexpectedly, resonated with straight black women as well. By that time, I was very aware of the church’s stand on homosexuality. Over the years, I had even been convinced that the black church was particularly unaccepting and backwards on gay issues, but again, none of that had anything to do with my life… until it did.I started getting messages from a number of Noah fans from all over the country and eventually the world who had found strength and solace in the images of friendship, love and self-respect our little soapy sitcom promoted. I heard from elderly black men who were thrilled tofinally see images in the media that reflected their relationships and experiences, as well as teenagers who found the show to be an escape from their stifling home lives and a hopeful glimpse of what the future could bring. I could never have anticipated the emotional impact the show would have on viewers… or the emotional impact their response would have on me.I would regularly find myself at my computer with tears streaming down my face, stunned by the stories of people I’d never met, overwhelmed by how many struggled with simply being gay. And for a number of them, it wasn’t introspective, unwarranted paranoia, as it had largely been with me. Some of these people had been kicked out their parents’ homes and already lived on the streets. Some had been emotionally and physically abused repeatedly. Some had been bullied so brutally they’d considered taking their own lives. Nowadays, we hear about gay teen suicide all the time, but when Noah’s Arc was airing in 2005 and 2006, it was still shocking to consider that it could ever get that bad. (Even I had been picked on for being ‘too soft’ in high school, but it never affected me enough that I would have considered suicide a viable option.) The most horrifying aspect of most of these stories was that the violence and humiliation these people were suffering had been justified by and was rooted primarily in Christianity. Like slavery and xenophobia and misogyny and every societal ill you can name, some bible verse had been twisted to serve as the excuse to rob another human being of happiness, self-respect and love. It made me sick. It made me angry. It made me view religion as the enemy of love.As the show’s popularity continued to rise, I began hearing from straight folks—mostly women, many of whom were struggling to reconcile their relationship with a gay child or family member. They shared their experience of toiling over how to go about loving this gay person when the bible clearly states that yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. These people were legitimately torn between their instinct to love, to be supportive, and an obligation to adhere to scripture they had been taught in church. I was shocked at how many people were wrestling with this, and shocked that they felt I was the person to whom they should reach out.While the series was airing, I was far less of an activist. The cast wasn’t even officially allowed to discuss our sexuality in the press. I guess people reached out to me (and other cast members, as I understand) because I was someone with whom they could speak openly without worrying about it getting back to the people in their lives. Honestly, the deluge of messages from people either struggling with being gay or trying to fix a gay person is what eventually lead me to publicly come out as a gay man. There were too many people starving for affirmation, with nowhere else to turn. I had to share my own story to provide an alternative to the all-too-prevalent black queer narrative of suffering and ostracism. Not all of us were sinners born into so-called Christian, hate-mongering churches of rejection and repentance. Some of us were just living our lives.As soon as I started talking about my experience publicly, I had to learn to bite my tongue. It quickly dawned on me that my ‘demographic’ was by-and-large, church-going black folks. Some of them were straight black women. Others were queer folks who had somehow managed to clear the many hurdles toward self-acceptance placed before them (shaped suspiciously like church pews) and were able to love, live, and worship their God in peace. But many were same gender-loving men and women still at odds with their human urges and their pastor’s dogma. Self-loathing is rampant in gay communities and especially, it seemed to me, in the churchy ones.My eyes would roll all the way around the back of my head every time a queer black person would quote a bible verse or thank Jesus for their ‘blessings.’ Some variation on, “That book is not serving you, honey. Pick another,” was always cued and ready to go… but I wouldn’t say a word. Of course, it would have been foolish to think someone would choose my idea of free-thinking over their God. I am just another man, raised under different circumstances with different ideas about where we all go at The End. I may not have been speaking my mind, but I certainly had my opinions about people whose views were dictated by what they’d managed to pick up from the pulpit.Every time someone responded to a discussion topic with a bible quote or mentioned wanting to shut down a Planned Parenthood or praying the gay away or loving the sinner, not the sin, I would just see brainwashed sheep… inane, illogical, obstinate sheep. If your God told you that you had the power to make decisions for someone else’s life, what’s to stop me from making up my own god to grant me the power to tell you to fuck off? I’ll write a book of fables too, if that’s all it takes.I’ve never called myself an atheist. My issues are with the church and oppressive interpretations of the bible, not with anyone claiming a higher power. I’m personally more comfortable with the term agnostic, because although I don’t believe in any ‘man upstairs,’ I’ve always considered my belief system, my code of ethics to be grounded in spirituality and love. I believe what most call God is simply our universal instinct to love and be empathetic. But the Holy Bible? The Virgin Mary? Leviticus? Child, please.I knew too much. I was too smart. One couldn’t possibly understand the historical context of African slaves being “given Christianity” in exchange for their freedom, in exchange for their very lives, and actually believe they—WE hadn’t been hoodwinked.Karl Marx said, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”In other words, they told you that you were born LESS THAN, degraded you, demoralized you, dehumanized you, and then they gaveyou Jesus and a book of rules to keep you in line, to keep you from uprising and taking back your dignity and your humanity… and you bought that shit? They didn’t even bother championing a character that at the very least LOOKED LIKE YOU to feed you the lies. In every painting and stained glass window, Jesus is depicted with long, flowing, flaxen hair and pale skin, despite textual references to him having “hair like lamb’s wool” and skin of “bronze.” Most black girls in pop music today are breaking their backs to look more like that version of Jesus than anybody born to African ancestors… but I digress. This isn’t about Beyonce or Nicki Minaj. This is about my mounting list of grievances with religion and my constant struggle to keep my mouth shut so as not to piss anybody off. Yes, I know… too late. (I bet most of you are more pissed that I called out 'Beysus' and her blond hair extensions.)A few months ago, the topic of the black church came up with my good friend LaDasha. I can’t be sure, but I was probably expressing outrage over the photos of that black congregation holding up bags of Chick-Fil-A in solidarity with the anti-gay-funding fried chicken chain. That photo was wrong on so many levels, my head is still spinning. Anyway, LaDasha explained that she grew up in her grandmother’s black church and that their congregation would never have pulled a stunt like that. They were too busy feeding and clothing the homeless, shuttling kids and elderly members to places they needed to be, and going about the business of being what I had heard described as ‘good Christians.’ She explained to me that her grandmother’s tiny church never turned a profit like the mega-churches you see headed by the likes of closet-case and alleged sex-offender Bishop Eddie Long. Their church was in place to help and serve the community in the name of The Lord. She wasn’t defensive or boastful when she explained it, either. It was just what they did. I was shocked. I had never heard of such a church. But why would I have? It’s not like I was out looking to find one.The conversation stumped me. For years, I had been seething with all these ideas about how useless and archaic and backwards the church was, and then someone very close to me—someone who is notbible-thumping at all—explained that she was raised in a church that did nothing but help people in need. Isn’t that what church is supposed to be about? I know my enlightened, evolved, Easter Sunday Mass-skipping family wasn’t driving people around and spending their weekends feeding the needy. Had I been a little too hasty in my condemnation of Christianity? Were there actually people taking all the supposed teachings of Jesus Christ and applying them to something beyond judging and condemning others? Was there ultimately some useful information to be gleaned from that ancient book of mythology?Well… a few weeks ago I came across another book.Chris Stedman’s autobiographical “Faitheist” tells the story of a gay adolescent searching for acceptance, longing to belong, who winds up finding his first real community in church. He spent most of his teenage years turning his bible-induced shame inward, hiding from his truth while attempting to live up to the image of a true Christian. As he continued to come to grips with his sexuality, he studied theology in college and eventually came to understand, with a great deal of soul searching, that God did not exist. Like me, however, he had some difficultly fully embracing the atheist identity. But his reticence wasn’t based in fear of alienating a black fan base. Chris came to find many atheists just as judgmental and short-sighted—if not more so—as their right-wing