Actor Thomas Dekker has opened up about his own public coming out…which happened at a time when he least expected it.
Dekker, 34, best known for his roles in Heroes and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, sat down for an interview with Variety this week and spoke about getting outed by a friend. The writer/producer in question is Bryan Fuller, the mind behind such TV series as Dead Like Me, American Gods, and Star Trek: Discovery.
The fateful moment came in 2017 when Fuller spoke at Outfest. Though he didn’t mention Dekker by name, Fuller did allude to a closeted cast member on Heroes whose character was originally written as gay. The actor’s managerial team insisted Fuller rewrite the character as straight to help keep Dekker’s sexuality hidden. Fans immediately connected the dots; Dekker confirmed as much in an open letter posted to Twitter not long after the incident.
Dekker now recounts the awkwardness and terror at having his private life thrust into the open.
“Everyone has their journey and I hated that mine was taken away from me in a way,” he said. “But it was also this kind of a weird f*cked up blessing because it opened the door for me to just be fully who I am.”
“Bryan and I had not had any contact of any kind since doing Heroes 11 years before,” Dekker further explained. “I was 29 at the time and I had just gotten married in secret — not secret from my circle and my friends and who I was close with, but secret from the public. I was still under the sort of spell of, ‘Oh, Jesus. If my truth comes out, it’s all over. It’s kiss the career goodbye.’ I sort of had that drilled in me for so long and it was [my publicist] who called me and he said, ‘Listen, there’s a situation you’ve been basically, not by name, but you’ve been outed in an Outfest acceptance speech.’ Then everybody said, ‘You can say nothing and let this kind of die down or you can take this opportunity and come out.'”
Elsewhere in the interview, Dekker spoke about playing gay characters on screen, including in his new series Swimming with Sharks. He also spoke about how coming out helped him access deeper emotions and forced him to grow as an actor.
“I played bisexual, gay, you name it; multiple times, but this is really kind of my first thing as an out actor,” he explained. “It’s a world of difference. I think, first of all, just by virtue of being out, I am healthier and able to do what I do the way I do it in a more effective, consistent way. I was in a weird era where it was a career-killer to be gay, but it was a career asset to play gay.”
“Fortunately, the world has changed so much in the last 10 years in the industry as far as acceptance and inclusion,” he further added.
Dekker also recalled the pressures of living in the closet, and the passive-aggressive conversations he would have with network bosses early in his career.
“Crazy sh*t happened when I was 19. I remember being on a certain TV show for a network and I was called into a board meeting with the heads of the network to basically very gently say to me, ‘We don’t want you to confuse the audience. We want to make sure that you don’t get in the way of this role.’ It was a very veiled way of saying, ‘Stay in the closet.’ Today feels like a whole new world to be out. I feel free.”
Fortunately, coming out helped Dekker step into a larger world of mental health. He married his husband Jesse Haddock in 2017, and one year later, began attending Alcoholics Anonymous to quit drinking. He’s remained sober since. Besides his role in Swimming with Sharks, Dekker also plans to step behind the camera to write and direct “an unapologetically gay genre mind-bender.”