The Queerty Interview

Brian Jordan Alvarez on landing his wondrous role on ‘Will & Grace’

From the  Will & Grace Season 10 Finale, “Jack’s Big Gay Wedding”  (Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC)

“I think you’re great!’

A man on a park bench barks this at Brian Jordan Alvarez as he walks by on a sunny West Hollywood afternoon. Alvarez graciously thanks his fan for the compliment. Behind his wire sunglasses, the actor blushes.

“I swear I didn’t plan that,” Alvarez insists as we sit down at a picnic table, coffee in hand.

After years of amassing a following with YouTube comedy sketches and the series The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo, Alvarez has made a name for himself in Hollywood. Last year, he landed a recurring role on the revival of Will & Grace as Estefan Gloria, the boyfriend of Sean Hayes‘ Jack.

He reprised his role this season with his screentime expanding. With the season finale set to air April 4, rumors abound that Jack & Estefan will take things to the next level, which would help make Alvarez a regular on season 11.

Things are going well. You get recognized. 

It’s great.

You’re in your second season of Will & Grace.

I feel so grateful to be part of this show that has literally made the world a better place. I grew up with this show in my living room being the only access I had to gay people. And then, to end up here and be on the show, I literally feel like I could wake up and go, “Oh my God, I just had a dream.” I could wake up and think this was all a dream. I remember one episode I was watching Eric McCormick [Will] rehearse—he’s such a genius—and for a fleeting moment, I thought I might wake up; this is a dream. And it wasn’t. Luckily. Or this is just an extension of it. But it really is a dream come true. It’s so rare and magnificent when a show is genuinely extremely funny. And then beyond that, for the show to have made a positive social impact, it just feels like I’ve won the lottery.

And you worked so hard to get to this point. At what point did you decide to start writing parts for yourself?

Oh, that’s an interesting question. So I was always making movies growing up. Even when I was a kid, I was firmly making movies when I was like 10-11-12, and I would play all these crazy characters. I would go to my mom’s office at the university she worked at, and I would edit the movies on her iMac. I would take the video and turn it into digital files—did you ever do any of that stuff?

I learned Avid.

Yeah. I worked on iMovie and it’s funny: I usually teach myself the software. But I would make these movies, and I don’t think it ever occurred to me that I needed to be in the movie, but as a kid, I think generally I was. And then during college, I got very into making these time stop films. When I was in college there were SLR digital cameras. But those couldn’t do video yet. So there was a time after these came out when they started to do video. But an SLR camera had such a beautiful lens and made such a beautiful image, that I was like this is the image, this is what movies look like. But these couldn’t make movies. But I realized if I held the shutter down, it would shoot three frames a second. So then I started making movies that way. I would get my friends to act in slow motion and make these beautiful movies that couldn’t have sound or anything at three frames per second. It’d make this kind of live animation.

Stop-motion.

Yeah. I made a bunch of those in college. And in those, looking back on them, I wasn’t in a lot of them because I was more on the filmmaker side. But I was also acting constantly in school. My BFA was in school. So I didn’t need to quench the acting thirst. Cut to a few years after school, I’m getting into the industry and I just, at some point, realized I can make stuff because I had been doing it so long. I think this would be very obvious to most people, but it took me years to realize I should make stuff that I’m an actor in. When I started doing that on a constant basis, everything started taking off. The sketches started taking off, the amazing experience of Caleb Gallo, that was kind of the rocket fuel. And now I’m very grateful that I don’t have to make everything I’m acting in.

The ‘Stupid Idiots’ web sketch

Were you ever judged for starting out in online content? When you would go in and meet with an agent or a casting director were they looking at you sideways like you’re not doing real work, you’re on the internet? I don’t think that’s the attitude now, but a few years ago, was that the feeling? This is a snobbish business sometimes.

I think part of the reason I didn’t experience that, and I think it’s worth it to also say the agencies—especially the agency I’m with now, CAA—really is on the forefront of acknowledging and supporting digital creators in such a big way. I find it so smart and kind-hearted and forward thinking. I was starting to have serious, good agents a little before my streaming stuff started taking off. So then, I was already at good agencies. I was at Paradigm before and had wonderful agents. When my streaming stuff started taking off, they got it. They didn’t hesitate to think that it was cool.

So the day CAA calls, what’s that like? Where were you in your career?

I remember dreaming about being at CAA when I was like 21. So when that opportunity arose, it was similar to the Will & Grace thing. It was just a big “yes” in my life. My agents at CAA are like the top of the top of their game.

Did you audition for Will & Grace?

Yes. It’s funny, because I’ve been hanging out with a wonderful friend of mine from college lately. We’ve just been talking about auditions a lot. The Will & Grace audition experience was magical. I had known the casting director, Julie Ashton, and she’s one of the best in town. She makes everyone very relaxed. She’s very smart. She’s very funny, so she can be funny with you in the room. I had known her for a couple years and she’s cast me in parts on other shows. But she really got me, and she got what I was able to do.

Related: Oh, OK: Brian Jordan Alvarez just dropped a new feature-length film on YouTube?!