conservative Christian counterparts. If I had publicly declared myself an atheist, come outabout my anti-church stance, I might have been grouped in with those same elitist ‘intellectuals’… and I would have deserved it.There is a humility and generosity to Chris’ approach to this discussion that I have yet to master. He struggled with claiming his place at times, but eventually found purpose in acting as a bridge between people of all walks of faith, including atheists and agnostics. His story has inspired me to be less judgmental of people of faith, of church-goers, God-fearers, and of anyone particularly attached to any book of mythology. Not all Christians are praying to keep me and my boyfriend from getting married or looking to bomb Planned Parenthoods to keep my cousins from getting affordable health care. There are whack jobs in all walks of life. Some of them are Christian, some of them are Muslim, and some are Wiccan or Buddhist or atheist or agnostic and so on. What we believe should not determine who we are and what we represent to the world around us. The kindness one exhibits, the empathy one feels, the integrity with which one lives their life… these are the qualities that we should be concerned about, not where he or she spends their Sunday mornings.So I’m still working on this. I’m a grown ass man and while I do find myself more set in my ways these days, I think it’s important to continue bettering myself when I can. I still catch myself squirming when I read an article about a Catholic pro-life football player turning down an invitation to the White House because President Obama supports a woman’s right to choose. I still find it hard not to blame the church when I hear about a mother losing her son to drugs because she encouraged him to pray his gay away rather than just loving him unconditionally. We all have a lot to learn, but the only way to learn is to be open to communication. NO ONE HAS ALL THE ANSWERS. And just because we’re reading different books doesn’t mean our stories won’t overlap at times and that we can’t find strength and solace in our similarities.
You can learn more about Chris Stedman's book at faitheistbook.com
With the possibility of a generation free of HIV infection being discussed at the AIDS 2012 International Conference in DC and the FDA approving Truvada as a viable pre-exposure prophyliaxis in helping to prevent new infections, it seems we could be on the brink of an end to this epidemic. I’ll believe that when I see it.
I’ve heard concern by some that an HIV ‘vaccine’ will only encourage people to revert to engaging in risky behavior, but it seems to me that people who arm themselves with a vaccine before having unprotected sex are taking the risk into consideration and in effect, protecting themselves. If condoms aren’t 100% effective, does taking a condom with you on a date mean you plan on engaging in risky behavior? I’m not a health care expert and I talk about shit I don’t completely understand all the time... But with condom-free porn being all the rage, I think it’s safe to say that unprotected sex is already happening and a vaccine will be more effective in preventing new infections than unearthing old sexual stigmas.
Many young people, kids who grew up with Will & Grace, Queer As Folk, L Word and Noah’s Arc, probably have no idea of the stigmatization gay men suffered when the HIV/AIDS epidemic hit. Sure, bigots still use profits from selling fried chicken to keep us from getting married, but being gay is much more acceptable today than it was thirty years ago. Hell, with Anderson Cooper and Frank Ocean in the news, being gay is cooler today than it was a month ago. We didn’t always have it so good.
I was around when gay men started getting sick in the 80s. I didn’t quite understand the details of the epidemic as a child, but the reality–that entire communities of gay men were being wiped out by a hideous disease with no cure in sight–was impossible to ignore. Having moved to the Bay Area for college in the 90s, when ACT UP’s “SILENCE = DEATH” campaign was ubiquitous, I always believed that I had just missed the worst of it. The entire gay community had already galvanized and organized to fight AIDS, but by then, people knew how the disease was transmitted and the focus had already shifted from panic and death-sentences to prevention, education and early detection. But that didn’t change the fact that AIDS was inescapable if you were a man who slept with men.
Yes, I saw the facial wasting when I snuck away from Berkeley’s campus to visit San Francisco. There was a bar that was all giant windows on the corner of Castro and Market Streets that I still don’t know the name of because everyone I knew referred to it as ‘The Glass Coffin.’ Older men, the ones who had assumedly gotten sick but hadn’t died (yet) were known to congregate there. To this day, I have never set foot in that bar. It seems morbid now, but the truth at the time was that one slip-up with the wrong person could get you sick and getting sick could mean an ugly, painful death. Being gay was still very dangerous.
