Wednesday, May 25, 2011

David Sutcliffe's "Group" Needs YOU: The WLS Interview, Part Four

In Part One, Two, and Three of our interview with David Sutliffe, we discussed the importance and relevance of his new docu-webseries GROUP, his Kickstarter campaign to raise necessary funds for this project, as well as recollections and insights into the legacy of GILMORE GIRLS.  In this final part, he discusses the "strange" experience of doing love scenes with Antonio Sabato Jr., his decision to post some very unconventional videos on YouTube, and what's next for this innovative and creative mind.  

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: In the middle of your successful run on GILMORE GIRLS, you took a step off the traveled path of family friendly fare by starring in TESTOSTERONE, a gay psychological thriller, that involved a lot of nudity and you doing hot intimate scenes with other guys.  What led you take what many would consider a kind of unconventional “risk”?
David Sutcliffe: I was curious.  It was a fascinating character who was sexually twisted.  And even though I’m not gay, I related to that element of it.  I was interested in exploring that darkness.  It was an opportunity to go down to Argentina, I was in every scene in the movie, I thought there was a chance to explore a completely different side of myself and put that out there.  I’m not 100% satisfied with how the movie turned out, but I’m satisfied with it, and I’m grateful for it.  The experience was incredible, and going to the dark areas inside of myself was a chance to grow as an actor. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Even in 2011, many actors are told “don’t do the gay stuff.” You made this movie ten years ago.  Did you get a lot of that feedback?
David Sutcliffe: Not really. My manager was a pretty open cool guy and he saw the value in me taking a risk.  I think he understood that I was interested in exploring that.  My agents were a little...suspect.  They weren’t quite as sure because I was building a career as a romantic lead, as a nice guy.  I think they had some resistance.  But agents figure it out, actors are going to do what actors are going to do, they have to surrender to it.  That didn’t enter my mind to be honest.  I was not going to make decisions with that. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I think that is very courageous, and not typical of actors working in Hollywood.  What was it like for you as a straight guy to be doing love scenes naked with Antonio Sabato Jr.?
David Sutcliffe: (Laughs), It was a little strange.  I’ll be honest.  I was trying to find my inner gay man.  I’m not sure I entirely succeeded in that.  It was interesting to explore it.  Antonio clearly had his own issues as well.  We were kind of in this together, trying to figure it out.  I think both of us had  a willingness to explore it, see what it was, and get past whatever judgments we may have.

Ultimately people are attracted to whomever they are attracted to, but human sexuality is human sexuality.  Longing, desire, the need for contact is all the same thing whether you are going for that in a man or a woman.  I think the hardest part for me was to connect with the lust of it, or to see Antonio and connect to the lust.  I can see him as an attractive man but I didn’t have that “GRRRR” thing that I have with women. So I had to use my imagination and deal with it that way.  It was fun to be honest with you.  He’s a good guy, he’s a good sport, and he really showed up.  I wasn’t sure how he was going to be, but when it came to the shoot he was a real pro. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: In recent months, you have come to express yourself in videos on YouTube, that many would consider again to be “unconventional.”  Tell me about deciding to do that.
David Sutcliffe: When we shot GROUP we gave everybody flip cameras to film as diary videos.  The stuff we got back was so incredible.  Clearly when you are in group therapy for a week, the stuff you are going to capture on your video is going to be pretty emotional and revealing.  I was struck by that.  I was struck by how honest they were and how much courage they had.  I went on YouTube, I searched for video blogs where people revealed themselves like that and I couldn’t find anything.  All the vlogs were a little bit light, more day-to-day stuff, or observational.  I had it in my mind that I wanted to do something a lot more personal, a lot more real, a lot more revealing.  I did not have it in my mind that it was going to be me (laughs).

Eventually I realized I have to do it myself.  I have to be the one to lead, to set the example, and just go for it.  So I’ve been making them on my own for awhile and not sharing them.  Then I made one and decided to post it.  It snowballed from that.  I’m not sure how long it’s going to last or what I’m going to do with it but what I can say it that it is incredibly liberating.

