Bisexual actor and Love Bomb podcaster Nico Tortorella is stripping down for his new role, but it’s not what you might think. Tortorella plays the infamous convicted murderer Lyle Menéndez in Menéndez: Blood Brothers, a new fictionalized Lifetime movie premiering this Sunday night, and there are a lot of physical differences between the actor and the real life person he’s playing. For one, Menéndez has an unfortunate ’90s haircut and a penchant for polo shirts and khakis, far from Tortorella’s usual on-screen look, which is often in hip, tight, and on trend — and that’s if he’s fully clothed.
“It was kind of refreshing,” Tortorella tells NewNowNext. “As annoying as it sounds, it’s a blessing and it’s a curse to look the way I do on TV and in life. I don’t get taken seriously as a character actor ever because people think that I am so one-noted because of my fucking nose or something. But I know that there’s so much more to me as an actor than what I look like, and it was really nice to be able to strip it down some and not play it up as this hyper-sexualized character and to really play a real life human being.”
Tortorella admits he was first intrigued by the project because Courtney Love, who plays Lyle’s mother Kitty, was already attached. But once he signed on to play a young man who, alongside his brother, suffered “years of mental, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse,” Tortorella said he enjoyed the opportunity to “play outside of what everyone else thinks I look like.”
“To be honest with you, I’m more Jim Carrey than I am Robert De Niro any fucking day,” Tortorella said. “I’m like a wild dude, you know? I’m a big goof.”
And while Menéndez isn’t exactly a comical character, the role gave Tortorella an opportunity to play a “transformative” role, and to “step outside of [himself].”
“With all of the work I’m doing outside of my acting career, I’m really starting to really get into a deep study of just the human condition,” he said. “And with my podcast, Love Bomb, I hear all these other people’s stories all the time and, as an actor, that’s just fuel for future fires. The more I know about the world, the more layered the characters I can play will be.”
Tortorella, who returns for Season 4 of TVLand’s Younger on June 28, says that there are a “couple things in the works” for him to play a queer role and that talking more about his bisexuality has helped have LGBTQ-themed scripts sent this way.
“I think it’s stupid that I haven’t fucking played gay yet,” he says. “Ryan Murphy, where are you? Like why hasn’t Ryan Murphy called me?”
Since coming out as sexually fluid (and later saying he falls under the bisexual umbrella), Tortorella says he hasn’t seen any changes in his career that might indicate his being so out as a detriment. Mostly he sees it as an opportunity.
“I think that the two things don’t have anything to do with each other,” he says. “I mean I think that my career outside of being an actor and my own personal work that I’m doing, and my podcast and just this like—I keep calling it this sexploration of love. I’m just fascinated by how people love each other and how we show it and how we think about relationships as some sort of sexual relationship rather than how two people are actually treating each other on an emotional level. And I think as a whole, if we as a society get our head out head out of our fucking pants a little bit we can start to have more lifted conversations. It’s not about who’s putting what where—it’s about how we’re loving each other and taking care of each other. And if I can be on the forefront of that conversation, I think that’s my job.”
So while he’s hoping to move beyond Hollywood’s idea of him being just a hot half-naked, tatted up titillation tool, Tortorella says he doesn’t “take any of this shit really too seriously at all.”
“I think I have to have humility in everything that I do,” he says, “whether it’s playing Lyle Menéndez or having a conversation with Courtney Love on my podcast or my own sexuality or whatever—nobody really knows why we’re here or what we’re doing and I’m just having a good fucking time while I’m doing it.”
Menéndez: Blood Brothers premieres Sunday, June 11 at 8/7c on Lifetime.