I was a kid. I didn’t know anything about what these men had been through. I had been a child in the late 70s and early 80s when men first started getting infected. I didn’t have any friends whose faces became unrecognizable from emaciation and purple KS lesions. I knew to get tested every six months and I knew that blood and semen were to be avoided at all costs. I knew that condoms were nonnegotiable; if sex was happening, only latex would keep my body safe from his. I lived through being young and gay in the Castro in the 90s because somebody had dedicated their life to finding out and then teaching me how to protect myself. Fortunately or unfortunately, I didn’t know any other way. By the time sex with anybody was even on my radar, protecting myself from HIV was my first concern. By some miracle, my generation was spared the unfathomable loss that the one before me suffered.
If a vaccine is indeed about to help eradicate this disease, I think it’s more important than ever to learn what happened to get us here. Because much of my gay identity was forged in The Castro, I still feel very connected to that city and its community. Maybe that’s why I was so moved by these two documentaries...
Gay Sex In The 70s depicts the gay sexual revolution that started in the late 60s and lasted through the early 80s. I watched the film knowing full well where these men were headed and what was going to happen to them. The sexual freedom of a pre-AIDS New York is hard to even imagine, but this film does a beautiful job of laying it all out without stigmatizing the men or their experience. I spent a good deal of the film wondering how these men survived to tell their stories, so thankful that they had.
Then I watched the film We Were Here, which shows men and women who lived in the Castro when the AIDS crisis hit. It is heartbreakingly beautiful to see how gay men and women put aside their differences and bonded together to feed one another, care for one another and just love one another. Seeing lesbians and straight women put their entire lives on hold to take care of gay men who were dying of a disease that at the time WAS NOT AFFECTING WOMEN is incredibly powerful. Gay boys, next time you have something rude to say about a lesbian, consider that thirty years ago, it probably would have been a lesbian wiping your ass and feeding you applesauce.
History should teach us something. The lessons of previous generations can always be debated, but the love and support these men and women found for one another in a time of crisis should inform how we aspire to treat one another now. I encourage you to watch the films and learn something about yourself.
Both documentaries are streaming on Netflix. If you have films to add to these two, please share them below.
On my way to the gym this morning, Larry (creator/director of DTLA The Series) called to tell me he had shown one of my scenes to a close friend of his. Without even having seen the rest of the series, his friend cried, apparently moved by the honesty of the performances. The scene, which was particularly pivotal to my character’s arc, was also extremely personal to me. While we were shooting it, I really felt like I was sharing a moment from my own life. Hearing that his friend was moved to tears by this particular scene was extremely touching... and affirming. I walked into the gym thinking, ‘See? I AM a good actor!’ (Yes, we really are bottomless pits of insecurity and we need constant reassurance.)
Twenty minutes later, a tall man walked up to me while I was in between sets on the fly machine. I plucked out my earbuds and smiled, assuming from his kind eyes that he was a fan. Byron apologized for bothering me and proceeded to tell me that he was a cop (one of LA’s Finest) and that he and his husband absolutely loved Noah’s Arc. He said that his husband ‘looked up to’ my character in particular, which lead me to believe that he was probably the gentler of the two. Then Byron told me that three years ago, his husband died in a car accident, much like the one at the end of the second season... which knocked the wind right out of me. I wasn’t prepared for that twist at all. He kept talking and found myself sitting there on the fly machine, struggling not to burst into tears. (Anybody who knows me knows that I have a hard time holding it together whenever the conversation turns to children suffering, loved ones dying or anyone believing they don’t deserve to love and be loved.) He could see I was upset and again apologized... I inhaled and did everything in my power not to cry. Then Byron told me that losing his husband and being so moved by the characters on Noah’s Arc had emboldened him to finally come out to his police department. After years of silence, he has managed to integrate his life in ways he had never imagined possible. He thanked me for my work and for being 'so good' and I shook his hand, wanting more than anything to jump up and hug him (he was very tall), but we were in the middle of the gym and I was already about to lose my shit. Then he walked away and continued with his workout.
I worked out for about five more minutes but knew I needed to just get into my car and cry a little so I left without finishing...
