On Wednesday night, 21-year-old actor Adamo Ruggiero came out as a gay man in an interview with Tanya Kim of CTV entertainment magazine eTalk. Ruggiero is best known for playing gay teen Marco Del Rossi on the successful Canadian teen drama Degrassi: The Next Generation.
In the interview, Ruggiero talked about the parallel journey he and his Degrassi character took, telling Kim:
“I was growing up the exact same time as my character was growing up and he was questioning things that I was questioning and I was just a kid. I was completely petrified, and you don’t really understand and you don’t know where you fit in or who you are, and my character was asking the exact same questions but he moved a little bit faster than I did.”
It was the challenge of learning to accept himself that prompted Ruggiero to publicly come out: “Ultimately I just thought maybe the reason why that these kind of fears are perpetuated of ‘I can’t come out, what’s going to happen to my career?’ is because things really haven’t changed … and I feel like the more we hide the more we perpetuate it.”
Until this candid interview, Ruggiero had chosen not to discuss his sexual identity with the public. In an interview for The-N.com he was asked about speculation about his sexuality by Degrassi fans. He responded, “in regards to the gay thing … that’s the number one question because obviously people are curious. I say to myself, let the gay kids think i’m gay and let the straight girls think i’m straight.”
Ruggiero, who was born in Mississauga, Ontario in 1986, has been acting since the young age of 7. He has appeared in theatrical productions of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Bye-Bye Birdie. Ruggiero also appeared in an improv comedy game show, Don’t Lick the Pig, and a sketch comedy show, Show Crash, on a youth-oriented cable network in Canada before appearing on Degrassi.
In 2002, he joined the cast of Degrassi in its second season. Marco formed a close friendship with Ellie (Stacey Farber), who became the first person to realize that Marco is gay. Ellie agreed to pretend to be Marco’s girlfriend for a while to help him hide his sexuality.
When Marco began to come out to his friends in Degrassi’s third season, it strained his friendship with Spinner (Shane Kippel), who vandalized Marco’s locker before being forced to confront his homophobia. Marco came out to his mother after his rival Alex (Deanna Casaluce)
threatened to out him to the whole school, and to his father after
trying to help another gay teen. The scenes where Marco came out to his parents individually exemplified the show’s deft handling of difficult emotional moments involving teenagers.
Degrassi treated Marco’s romantic life no differently than those of his straight classmates. His relationship with Dylan (John Bregar) was a source for the same kinds of conflicts found in Degrassi’s heterosexual relationships. The two approached the relationship very differently, with Marco feeling lonely easily, and Dylan wanting to keep the relationship more casual. (After a typically tumultuous teen relationship the two split when Dylan was recruited for a Swiss hockey team.)
Dylan (John Bregar) and Marco (Ruggiero)
Degrassi: The Next Generation is a spin-off of 1987’s Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High School, topical teen dramas that tackled issues such as peer pressure, eating disorders and teen pregnancy. The drama is the most-watched show for both Canadian broadcast network CTV and for teen-oriented USA cable network The N.
This season Degrassi also became one of the few cable programs to have repeats syndicated nationally, giving daytime TV viewers additional chances to discover the show. It has received several awards including honors from the Television Critics’ Association, Canada’s Gemini Awards, and Nickelodeon’s Teen Choice Awards. It was also nominated for a GLAAD Media Award in 2004.
In 2006, AfterElton.com praised Degrassi for having Television’s Best Portrayal of Gay Teens. AfterElton.com readers agreed in 2007, naming Marco one of their Top 25 Gay TV Characters, and Ruggiero’s courageous decision to come out publicly as a gay man will no doubt endear both the actor and his character to more gay fans.