One of America’s favorite queer funny men, Michael Urie, plays half of a sweet but scheming gay couple (Queer as Folk’s Randy Harrison is his other half) in Stewart Wade’s Such Good People. The comedy will have its West Coast Premiere during FilmOut San Diego on Sunday, June 1st. Urie spoke with me last month as he was driving from San Francisco to San Diego for screenings of a new documentary, Thank You for Judging, that he directed.
CC: You are doing it all: movies, TV, theatre, online. How do you feel about your success and career to date?
MU: Well, I’m always looking up and onward. I don’t feel I’m on the outside looking in; I’m on the inside looking up. There’s so much more I want to do but I’m so happy. I’ve had such luck but also hard work that’s paid off. This documentary I have coming out has taken years but it’s probably my proudest moment.
CC: My partner and I were bummed when your series Partners got cancelled. I’m sure that was disappointing for you.
MU: It was disappointing. You know, I grew up watching sitcoms — real sitcoms with three cameras — and to actually work on one with the creators of Will & Grace was amazing. Once we were on the air, though, we were fighting for our lives. We started with five million viewers, which is huge! But in the TV ocean, we were plankton (Laughs).
CC: So many people remember you from Ugly Betty. How was that experience for you?
MU: Pretty life-changing. That was one of those wonderful, rare opportunities. I loved the people I worked with. And then we were cancelled! (Laughs) I think that show easily could have gone on a few more years.
CC: Do you keep in touch with Vanessa Williams or other cast members?
MU: I keep in touch with pretty much all of them. I see Vanessa and Judith Light the most since we’re in theatre, but I keep in touch with America (Ferrera) and just saw Tony Plana (who played Betty’s father) in a play. And Ana Ortiz (who played Betty’s older sister) is in Such Good People. It’s been a challenge to keep in touch; it’s been four years since the show ended.
CC: How did you get involved in Such Good People?
MU: I don’t remember exactly because I was attached for a long time. Independent movies take a long time to develop. When I read it, I thought the script was adorable. And I loved the kind of movie it is, a caper movie. They really were great at working around my schedule so I could do it. I’m so bummed I can’t be at FilmOut for the screening since I’ll be on tour then.
CC: What was it like to work with Randy Harrison? You two are adorable together.
MU: Thank you! We knew each other socially before working on the movie. He has a great sense of play and is very funny. So much of comedy is instinct and he has a great instinct for comedy. It’s a different side of him than the serious, angsty guy he played on Queer as Folk. Plus, he’s super cute and I have a thing for blondes, so it was really easy for me to hop into bed with him. (Laughs)
CC: You’ve directed a few films now. Do you prefer directing, acting or doing both simultaneously?
MU: I love directing quite a bit, I have to say. I hope to do more of it but I don’t think I will ever stop acting. Directing makes one a better actor. It’s flexing all your storytelling muscles. Timing and pacing is everything as a director. Doing Buyer & Cellar in New York I found myself thinking more as a director, since it’s a one-man show.
CC: We can’t wait to see you in Buyer & Cellar in Los Angeles! (The play will run July 9th-August 17th at the Mark Taper Forum.) How has the experience been for you?
MU: It’s been a great surprise but wonderful. When the script came my way, my representation didn’t like the idea of me being off-Broadway and missing TV pilot season but I thought it could be a big hit. And it was! It was great. I think it’s going to play like gangbusters in LA too.
CC: You were classically trained at Julliard. Do you miss doing Shakespeare or more dramatic work?
MU: I do, I really do. There’s a company in New York called the Red Bull Theatre and I get my Shakespeare fix doing readings with them. I was doing a Jacobean play when the casting director for Ugly Betty was in the audience, so a lot of my success is due to my classical background.
CC: You said in an Advocate interview a few years ago that you prefer the term queer for yourself rather than gay or bi. Do you still prefer queer today?
MU: That’s still the closest term to how I feel. I’ve been in a relationship with a dude, though, for 5 ½ years.
CC: Where do you call home today: New York, LA or your native Texas?
MU: I always miss New York City whenever I leave there after about 15 minutes, so that’s definitely home for me.
In addition to Such Good People, a number of films will be making their West Coast or California premieres at the 16th annual FilmOut San Diego LGBT Film Festival between Friday, May 30th and Sunday, June 1st:
- Boy Meets Girl. A poignant coming-of-age comedy set in Kentucky and centering on three 20-somethings, one of them a gorgeous trans girl, whose paths cross.
- Lilting. A Chinese-Cambodian mother grieving the death of her closeted son finds her life further disrupted when her son’s partner shows up on her doorstep. Out actor Ben Whishaw (the new “Q” in Skyfall and upcoming James Bond movies) plays the partner.
- Waiting in the Wings: The Musical. Lee “Catwoman” Meriwether, Shirley Jones, Sally Struthers and Blue Lagoon hottie Christopher Atkins make appearances in this comedy about a male stripper and a naïve musical-theatre enthusiast who are erroneously cast in one another’s proper venues.
- 10 Year Plan. This new film by director J.C. Calciano (Is It Just Me?, eCupid) is a sexy romantic comedy that features two male best friends who make a pact to stay together forever if neither finds love in ten years. They only have two months left before their deadline.
- Floating Skyscrapers. An acclaimed, sexually-graphic drama from Poland in which a promising professional swimmer falls in love with a young student. Unfortunately, the closeted swimmer’s controlling girlfriend stands in their way.
The full festival schedule and ticket info can be found online at their website.
Interview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.