I’m not sharing this to brag or to reveal that I'm a big softy. I’m not here to remind you how profoundly life-changing that little cable series was for that tiny demographic. I’m sharing this to remind you of how incredibly powerful EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU can be by living your lives honestly. There are so many people who are still uncomfortable with themselves--either because they’re gay or they’re Muslim or they’re overweight or they’re differently-abled or ethnic or ill or whatever... The example that you can set with a little self-respect and respect for those around you is more profound than you could ever imagine.
You’re thinking, “No Darryl, you’re playing characters on television, so of course people can see you. Nothing I do would ever make any difference.” But that’s not true. You have no idea who is watching and learning from you. YES, YOU! There could be a little girl on your block who feels empowered to respect herself and not do herself harm because she sees you and your girlfriend walking side by side down the street. There could be a staunch, church-going woman at your job who overhears you talking about your love for a cable series about four black gay guys who ends up watching the show and calling and reconnecting with her estranged gay son.
YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW POWERFUL YOU ARE. So just keep living honestly. Keep living with integrity and compassion and respect. You are making a difference.
Thank you for reading.
DTLA: Downtown Los Angeles.
Also, the name of my new show. I play Lenny. Lawyer. Boyfriend. Control-freak.
We've shot six episodes (which may become eight) and we are currently in the midst of post-production and reshoots. Yesterday, we had our big season one photo shoot. It was so exciting to have everyone there together, from Tiffany "I Love New York" Pollard to Danny "Real World" Roberts to Luenell to Matthew Stephen Herrick. (We were missing B. Scott, Leslie Jordon and a few other guest stars, but they'll be stealing the show soon enough.)
To stay in the know on DTLA, follow @DTLATheSeries on twitter, "Like" our Facebook page and check out our tumblr page, dtlatheseries.tumblr.com
The show launches in Canada on OutTV (as well as some European networks) in July and once things are final with our domestic distributor, US audiences will get to see the show this fall.
I'm excited for you all to see what I've been WORKING MY ASS OFF doing for the last few months. As my friend Wilson says, "This show is many things. Many things."
I've been asked this a few times and I just wanted to make a note of it somewhere so I could remember this answer...
If you need to convert the PDF of Shortcomings to a Nook-friendly file format, download Calibre for free here.
At the advice of my friend Fabrice Tasendo, I've started a Facebook page for SHORTCOMINGS to help spread the word. The first thing I'm planning a YouTube video answering YOUR questions about the book that you post on the FB wall. So pop over, find the "Like" button, come up with an interesting question and tell your friends! And thank you, as always, for the support. ;)
You can find the Envious Moon Video, the It Gets Better clip and various reels at TheDarrylStephens channel on YouTube.
Soon, I will be responding to your questions about SHORTCOMINGS and giving you the inside scoop on the play I'm doing in LA next month called "The Interlopers."
Andrew was sitting in his bedroom, stunned, practically paralyzed with fear, when he heard his father’s truck pull into the driveway. He heard the back door creak open and shut...and then the chair slide along the kitchen floor as keys jangled against the table. He could hear his mother’s quivering voice but couldn’t make out what she was saying.
Of course, he knew exactly what she was saying. She was telling his father that she had walked in on Andrew with his best friend Clem that afternoon. She was no doubt sobbing and sniveling as she recounted how she’d dropped the laundry basket when she stepped in to find Andrew with his mouth full, sitting on his bed facing Clem, whose pants were around his ankles and whose hand was wrapped around the back of Andrew’s neck. She was probably managing to somehow make the whole thing about her, asking what she had done for God to punish her so, going on about how hard the whole ordeal had been for her and how she’d never be able to forget the image that had been burned into her mind...
Then...the kitchen went silent.
Andrew said a prayer, turned around and watched his bedroom door, waiting breathlessly for whatever calamity was to come. But nothing came. He sat there staring at the door, his red hair soaked brown with sweat, for forty-five minutes. No one ever came in. He finally stepped outside his room, the floor creaking beneath his bare feet and walked toward the top of the stair case to try to hear what was going on in the kitchen. Nothing. Silence...