All I’m trying to do is to be as real and honest as I can.  I’m sure I will not be that all the time.  But to reveal who I am and what I’m going through in that sense is coming out of hiding.  I have nothing to hide, I don’t want to hide anything anymore.  Here I am all the way for you to see.  It may be weird to watch or it may feel uncomfortable.  You may think I’m an idiot for doing it, or you may be inspired and say “that’s courageous, I would like to reveal more about myself and stop hiding too.”  I’ve gotten all this kind of feedback from it.  It’s been really interesting and scary.  But I’m really trusting my impulses, and trust they will lead me somewhere.  I don’t really know what I’m doing. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: How does it feel to have show such raw vulnerable emotions out there for anyone in the world to see?
David Sutcliffe: I love it.  It feels liberating.  It’s like, “Okay, this is me.”  People can have their opinions on it, but what do they care?  It’s me, I’m doing my thing.  I’m not concerned about other people’s judgments and I don’t really care about what people think.  That’s not to say I don’t want to be connected to people.  I do.  But there’s a way that is much more liberating to live your life for yourself and the way you want to.  And then not to put demands on other people.  That’s the great thing about these videos.  You don’t have to watch them, you don’t have to  like them, you don’t have to care.  That’s okay if you don’t like them or don’t watch them or don’t care. It’s doesn’t bother me.  People can have whatever reaction they want, I want to make space for all of that. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: On May 14th on your Twitter account you said, “I’m eliminating ‘should’ from my vocabulary.”  What led to that declaration?
David Sutcliffe: I have been rigid in my outlook in life about what I should and should not be doing, about how I should live my life.  I have set up a lot of strict rules for myself.  For that past couple of years I have been trying to let that go.  It came to a head when I was telling myself, “You should do that, you should do this, this is what I should be doing...” And I responded by saying “Fuck that. Surrender and just let yourself do whatever it is you want to do.  You are a hard working guy.”  This idea that we "should" do things make our existence rigid, and I realized I just don’t want to live like that anymore. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Hearing you say that reminds me earlier when you told me your father left the home at age six, and you were given some very clear messages about how you should express that.
David Sutcliffe: That’s exactly right.  There wasn’t room for me to have all the reactions to that pain. Instead I was focused on, “This is how I should behave.”  And that has manifested a lot in my career. I tried to be this perfect guy, this romantic lead, and that put a lot of restrictions on how I could behave.  That didn’t feel real to me.  So all of this in effect is like coming out and reclaiming my life and my humanity.  I’m just some person trying to be happy and trying to get what I want out of life.  I’m struggling just like everyone else, I have good days and bad days.  Overall I’m pretty satisfied and happy with my life but it’s not always easy, I don’t always know what’s going on, and that’s okay. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So the liberation of doing those YouTube videos in part stems from breaking free of those rigid “shoulds?”
David Sutcliffe: Exactly. And now I’m just letting things be messy.  I’m letting life be messy, I’m letting myself be messy, let myself make mistakes knowing that everything doesn’t have to be perfect, not everything I put out has to be great.  That’s what life is.  It is imperfect, it is messy.  There is no one whose plan works out perfectly.  Letting go of that for me has been incredibly liberating.  I feel my load lightening, and I’ve been much happier. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: And there is an important lesson right there.  In a world where people are upset about the economy, the environment, or even their favorite soaps being canceled, it is liberating to know that we have the key to happiness and freedom within ourselves.  It is not determined by the White House, Wall Street,  or by Disney/ABC.  True stability comes from within, not the world.  I think your project gives people an alternative.  By helping to get GROUP made, people will learn tools for being responsible for their lives, and experience the liberation you have described.  When we take responsibility for our lives, there is always a sense of levity and an increase in joy of living. 
David Sutcliffe: You nailed it. That is exactly what I’m trying to do for myself.  I am also aware that everything you do in the public eye is an example for others.  So I’m really trying to give that to people, give it to myself, and that feels really really great.

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Thank you for reading! Please consider the importance and relevance of Sutcliffe's passion, and if you can, contribute to his Kickestarter campaign for GROUP.

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Therapist in New York City who specializes in treating  depression, stress management, anger management, ageism, and grief/loss issues. He is also the author of the popular book "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve," currently available at For more information about scheduling an appointment or a speaking engagement, please email him at [email protected].

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