Robert Gant’s a rarity in Hollywood. First of all, he went to law school. Second, he’s openly gay. And, as testament to our changing times, continues to get work.
The handsome 39-year old will soon appear in the here! network’s Kiss Me Deadly, on which Gant plays the first gay spy whose post-espionage life goes haywire after the return of an old friend, Shannen Doherty. The movie will hopefully be the first in a series, but Gant’s not sitting on his honches. He’s also just wrapped Special Delivery, a Lifetime movie in which Lisa Edelstein plays his love interest. Yes, a gay man’s playing straight: a growing – and welcome – in Hollywood.
Gant recently sat down with our editor to discuss the ins-and-outs of being homo in Hollywood, not being perfect and why Gant loves his life.
Andrew Belonsky: So, Robert, youâ€™re playing the first gay spy in Kiss Me Deadly. Was it exciting to film?
Robert Gant: It was; it was a lot of fun. We shot in New Zealand, and I wish Iâ€™d gotten more of an opportunity to really get around and see the country. The day we wrapped I had to run back to L.A. to pick up my stuff and get back to New York, to take the Queen Mary over to London.
AB: Quite the jetsetter!
RG: They were showing a film that I co-produced with a bunch of folks, but starring Judith Light and Chad Allen and myself called Save Me, so I didnâ€™t get to do any of the stuff I really wanted to do in New Zealand. It was a really beautiful place that I always wanted to goâ€”itâ€™s stunning and beautiful. We were in and around Auckland pretty much the whole time.
AB: Letâ€™s go back a few years and talk about you growing up in Florida. How was that? How would you describe your childhood?
RG: It was really challenging. It was great in a lot of ways because I had two parents – a family who clearly did the very best they could. And I think, like so many of us [gays] – our families have tools they have to pass along to us, and usually the toolbox is missing a bunch of stuff and we compensate. We end up learning to operate in a system that is missing certain things. I think, like a lot of gay kids, I was missing that sense that I was loved.
AB: That you would love?
RG: That I was loved. Mainly – well, a lot of it had to do with my sexuality. And in Tampa – while a gay population has always existed, to my knowledge, and itâ€™s certainly grown quite a bit, Tampa is not a mecca by any stretch, at all. I remember one of the first clubs I would go to always had the quarter well nights and the big drag shows.
AB: Of course.
RG: The drag shows seem to have been a big part of more rural, or rural-esque kinds of towns. Again, I donâ€™t have any real broad knowledge of this, but I have a sense of it. I always find it so interesting as I encountered different people – a lot of guys who were dealing with their sexuality, who seem to have a real discomfort. And I get it, because it really challenges all kinds of notions of masculinity and everything else. There are a lot of reasons that I was really grateful for the experience, you know, I loved that those were some of my formative gay experiences.
AB: Did you feel masculine growing up? Because looking at you and seeing you act, youâ€™re pretty masculine, if you ask me.
RG: Well, Iâ€™m gonna preface this by saying quote-unquote â€œmasculineâ€ is what Iâ€™m really talking about. Masculinity is an entirely subjective notion. But, subjectively speaking, I did not feel “masculine.” I felt a real driving desire to create that for myself, and I became hyperconscious.
RG: I remember one time having my hand slapped down because I had it – kind of up or something. There was such shame about that, and I became hyperaware of the way that I spoke and the way I carried myself. It became something of a mask, and so much of my life has been about peeling these layers away. And life keeps getting infinitely better as a result. Go figure.
AB: Do you feel like youâ€™ve peeled away all those layers?
RG: Heck no! You know a friend of mine once said “We die unhealed,” and I always balked at that – as I did many things that he said that I now also believe. I pretty much agree with that one as well: “We die unhealed.” Not to say that the majority of us is unhealed, but there are invariably things that weâ€™re not likely to get to in our lifetimes. Even if you were very committed to growth and healing and self-realization, thereâ€™s still likely to be stuff floating around when we pass on. So I just do what I can, and really I feel a lot better and enjoy myself a lot more as a result.
AB: I was going to save this question for the end of the conversation, when we knew each other a little better, but I think this is a good time to ask: Whatâ€™s your greatest weakness?
RG: Thatâ€™s like one of those job interview questions.
AB: Yeah, I do that sort of thing.
RG: Okay, fair enough, that doesnâ€™t bother me. (Laughs). Um, I donâ€™t think I have one; I think I have a lot of them! You know what? Actually, I donâ€™t think theyâ€™re weaknesses; I think theyâ€™re challenges, that I want to continue to grow through and heal and improve upon. So, as far as that is concerned â€“ I had a perfectionistic tendency when I was a kid: the idea that â€œif Iâ€™m perfect then Iâ€™ll be loved.â€ And I had one parent who was particularly hypercritical when it came to me – and when it came to anybody else – so I definitely picked up that perfectionist tool. Thatâ€™s been a good one for me to work at and peel away.
I became very conscious of what people thought, and so a lot of my process became about losing that. Interestingly enough, as an actor, thatâ€™s something thatâ€™s viable, to be able to lose that self-consciousness enough to have a truthful experience in front of people or in front of the camera. So one more way that I think Iâ€™ve taken to acting, without even knowing it, was because I had to heal one of the things that was a great roadblock or challenge for me.
AB: How did your parents take you coming out?
RG: They were a mixed bag. My mom had a really hard time with it; my dad may have, but he didnâ€™t say much. I think it was tough for him, but he processed it mostly internally; my mom processed it very vocally, very externally.
AB: Are they still alive, your parents?
RG: Oh yeah.
AB: You think theyâ€™re proud of you?
RG: I think they are, yeah. I think theyâ€™re actually very proud of me.
AB: Thatâ€™s what they should be, I think.
RG: They werenâ€™t right away. But a friend once said to me that we forget that our parents have to go through a coming out process as well. They have to go through their own journey around it, and whatâ€™s great is that we get closer and closer and those relationships continue to strengthen, and I have more and more fun with them as a result.