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Stepping out

By |2006-10-12T09:00:00-04:00October 12th, 2006|Entertainment|

Cut1/Darryl Stephens stars in “Boy Culture,” which will be featured opening night of the Reel Pride Film Festival. Photo by Duane Cramer

Cut 2/Darryl Stephens and co-star Derek Magyar in “Boy Culture.”

BOX:
“Boy Culture”
Darryl Stephens will appear at the screening of “Boy Culture” at the Reel Pride Film Festival Friday, Oct. 13. Following the screening, he will also be the Triangle FoundationÕs special guest at the opening night gala.

Life is pretty good these days for Darryl Stephens.
HeÕs finally become the type of actor heÕs always wanted to be — a working one — and heÕs receiving quite a bit of attention for his efforts. HeÕs just wrapped season two of his successful television show (LogoÕs “NoahÕs Arc,” billed as the first black television drama — “Sex In The City” meets “Soul Food”), and heÕs had one film project released this year (“Another Gay Movie”) and a second is racking up award after award on the film festival circuit (“Boy Culture,” showing opening night Oct. 13 at Reel Pride in Royal Oak).
ÒItÕs great to be an actor and be able to say IÕm on a TV show,Ó Stephens told Between The Lines from Los Angeles last week. ÒIÕve been doing this for a while, and this is my first real time on TV. So thatÕs great. Beyond that, thereÕs this whole idea that this a groundbreaking show, which is obviously pretty cool. A lot of people reach out to me and say theyÕre very touched by the show, gay kids themselves and people who can really appreciate seeing themselves reflected in the media for the first time. ItÕs really an amazing gift to be part of something so relevant.Ó
Yet there are always risks. Already, Stephens canÕt walk through an airport or a shopping mall without people crying out ÒNoah,Ó the name of his television character. And as former “Will & Grace” star Megan Mullally is finding out the hard way with her new talk show this season, folks always want you to be in character. (If she canÕt interview folks as Karen Walker, couldnÕt she at least do it as Anastasia Beaverhausen?)
So how much does the character of Noah actually have in common with the man who plays him?
ÒThey get more and more different all the time, IÕd say,Ó Stephens said. ÒBut there is a romanticism that I think we share. I could give you a lot of differences, though. IÕm far more proactive than Noah. He seems to find himself in situations and not know how to deal with them, always counting on his friends. IÕm far more independent and probably a lot more introspective. I do love my fiends. I have great friends. I love them dearly, but I donÕt count on them necessarily for the same things that Noah does.Ó
Then thereÕs the question of fashion sense. Noah has received equal parts praise and reprisal for his flamboyantly trendy attire.
ÒI think before the show started I may have been a little bit more fashion forward,Ó Stephens said. ÒBut after playing that character my sense of style got real, real conservative. I would never dress like he dresses.Ó
For his new role as Andrew in “Boy Culture,” Stephens was thrilled to be able to branch out and stretch his acting chops in a new direction.
ÒI like when people who are familiar with Noah see that work and they go, ÔWow, you actually are acting,ÕÓ he said. ÒPeople can make the mistake, I think particularly with shows they see on television, of thinking that these characters theyÕre so familiar with É that this is how they act in real life. I think with ‘Boy Culture’ people were actually surprised to see that I can do something different, which was cool.Ó
Working with director Q. Allan Brocka was also a different experience for Stephens than working with “Noah” creator and director Patrik-Ian Polk.
ÒItÕs interesting,Ó Stephens explained. ÒPatrik will be directing an episode and in between a take he will break into a story about something that Karen did on ‘Will & Grace,’ and it will give you this kind of energy of, ÔOoh, arenÕt things fun and arenÕt we having a good time.Õ I think he likes to create this sort of girlfriends vibe and everybody on the set, whether straight or gay, will end up being in this mode of, ÔArenÕt we having a good time!Õ With Allan, I felt like he was a lot more specific in terms of exactly what he wants to see. I think with ‘Boy Culture’ we had a very limited timeframe in which to get the work done. So he was really, really specific in terms of what he needed to see in each specific shot.Ó
Stephens has high praise for Brocka for casting out of the box. In the book that “Boy Culture” is based on, the character Stephens plays, Andrew, is white.
ÒI thought it was very thoughtful of Allan to cast that role black,Ó he said. ÒI read the book and the character was a corn-fed white boy from the Midwest, and I thought to make him black and to make the object of desire in the film — the guy that the lead was in love with — white in a gay film, thatÕs completely unheard of. In a mainstream film even, you just never see that. So I thought it was a really daring choice on AllanÕs part. I thought it would create an interesting dialogue around the subject of interracial dating and just kind of, what is the hang up and how can we get beyond it?Ó
With a series and three gay films under his belt, Stephens is now looking beyond gay roles and hoping for the chance to prove that heÕs not too pretty to play it straight.
ÒI think that people will start to associate me with gay work,Ó he said. ÒIÕd like to get some other work done just so people can keep their minds open about the kinds of characters I can play. IÕd like to keep working in this industry, and how many black gay characters are there?Ó

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.