Clark Moore, who plays a gay, black and very out teen in the highly anticipated Love, Simon, is hoping to turn the tide for intersectional minorities on screen. “We haven’t had much representation as far as gay black men in roles that aren’t over-the-top stereotypes,” Moore, 27, tells NewNowNext. “We’ve been the butt of the joke for a long time, but we haven’t been a thoughtful, poignant, driving point of the narrative until now.”
Where Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) is anxious about his sexuality, Moore’s character, Ethan, is an important representation of unabashed queerness. “[Ethan is] so self-assured and confident and has this acerbic wit,” Moore says. “He just cuts right to the core, and I wish that’s who I was growing up.”
But fans of Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda will meet Ethan for the first time when the film opens March 16: The character was created specifically for the film, directed by out filmmaker Greg Berlanti.
“It’s starting to hit me, that there are going to be people who look like me who are in high school who are going to look up to me,” says Moore. “That’s a little scary. When I booked it, I was just thinking about doing the job.”
The out actor grew up near Atlanta, where Love, Simon was filmed: Moore played after-school sports at the two schools used as locations, and even stayed in his childhood home during shooting. “You know, asking my parents if I could borrow the car to go to set—it was a bit too real,” Moore says, laughing.
Now, he’s looking forward to being part of the change he’s wanted to see since his own teen years.
“It always starts with one very safe step,” he says. “And in order for us to have more stories like Moonlight, another one speaking to all the great storytelling that’s happening for people of color and for LGBT people, we have to have these small steps, where Ethan isn’t the main character in the movie but he’s significant to the storyline. That’s what I’m excited for. Maybe this can be a crack in the door.”
Love Simon opens March 16.