Jim Verarros: Star of Eating Out 2
by Sawyer J. Lahr
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Jim Verraros grew up in Lake in the Hills, Illinois, and attended Monmouth College, a private university in Monmouth, Illinois. Thereafter, he went to Columbia College Chicago, studying musical theater for one semester before auditioning for American Idol. His music career took off from there, leading him into acting when he was contacted by Q. Allen Brocka. Verraros played Kyle in Eating Out (2004). Here, he talks with Film Monthly about his role in the sequel, Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds (2007):
Sawyer Lahr: I was curious about Troy. I think that he probably even took more of a central role or an equally central role as Kyle did because he had a major problem. I didn’t really think there was one main character. I thought his character was very interesting because we don’t always see bisexuality dealt with, especially in films of the queer genre.
Jim Verraros: It’s kind of nice this time around to have a film that’s all encompassing of all the sexualities. Lines get blurred quite a bit, and we acknowledge that.
SL: It was wonderful at the end, when the character Gwen decided to explore with the other gothic/punk-looking young woman who was in the ex-gay group because she was always sort of conflicted. She had almost no sexuality. She was attracted to gay men even though they couldn’t be with her sexually.
JV: She’s just a sexual person. She brings back that quote from the first movie, “we’re just bodies with organic needs.” That’s kind of how she is.
SL: I loved that that idea was brought in there because it sounds funny—it’s something to laugh at, but it’s also true. Sometimes we are just bodies with organic needs. I think she enjoyed going after the gay guys.
JV: I think that she likes what she can’t have, and that’s how she dealt with being attracted to gay men. It’s that challenge and that chase.
SL: You could tell me some about American Idol and also about new projects you’re working on.
JV: I was on the first season with Kelly Clarkson back in 2002. I was number nine in the country. We toured through 30 cities and played for hundreds of thousands of people. It was an experience of a lifetime. I came out publicly shortly after the tour, in the Advocate in January of 2003, and that’s when my film career took off. Allen Brocka, who directed the first film, got in contact with me, and when I auditioned, I got the part. That’s where my film career has lead me to now. I also put out a record in 2005 called Rollercoaster. You can get that on iTunes. It’s very pop/rock kind of edgy, sexy record. I wrote seven of the 11 tracks on the album. I’m working on a new record right now—2008, first quarter—January-February. It’s a bit more mature and focused-sounding. I’ve written quite a bit and gone through quite a bit.
SL: Your music has aged with you, you think?
JV: As you grow and you change and you experience different things in life, as I have in the industry and in relationships, it ended up being a very personal record. It’s definitely something everyone can get into. I’m very ambiguous, to appeal to as many people as I can.
SL: Right, you wouldn’t want to be exclusive to the gay community or teenage girls.
JV: I think they should be able to get into my music, as well. I’ve already come out as gay. I can’t highlight that anymore than I already have.
SL: What do you think about celebrities coming out or people who are in the media spotlight, and what do you think about outing? I would prefer that people would come out themselves. There are certainly fans out there wondering about certain actors or personalities on television and film.
JV: I think a lot of people who are much bigger than I am, as far as being a celebrity, have a lot more to risk. We can talk about Clay Aiken. He’s on a major label. He’s got a lot money invested in his career. Actors who are coming out right now, as far as T.R. Knight from Grey’s Anatomy or Lance Bass, even, we don’t really know the reasons behind their coming out, but if they’re outed, I don’t think that’s something that’s admirable. I think people should come out on their own time. I think it’s part of yourself, feeling comfortable and knowing you can trust people around you. For career reasons, it works out better. I think a lot of gay men enjoy the mystery of a man who doesn’t say either way what they are or what they’re not. It’s interesting to see people who play gay and how gay men like that, [rather] than if somebody was actually gay.
SL: Yes, I was going to ask you what you think about straight men playing gay characters on film because I think that one of the actors in Eating Out 2 is straight and plays gay or plays bisexual.
JV: I’m the only actor who’s out
SL: Was it uncomfortable for you? I’ve always been curious about what it’s like for straight men to play gay men. I know Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhal are doing it, as far as we know they’re straight, but can straight actors play gay characters?
JV: I think that they can. It’s interesting, because we view that as a big risk to take in the acting world. People are getting Oscars for playing gay. It’s not that big of a deal. Or what openly gay actors play gay? Marco, who played Troy, he was very professional. Although this was his very first acting gig, he was very laid back about it, and it was just something I appreciated because there’s nothing worse than some actor who’s homophobic or doesn’t want to kiss another gay actor. You’re in the wrong industry if you can’t handle it. Marko was great. In the first film, Ryan Carnes was really cool with it. It made by job easier.
SL: The script is written by a gay man, gay director, filmmaker, so if the script is followed, it still has the influence of a gay mentality. Have you seen Boy Culture?
JV: I have not, no, [but] it definitely shows his versatility as a director, going from Eating Out 2 to something with a bit more serious message in Boy Culture. It’s another great film. Allen does good projects and does them well. I was grateful that he took me in the first movie, and now it’s becoming a gay franchise. For a small gay indie film—for it to have drawn this kind of attention. It’s great. It’s what we need to further the acceptance of the gay community and gay cinema. There just needs to be more out there. There’s a lot more gay film accessible.
SL: Thank god for the films because those queer films are what got me through a lot of high school. I was starving, as a suburbanite in Michigan, for culture.
JV: It’s funny that we’re talking about this because I just came across an article about two kids from my old high school almost being arrested for putting out ant-gay fliers in my old school parking lot in this very homophobic town. My hometown paper has put me on the cover before, and people would call to cancel their subscriptions because of putting a faggot on the cover. I think the kids that do live here are just clamoring and are so hungry for something to connect with. It’s not easy being gay—period. That’s what kids do here is move from these small towns and they go to Chicago, or they go to Boystown. It’s almost like we’re being shunned out of these small towns, and it’s just disgusting. When will we ever reach that acceptance? It’s 2007. You just want to shake these people.
SL: There may be some acceptance that could come of homosexuality that could come to the rural United States. That’s why it’s important to have images in film and definitely images on television, which I think we’ve had a lack of, and that’s what reaches even more people.
JV: People lose themselves so easily, and you get caught up in things. You’ve got to get that down to earth. I think if you’re given a microphone, you need to be able to use, so I feel like I’m lucky that I can be true to myself and speak out on behalf of people that don’t have a voice. It’s like getting to use your celebrity and put it to good use.
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