So he went back into his room, lay in bed facing the wall, his tongue running back and forth against the back of his unbrushed teeth and eventually, he fell asleep.
He woke up the next morning, showered, ate breakfast and made his way to school alone. The house was as eerily silent as it had been the night before. On any other day, while he was getting dressed, he would hear his father’s work boots clomping down the stairs, the back door slamming shut and the truck backing out of the driveway. Normally, when he’d go downstairs five minutes later to eat, he would find his mother in the kitchen watching something on the 700 Club, drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette at the table. But on that day, neither parent was seen or heard. Andrew ate quickly and left twenty minutes early so he could walk to school and get there before first period. He couldn’t bear waiting around for his mother to offer him a ride through her gritted teeth of self-righteous disgust.
But as he walked down the street, the morning sun shining in his bright blue eyes and the crisp Ohio air filling his lungs, he was warmed with a sense that everything was going to be all right. His mother was most likely too racked with Christian guilt and self-pity to go public with the information. And his father obviously just didn’t want to talk about it at all. Dad hadn’t wanted to talk about much of anything for a long time...
For years, Andrew’s father used to drag him out to baseball fields and into batting cages. Every summer would begin with everyone in the house hoping against hope that Andrew had grown out of his ‘awkward phase’ and that he would finally take to the sport that for some reason meant everything to his dad. But they’d all stopped hoping by the time Andrew began high school. He knew that his father had given up on him a long time ago... As it turned out, that very apathy might have been Andrew’s saving grace. His father may have already been too bored with being disappointed to even bother addressing the whole blow job in the bedroom fiasco. Maybe it would all just blow over. Ha! Blow...
Andrew knew that he and Clem would just have to get through the next four months and then they would both be at University of Chicago. That’s when their real life together would finally begin... They’d be able to stay up late to watch their favorite Madeline Kahn movies together in bed. (Andrew was obsessed with “Clue” while Clem couldn’t get enough of her Mel Brooks stuff.) They could play their R&B divas loud and proud--Jennifer Hudson, Mary J. Blige and Mariah Carey, just to start--without any sideways glares from their CMT-fixated kinsmen. And they would get to hold hands and kiss each other on the lips whenever they wanted, which would be all the time.
Andrew had already started having recurring dreams of the two of them waking up in the same big bed with the sun shining in through the giant bay windows of their modest future apartment. Hardwood floors and homemade curtains. Walking distance from the famous Halsted Street in Boys Town. Just thinking about how simple and genuine and sweet it would be left him all choked up ...
Clem didn’t show up at school that morning and his cell phone kept going straight to voicemail. By the time lunch rolled around, Andrew was sick to his stomach with worry. He skipped fifth and sixth period to walk to Clem’s house and make sure everything was okay. He decided on the way to stop at home to drop off his book bag and brush his teeth.
When he turned the corner on to his street, he saw them right away. There were trash bags lined up along the sidewalk outside his front gate. As he got closer, he saw that the bags were filled with his clothes and all his things. His Spelling Bee trophy from fourth grade had been broken and the bottom half was poking out of a plastic bag. His personalized cover to his favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird, was on the ground next to the bags but the book itself was nowhere to be found. There was a chain with a deadbolt lock around the entrance to the front gate. He dropped his book bag on the sidewalk and hopped over the fence. When he got to the front door, he found his key didn’t fit in the lock. He walked around to the back door, his heart racing, terrified, and found the same thing. He banged on the door, hoping to see or hear his mother stirring inside. Nothing.
He banged and banged on the door until the flat side of his fist was red and raw, then he slid down the back door, scratching his face against the peeling paint, his body shaking uncontrollably. When he finally collapsed into a pile of quivering limbs on the back step, he began sobbing. He cried until his body went into convulsions because he couldn’t get enough air into his lungs. Then he just whimpered and choked because his eyes had dried out...
When the sun went down, he was still laying on that back step. Nobody came home. Nobody opened the door. Nobody called. He went to dial Clem again and got a recording that the phone he was using was no longer in service. It was really happening. His parents were completely cutting off their only child because he was in love with another boy.
