21-year old Adamo Ruggiero first became a gay icon at age 16. Too bad the Degrassi: The Next Generation actor hadn’t yet come to terms with his own homosexuality. In fact, it wouldn’t be until this year that Ruggiero – who has a long history of extracurricular activism – would come out to the public.
The part-time film student and full-time artist recently gabbed with our editor about the pros and cons of playing Marco Del Rossi, why Canadians don’t care about celebrity and how his acting experience gave him a new view of the U.S.
Andrew Belonsky: Hi, are you?
Adamo Ruggiero: Hi, Andrew. How are you?
AB: I’m very well. So, what are you up to today?
AR: Oh, me? Oh, nothing, just paperwork. Organizing my life.
AB: You’ve always gotten a fair amount of attention in Canada, I’m sure, but I imagine you’re getting much more attention now that you’ve done the Fab magazine interview. What are things like for you these days?
AR: Oh, well, it’s been very exciting. It’s been a pretty exciting ride. I didn’t really know what to expect, if people would care. It was really for the kids watching the show. But I didn’t know what to expect. I mean, everyone’s giving me the opportunity to share my stories in all different mediums, on radio, on television â€“ all this support shows everyone how important the cause is.
AB: You’re 21-years old, correct?
AB: So this is a lot of pressure for you. Do you ever – I mean, you now essentially have to watch every step you take.
AB: But maybe it’s not the same because you’re in Canada and there’s less paparazzi up there.
AR: There are no paparazzi up here. This whole thing with Degrassi, the actors on the show, there’s really no celebrity system. We were just regular kids working on this show and were always ambassadors to the issues we were presenting as characters. Taking on the gay role developed me into a role model. There’s always been that responsibility on me and at times it has been overwhelming, but at this point right now – coming out and opening up -I feel more in control of it. I’m actually more confident now. I have nothing more to hide. It’s a lot easier.
AB: Why do you think Canada isn’t as enamored with celebrity as we are here in the States?
AR: Well, I feel like, I can only talk about Toronto, but I think the thing with Toronto – we’re a family company, we’re all working on the same projects. Our industry’s so close and there’s really no rivalry between people – weâ€™re all friends, we’re all buddies. There’s no celebrity to it. I mean, we have our own little concept of celebrity: Toronto personalities and things like that, but they’re always attainable. You see them on the street, “Oh, the Degrassi kids”. Everyone’s just really normal and down to earth and that’s just the culture, because it’s a lot smaller. Thereâ€™s a whole construct of American celebrity and we are definitely established on television abroad, so a lot of our â€œcelebrityâ€ is projected.
AB: How did you approach your mother? I understand you did it in your bedroom, like Marco, but can you tell us how this went down?
AR: My mom’s a gem, fantastic – she’s very accepting. She’s not clueless and she was not clueless at all. I think the time came when – I was seeing someone at the time – this was about three years ago, I was a kid. I was seeing someone and my mom asked me where I was going and I opened up to her and I was like, “Mom, I’m seeing this person” and it was a guy, of course, and she didn’t seem taken aback at all. It was almost as if she was waiting for confirmation. As soon as I came out, she was like, “Okay, now let’s talk about your father”. It was like she was waiting for me to come out and we could do it together. It was quite a scene.
AB: You’ve described your father as “an intellectual,” so I’m assuming he took it well.
AR: Yeah, I mean, my father was born in Italy and came here and he’s from a different generation, from different times, but he’s the sweetest, most gentle man and is so compassionate. I know he supported my mom’s business and me being an artist and my brother’s a soccer player and traveled the world. Heâ€™s such a supportive guy, but I had to be as realistic as possible and know that despite how gentle and understanding he is, it was going to be hard for him to grasp. It was going to be a learning experience for the family, especially for him. So, I stuck with him and hung out with my dad and got really close. He was so ready to learn.