On set with Max Mutchnick (far left), Eric McCormick and Sean Hayes

So when this part came in and I auditioned for it, it just felt right early on. I don’t know how many sessions I had, but I eventually met Max Muchnick and David Cohen who created the show, and I had a session with them and got to know them. I got to know what they were looking for in this part. I think it was around then that I was finding out how big this part was going to be. It was so thrilling. And then I got call, and I remember just screaming when my agent told me on the phone. My agent said, “It’s amazing how you put this stuff out into the universe, and sometimes it really does come.” And we finished the conversation, and I wondered what did he mean by that? So I looked through my email, and five months before the Will & Grace audition, I had sent a two-sentence email to my agents saying, “Hey guys, just so you know it would be a dream of mine to appear on the Will & Grace revival.”

So magic can happen.

The last episode of the season involves a wedding. What can you share with us about the finale?

What can I share? I will just say that they were the two most fun weeks of my life.

That’s fantastic. So are we getting another season after this?

I don’t know what I’m allowed to say, but I feel very happy.

Grandmother’s Gold

So outside of what you’re doing on Will & Grace, you have so many projects. You just shot off Grandmother’s Gold, a whole film last year for fun. So what else are you working on?

I’m shooting a lot of sketches. I’m also gearing up to possibly shoot another feature film. We’ll see what time allows. We’re in this era of technology where it really is so accessible. It really is cool that you can shoot things with your friends and they can look really amazing. I don’t know if you know this, but we pick up all our sound on iPhones. So on Grandmother’s Gold, we have iPhones as body mics.

That’s wild.

The cast is always so sweet to use their phones and stuff. I’m looking forward to doing more feature films but I don’t know how quickly that’s going to happen. It would be nice to have one out by July, which is my birthday. I released Grandmother’s Gold last year in July sort of as a present to me. It would be fun to release another feature film by July 10 this year, but that might be too ambitious. But there’s a bunch of new sketches on my channel that people should check out.

So what’s more satisfying for you, writing or acting?

Acting. I’m an actor. I really consider myself an actor, and that’s what leads everything. But I understand that I have some abilities around shooting and writing and making things that I can’t ignore. I often have the experience where—because I think I’m always going to know I’m an actor, primarily—I always have the thought that I should quit making stuff. But this other part of me knows I’ll always keep making stuff. I love it so much. But that part in some ways feels less professional. I just do it for fun.

Now that you’re going out on a lot of auditions, now that you have a big project under your belt, do you find that your agents are reluctant to send you on auditions for straight characters? You know, because you’re out and you’ve played different gay characters, do you find that casting directors won’t see you for straight roles?

Not at all. I don’t know if it’s the team I have, but I find them to be deeply open-minded about that. I get a lot of gay role auditions and a substantial amount of straight role auditions. I’m grateful for both.

That’s great. I ask because, not long ago, there was this fringe call to only cast gay actors as gay characters. I don’t think those people realize it’s illegal for a casting director to ask someone’s sexual orientation on an audition.

Yeah. My agents have been great about it, and the industry has been great about it. And I’ve played straight parts on TV and film, and I love them all.

Do you ever fear typecasting?

No, not at all. I don’t. And I think I have that luxury, in part, because my part on Will & Grace is so far from what I’m like in real life. It’s encouraging to me. I studied at The Groundlings [the legendary LA comedy troupe], and to get to do character work—like a full-blown character—on real network TV on a hit show is a dream come true for me that likes to play different characters. So I go out [on auditions] for things that I would say the character seems more like me, but I also go out for stuff for characters that seem totally far from my personality.

The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo

The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo doesn’t obsess about sex. It seems so many web series—gay web series in particular—are just about someone hooking up with someone new in every episode. There’s no real plot or characterization; it’s just about sex. For you, how do you find the balance that represents and sexualizes queer people in an accurate way, but without making the story just about sex or hooking up?

I feel like the whole Caleb thing was so organic because it’s written from my real, queer perspective. What’s funny about it is that I didn’t notice when I was putting sex into it, and when I wasn’t, because I was just kind of writing. In a way, as a writer, you just don’t know what’s going to work and what’s not. Caleb was one of those things that worked, and I’m so grateful for that. That was so great.

All of whom are still working, too.

Yeah. And I’m so happy that I could help any of those friends because they’re all wonderful people.

Would you ever go back to any of those characters?

That’s a good question. I would say “never say never.” I love Caleb, and I’m not closed off to that idea, but I don’t have plans for it at the moment. But it’s the kind of thing we could do at any age. We could get the whole gang back together when we’re all 41.

So what’s next for you?

Well, more Will & Grace is the hope. Just making stuff. I really want this role in Marvel’s The Eternals. I don’t know if you know about it.

Oh yeah. Are you officially up for it?

I had an audition for it that I was very happy with.

Awesome.

So we’ll see.

Anything else you want to add?

No, just that I love Queerty. You guys are so amazing.

You have good taste.

The Will & Grace finale airs April 4. Grandmother’s Gold and The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo streams on Alvarez’s YouTube channel.