“Almost Love” marks the directorial debut of actor Mike Doyle. The indie, which the openly gay Doyle also wrote, stars Scott Evans as a painter and Augustus Prew as his boyfriend who runs a famous fashion Instagram account. As their relationship comes to a crossroads, we also meet their circle of friends, including Kate Walsh, whose character’s husband of 15 years leaves her for a younger woman. Cammy (Michelle Buteau) is surprised to find out that the man (Colin Donnell) she’s been seeing is homeless while Zhao Choi plays a tutor who’s falling for her almost 18-year-old student.
Variety caught up with Doyle and Evans earlier this week to talk about directing, insisting on having openly gay actors play the lead couple and why Evans may be jumping out of helicopters in an “Almost Love” sequel.
Mike, you’re known for your acting. But here, you wrote and directed the movie. Why aren’t you in it?
MD: That’s a good question. I wrote and directed a short film a few years ago that premiered at Tribeca and got some attention. I was not in that, and I really enjoyed not being in it and using a different part of your creative mind and energies. I wanted to be able to focus my energy in crafting that ensemble and all of that. Also, I didn’t have to worry about hair and makeup.
Scott, what did you think when you first read the script?
SE: All of a sudden, the entertainment industry wants a kind of pat on the back for giving gay people gay roles, but all the gay roles are still kind of those roles that you don’t necessarily want to play all the time. Reading “Almost Love,” it was a completely different thing. It was seeing something that I totally related to and that I knew a lot of my friends related to, and a lot of people relate to whether you’re gay or you’re straight. It was very exciting.
Mike, where’d the story come from?
MD: I wanted to tell a story about a group of friends that were at a point, or approaching a point where they were all spinning their wheels in different ways. I feel like, at least in my world, that’s very relatable; whether it’s spinning your wheels professionally, emotionally, in your friendships. I wanted to create a friend circle with a lead gay couple, but put them in the context of three other couples to show what’s universal about being in a relationship — the ups, the downs, and all the in-betweens…I think there have been amazing films about coming out, about battling adversity. That’s all a part of the backstory in our film. They’ve been through that. They’ve come out, and now here they are living their lives. That was really important to me.
Scott, what does it feel like, whether it’s a direct message or a tweet, from a young person who thanks you?
SE: Before I even started pursuing a professional career in entertainment, I was out of the closet. I came out when I was like 18, 19. I just knew that I didn’t want to live a lie. I’d spend my whole life living a lie. It builds up in you and it really causes lots of problems for your psyche later in life. I think I made that decision fairly early on, and then didn’t even realize the potential repercussions that it would have in the entertainment world. When I was first starting out, I was on a soap opera for many years. I played an openly gay character on the show. Soap fans are the best fans, first of all. The letters would just come in, handwritten and emails and everything, just messages of support and thank you, and thank you for giving me something to watch in my small town.
MD: I sort of unofficially made it my mission to cast two openly gay actors as my romantic leads.
Why was that so important?
MD: I think there’ve been some movies of late that have gotten a lot of attention, and the non-gay romantic leads playing gay are applauded for their bravery, which just drives me crazy. I’m not making an edict that only gay people can play gay people, and straight people play straight people. We’re actors so we can do many things. It was just very important to me that the two stars are out loud and proud.
Was there ever a point where someone said to you, “Well, you should go with a straight actor. It might be an easier sell”?
MD: What’s so wonderful about independent film is the amount of creative control you have. There were battles I lost, but this was a battle that I was not going to lose. Also just because working as quickly as we did, Scott and Augie had a short hand. We had a day of rehearsal, which I fought really hard for, just because I didn’t want them to meet on set for the first time, and create this chemistry. There are certain things that they were able to bring that really worked within the confines, and all the limitations and restrictions, and the pressure that we were working under, namely their experience.
Scott, had you ever taken a shower in a kid’s swimming pool while being watched by a film crew?
SE: I’ve taken a shower in plenty of fun places, but never a kiddie pool.
MD: He also had to climb through an ice cream truck window. He had to dive into a three foot pool.
SE: Fall on my back and get slapped by Michelle.
MD: [Laughs] It was an action movie.
You are the new Tom Cruise. This is the gay “Mission Impossible.”
SE: I’m going to be flying off of helicopters in “Almost Love 2.”
“Almost Love” is available on digital and VOD on Friday, April 3.