Two gay men from different generations collide in ACT UP veteran Vincent Gagliostro’s semi-autobiographical directorial debut, After Louie, out March 30.
In the film, AIDS activist Samuel Cooper (Alan Cumming) is still grappling with the devastation the virus has wrought in his life when he takes Braeden Devries (Zachary Booth) home one night. As their relationship evolves, intense conversations about their differing perspectives lead to enlightenment and healing.
A familiar face on the queer-indie circuit, the 34-year-old actor has earned distinction for his role in Ira Sachs’ Keep the Lights On and as Glenn Close’s son for five seasons of FX’s Damages. More recently he’s appeared on CBS’ The Good Fight.
Below, Booth spoke with NewNowNext about debating with Gagliostro’s take on queer millennials, doing sex scenes with Alan Cumming, and how acting in LGBT films influenced his decision to be more open about his sexuality.
What initially drew you to After Louie?
I’ve known [Vincent] for about 10 years, and he was the first member of that generation that I had an intimate friendship with. Through talking to him, I started to understand what it was like living in that time. So, Vincent is really the main thing that drew me to the film.
Maybe I’m cynical—or just practical—but everyone says they’re making a movie. And I sort of said to him, “Sure, man, sure you are.” It took a couple of drafts and 10 years, but what came out was what I recognized: his truth. Once that started to come to the script, I really became more attached to it.
Vincent told the the Los Angeles Blade that, “There is a tense generational tension in the gay male community today,” which the film explores. Do you agree?
I don’t think I do, actually, and Vincent and I had gone back and forth on this issue. It’s part of what informed my performance in the film: my confidence and faith in a generation that I’m a part of. We’re living in the world [people like him] created. We’re able to express ourselves and be free. Just our living and breathing in that structure is a testament to the work they did.
You’ve done sex scenes before, but was it different simulating sex with Alan Cumming?
[Laughs] My comfort level in particular with nudity and sex scenes at this point in my career is a lot more connected to my ego than anything else. I enjoy taking roles that are risky, I enjoy taking roles that are telling stories that I think are important. And I’m resistant to sex scenes and nudity, you may be shocked to find out!
But there is an element to the animal connection that exists between those two people that is important to telling this story. And because it was Alan—I mean, I didn’t sexualize him in that way. I was really more like, “Oh my god, this is Alan Cumming from Cabaret and whose books I’ve read.”
How often does your own sexual identity intersect with the queer characters you play?
With Keep the Lights On, I was pulling on my own struggle for identity and trying to understand who I was at a young period in my life. But I honestly try to keep my sexuality out of the decision-making process because that’s a double-edged sword, too.
There’s a lot of fear in the industry of participating in queer cinema and queer theater, and we may think we’re on this sort of wave that’s riding into town with these Academy Award-nominated movies, but there’s still a lot of work to do with homophobia that exists in Hollywood and even in the Broadway community.
Until we’re embracing the sexuality of queer actors and queer storytellers at their point of entrance as opposed to after they’ve already created something that is marketable, we still have work to do.
What has changed for you that has allowed you to be more open about being gay yourself?
As an actor who has been embraced by the queer community, I can’t hide who I am, my truth, and still benefit from that. It feels uncomfortable. So, it wasn’t a professional choice. It wasn’t about where I am as an actor. It’s about who I am and where I am personally in my life. It’s not like a tipping point was reached and I made a decision. I just sort of fell in love. I am gay, and I’m in love with a man.
After Louie comes to theaters and VOD on March 30.