“Buffy” Star Tom Lenk Still Slays For Gays As Tilda Swinton

The Instagram trashion icon takes the stage in “Tilda Swinton Answers an Ad on Craigslist.”

Those who follow his WOWie Award-winning Instagram account will have no problem picturing Tom Lenk as Tilda Swinton.

Lenk, who recreates celebrity fashions using household items and trash in his popular photo series “Lenk Lewks for Less,” channels the otherworldly British actress in Tilda Swinton Answers an Ad on Craigslist, which has transferred to New York following its successful Los Angeles premiere.

Byron Lane, the playwright, co-stars as Swinton’s new gay roommate. Directed by Tom DeTrinis, the stage comedy also features Jayne Entwistle and Mark Jude Sullivan.

Before making his Broadway debut in Rock of Ages, Lenk became a geek icon playing queer villain Andrew Wells on TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off, Angel. Almost 10 years after coming out publicly in an interview with The Advocate, the 41-year-old actor explains why he’s serious about not taking himself—or drag—too seriously.

Why did you want to bring Tilda Swinton Answers an Ad on Craigslist to NYC?

We were asked, so we had to do it. Sometimes you just have to take a chance on New York City, you know? Honestly, I love doing this show so much and I want more people to see it.

What’s the premise?

The character of Tilda Swinton basically swoops in and helps a depressed gay man try to figure out his life. It’s like Mary Poppins meets Our Town meets A Christmas Carol. It’s a surreal comedy that makes fun of Hollywood and theater, but it also has a lot of heart.

Jennifer Garner Answers an Ad on Craigslist probably wouldn’t pack the same punch. What makes Tilda Swinton the perfect celebrity to spoof in this context?

I’ve done a lot of unauthorized parodies, and the ones that really work are always making fun of something serious. That’s not to say Tilda Swinton isn’t funny or doesn’t have a sense of humor, but we have this idea of her as a very serious actress who takes herself very seriously.

Tell me about your take on Tilda.

It’s similar to Drew Droege’s Chloe Sevigny impersonation in that it’s not really an impersonation at all. I’m giving you what Tilda Swinton is like in my imagination, and I think that’s more fun.

How have you captured her essence?

I watched a lot of her movies and her interviews on YouTube, but then I threw that research away. Something I really embrace in my comedy and in my life is not over-preparing. Overthinking and overworking can kill the magic. Everyone tries to be so fucking perfect, but when I’m creating, I’m like, “Let’s just get the show up! Let’s post the video today!” Everything always comes together.

Is Tilda aware of this show’s existence?

I think word has gotten back to her. We’ve had a couple of her friends come to the show, and they’ve said, “She’d love it!” I said, “Please tell her we’ll fly out to whatever Scottish castle and do a command performance.” I have a fantasy where she secretly buys out an entire performance and it’s just her in the audience by herself. That’s basically the sequel to the play.

You have other drag personas besides Tilda and the many female celebs you spoof on Instagram, including Aleene the crafting maven and Shawna the makeup vlogger. Why are you so drawn to these crazy female characters?

Well, my favorite people in L.A. and I all come from a sketch comedy background, creating silly characters, so you have to have a wig box. When I moved to Hollywood, a manager who saw one of my shows told me it was too gay and that I needed to be more palatable and marketable for a mainstream audience. I was like, “Isn’t an LGBT dollar still a dollar?” My style is unpolished and hodgepodge, so I just decided I was going to do what I think is funny, and that involves lady characters with wigs and garbage costumes. I love that I finally have an audience for it.

Don’t you also have a drag role in the upcoming Girls Will Be Girls sequel?

Yes, alongside legendary drag performers Coco Peru and Varla Jean Merman, as well as Jack Plotnick’s amazing drag character, Evie Harris. But I wouldn’t classify what I do as drag. I wish I had the skills and artistry it takes to be an amazing drag queen. I haven’t had a drag education from a drag mother. I’m still figuring out how to do makeup, and I can’t remember the words to any songs.

Buffy/WB

I’m not sure if this will be horrifying or refreshing, but I’ve never seen an episode of Buffy. Does that make me a terrible gay person?

Maybe. We’ll have to consult the LGBT community at large. The show did feature a groundbreaking lesbian character, you know. But I certainly don’t mind. There’s a little crossover between my Buffy audience and my Instagram followers, but I think most people just think I’m some obnoxious person who like to wear trash.

I don’t want Buffy fans coming for me on Twitter.

Yeah, good luck! It’s a great show, if you ever want to watch it. And I’m amazing in it.

There’s been some buzz about a potential Buffy revival. Would you like to be a part of that?

Oh, sure. I know there was also talk of a reboot, but I think they’d be smart to give that fandom what it wants: more stories with the same characters and actors. It doesn’t have to be everybody, though. They should just bring me back and do a spin-off.

Tilda Swinton Answers an Ad on Craigslist runs through March 25 at the Laurie Beechman Theatre in New York.

Celebrity interviewer. Foodie and Broadway buff in Manhattan. Hates writing bios.
@brandonvoss