As gay-themed US teen comedy G.B.F.
opens in UK cinemas, I called Andrea Bowen (formerly Julie Mayer on Desperate Housewives
) to find out more about the film. Andrea plays one of three girls looking to recruit Tanner (Michael J. Willet) as her gay best friend as they battle to become prom queen.
A far cry from her relatively doltish character on Housewives
, Andrea talks passionately about being disappointed by the film's R-rating, which she puts down to its gay themes rather than any overtly sexual or sweary material. Of course, I also found time to ask Andrea about her former Desperate Housewives
co-star Teri Hatcher and her new G.B.F.
co-star Megan Mullally.
What can you tell us about your character in the film?
I play a really fun character called Shley... Shley is short for Ashley! She’s a very prim and proper Mormon girl - she’s a bit of a goody two shoes. She’s relatively dim-witted but very nice.
How does being Mormon affect her attitudes towards homosexuality?
Her stance on it is basically that she has no problem with Tanner being gay while he’s here on earth. Because, along with people who drink caffeine and do all the other things that Mormonism doesn’t hold in high regard, he’ll burn in hell anyway. So why not just be who he is here on earth? That’s actually part of a line in the film. The film deals a lot with the way people are quite closed-minded when it comes to homosexuality, but in a very light and funny way. Every character in the film goes through a journey of learning to be accepting in some way or another. The thing that’s so great about dealing with issues like this in the teen realm is that all teens are in the closet about something – you know, when you’re going through adolescence everybody is trying to figure out who they are, so everybody is struggling with accepting something about themselves. The film’s focus is human sexuality but it covers a lot of other areas as well.
How true would you say the film is to real-life attitudes towards young gay boys coming out to their peers in US schools?
I would say it has a satirical spin on it, for sure. I guess I was fortunate growing up – I grew up in Manhattan, I went to a performing arts school and then I was tutored on the set of Desperate Housewives
throughout most of High School. I guess it’s foreign to me that this is still considered such a hot-button issue because I grew up in such progressive surroundings and a culture that embraced everybody for who they were no matter what their differences. From people seeing the film and meeting people, though, I think acceptance is still unfortunately something we’re really fighting for.
The film is in the American teen genre - but it got an 'R' rating in the States [roughly equivalent to a '15' or '18' in the UK]. Why is this?
The film was made with the American teen genre very much in mind - we filmed it in full belief that it would be a PG-13 rated film [roughly equivalent to a '12A' in the UK]. The script is tailored to that rating and if you line it up to any other film in that genre - any teen comedy - it’s very much the same in term of its content. Obviously I don’t feel that the content is what got it its R rating because there’s no real profanity in the film and there’s nothing overtly sexual - there’s nothing like that. I believe that it got its R rating because it features a gay protagonist. If this was a story where the protagonist was straight, I don’t think we’d have gotten slapped with an R. The R was a big shock to everyone involved with the film actually. So it’s still quite an uphill battle and especially in the middle of America. Hopefully this film is able to shed some light on this and be a voice for young teens out there.
Obviously Desperate Housewives was a huge hit with a massive gay following. Do you miss it as much as we do?
I do, I do. It’s so funny. My friend [Shane Bitney Crone] was over the other day who had a really brilliant documentary that came out last year called BrideGroom
which was about his story - he lost his boyfriend in a tragic accident, his boyfriend fell off a roof and passed away. My friend documented his life after that and the adversity he experienced at the hospital - not being allowed to see his boyfriend after he passed away because they weren’t married. Anyway, he and I have become really close. We met at Tribeca (Film Festival in New York) because both of our films were showing there. He came over last night, and he is maybe one of the only people I know who has never seen Desperate Housewives
, so he was like, “Can we watch an episode?” I was like, “Umm, I don’t know...” You know, I’m not going to host people at my house and make them watch my work! But we ended up watching one of the episodes from the last season and it made me miss it so, so, so much. It was such a huge, incredible part of my life and of course I miss it all the time.
Are you still in touch with your "show-mom" Teri Hatcher?
Yeah, I am. I think it would be very strange if we weren’t, you know. I spanned the ages of the show - we filmed the pilot when I was 13 and we wrapped it up when I was 22. I mean, we wrapped the series up when I was 22, that would have been a very long pilot! But you know, Teri was such a huge influence on me in so many ways and it’s certainly not one of those things where I talk to her every day, but I know that I could call her any minute and we try to get together every now and again - she’s just fantastic. I’m actually pretty fortunate living in Los Angeles, I kind of see everybody around - this past week I saw two different people from the show. It’s nice, we’re a pretty close-knit group.
The storylines on Desperate Housewives could be quite hard-hitting and intense. How does it compare being part of something a bit lighter in its topic?
It’s very fun. I think filming G.B.F.
is probably one of the greatest experiences of my life. Of my working life, and yeah, maybe even my personal life too. I know, I know, that sounds sad! But I just made so many great friends on set and I’m just so proud to be a part of a project at the forefront of something that I think is so pivotal to my generation, and also something that I care about so much. And when you can combine the things in life you care about with your artistic expression, and in such a funny and light-hearted way too, I don’t really know if there’s anything better than that.
Did you work closely with Megan Mullally on the set?
You know, I didn’t actually ever get to work with her, which is such a bummer. I think she was only on set for, like, two days. But, as everyone who’s seen the film can attest, she kind of dominates every scene she’s in. She’s so brilliant and so funny and we were so lucky to have her in the movie. But you know what’s funny? I have to mention this because I’m such an airhead and I only realised this the other day. I was at brunch with the writer George and the director Darren, and we were sitting around, and I was like, “You guys, I just realised this. I don’t know why I didn’t realise this before”. She had a very short-lived talk show in America, it was maybe three or four shows, and I was actually a guest on her talk show. She interviewed me in the second season of Desperate Housewives
and I had no recollection of it! You know, it’s one of those things when you’re in the thick of doing a lot of interviews, and you just kind of forget. Hopefully now, while promoting G.B.F,
I can see her and be like, “OK, you talked to me when I was 14.”
Is there anyone out there you wish were your real life 'gay best friend'?
Oh man. Since doing this film, people have asked me “do you have a G.B.F.?” or “do you want a G.B.F.?" And of course the diplomatic answer is: “Well, if you’d seen the film, you'd see we’re trying not to put this ‘cute’ tag on these kinds of things." You know, I have a lot of friends, some of whom happen to be gay. I’m sure in life there are dozens of people [of whom] I could say “Ah! I wish he was my G.B.F.” But because I want to honour this film and its message, I would say that I think I’m really blessed to have some awesome friends in my life, who happen to have G as part of their acronym.
G.B.F is in cinemas and on demand via Peccadillo Pictures now. A DVD and Blu-ray release follows on April 7.
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