He got up, wiped his face and walked unsteadily back toward the front gate. Mrs. Acton, the old lady next door, was watching him from her front porch, smoking a cigarette, shaking her head and sucking her teeth. She knows... He hopped over the fence and rifled through the trash bags for a jacket and as many clothes as he could fit into his book bag. Then he walked to Clem’s house.
Clem’s father answered the door, reeking of whiskey and cigarettes, and stood in the doorway with so much revulsion in his eyes that Andrew was honestly scared for his life. He could feel all the muscles around his knees turn to jelly... “Clem don’t want nothin’ to do with you. Now don’t be callin’ and don’t be tryin’ to talk to him and you stay the fuck away from him.” Then he slammed the door in Andrew’s face.
Andrew stood there on the front porch, his eyes glazing over as locks and bolts were fastened on the other side of the door. This isn’t happening. This is not happening. When he finally walked away from the house, he saw Clem looking down from an upstairs window. His cherubic face was lifeless and detached and a purple bruise above his left eye was barely visible behind the shadow of the lace curtain. Clem shook his head, ‘No’ just before he let the curtain fall in front of his face and he backed away from the window. Andrew understood. It was all over. Nothing could be done.
When Andrew finally fell asleep on a bus station bench that night, he dreamt of the same future apartment with hardwood floors and homemade curtains. But instead of Clem at the kitchen table, it was his mother, chain smoking, sucking her teeth, glaring back at him with her purple, bruised eye. Sadly, her clear contempt felt absolutely normal to him.
How long had he known that his parents didn’t like him very much? How long had he been accustomed to them holding him at arm’s length? How long had they been walking around him rather than looking at him and addressing him directly? How long had they been merely tolerating his existence in their house?
They seemed to have recognized something untoward in him before even he had managed to comprehend what is was that made him different. By the time he had been able to qualify his attraction to other boys as something they probably wouldn’t approve of, their hearts had already hardened. He couldn’t even remember a time when the three of them had been openly affectionate. His parents didn’t even seem to like each other very much... And it was that lack of tenderness, that emotional indifference that had made him so eager to start his new life in Chicago with Clem. As normal as his loveless home-life had become, he never stopped believing that there was more in store for him. He knew that the God he loved and honored wouldn’t let him down.
Then his entire world shattered. A nightmare come to life...
The next morning, he paid forty-five of his last four-hundred and twenty dollars for a bus ticket to Chicago. As he watched Ohio’s flat green landscape drift past from his window seat, he said one last prayer for his parents. He asked God to forgive them and watch over them, because he knew he would never see them again.
And he closed his eyes and imagined Clem walking into their future apartment... His curly blond hair glowing like a halo and his angelic face smiling, strong and safe. Love would prevail. Because it had to.
So the book is done. The cover art is complete. And I will be posting links to where you can get it in the next two days. I'm self-publishing it so you can get it sooner than later... in paperback and as a digital book.
Here we go!
I watched the Golden Globes last night and I was a little ashamed of how me and my friends get so judgmental during award shows. We all become major fashion/hair/makeup critics, sitting on the couch, sucking our teeth in our T-shirts, talking shit about every single person who passes in front of a camera.
"The sleeves on that dress are hideous. What is that, a table cloth?"
"Her makeup looks like it's trying to get away from her face."
"He got old."
For YEARS, I refused to get too dressed up for award shows/gala events, figuring that if I was casual enough, people would think I was arty and too cool to care. The truth was that I couldn't afford a nice suit. And... quiet as it's kept, I still can't. HA!
Anyway, I came across some old red carpet/award photos and I figured I'd share... I'm posting these so you can see how glamorous I am NOT (Noah fans often expect a fashion extravaganza from Darryl and are sorely disappointed) and to remind myself that I have a long way to go before I make it on to anybody's Best Dressed list, so I should probably shut up until Gucci and Hugo Boss start sending me free shit.
(If you are Hugo Boss or Gucci and you have free shit, call me.)