Lucas Grabeel: Milk Role ‘Changed My Life’ — Also, I’m Not Gay

In a posting to his official site, 23-year-old High School Musical actor Lucas Grabeel writes about acting in Gus van Sant’s Milk.

GrabeelIn Milk, Grabeel plays Dan Nicoletta, Harvey Milk’s close friend and supporter who worked as a clerk at the Castro street camera shop which later became Milk’s campaign office. Grabeel is pictured, in costume, below.

While Grabeel trumpets that acting in the film about the gay civil rights leader who struggled to break down closet doors “changed (his) life,” the actor then posts a disappointing paragraph explaining to his fans that just because he’s playing someone who is gay, it doesn’t mean that he is.


Via (sic):

“Earlier this year I was in a movie that changed my life… Milk. I shot for a month in San Fransisco with one of my favorite directors, Gus Van Sant, and a hugely talented cast that exposed me to a completely new realm of film making. It will also be a movie that is completely different that anything else I’ve done. The story is about a very important man, Harvey Milk. (google him) He was the first openly-homosexual elected political official in the United States, in 1978.

“Things were a lot different then… Before all of you were around…hehe… People were still very prejudice against minorities in the seventies and it was a very difficult time for someone who was “different” than the average white male”. You guys have no idea that any of this existed; I’m sure your parents haven’t told you about oppression in the seventies, but it was a real issue. People were KILLED without questions for just being “different”. Harvey Milk tried to stop all of that. In his tough struggling rise to political power he encountered many obstacles that seemed to only inspire him more to change the minds of people all across the country. People at that time thought that being a homosexual meant that you were sick and needed to be healed before you were viewed as a normal citizen. He gave people hope for a bright future of equality by inspiring everyone he encountered. The movie also shows that in 1978 someone was so afraid of change and new hope, that they walked into his office one morning and killed him and the Mayor of San Fransisco. Crazy, Huh?

Milk“Well, I really hope that this movie is going to be awesome and I can’t wait to see it myself. It comes out November 26 in theatres… Now, your parents may not let you see this movie because it’s rated R and has many very adult themes.

“I know that a lot of you will not understand (until you’re older) that in the film industry, as an actor, you play roles. What that means is you completely embody another person and become someone you are not. I’m NOT Ryan Evans. I’m NOT Kelly Kuzio from Veronica Mars, I’m NOT Lex Luthor… I’m Lucas. But when I go to WORK (just like your parents go to work everyday) I assume the character of whom I’m playing and create a story for people to enjoy. In the movie Milk, I PLAY a homosexual… that doesn’t mean that I am gay. Sean Penn, one of the greatest actors of our generation is playing Harvey Milk, a gay character… but He is married to Robin Wright-Penn.(Princess Bride… if you haven’t seen that movie see it!!!) Most people in this movie are straight men playing gay men…. Emile Hersch, James Franco, and Diego Luna are just a few….


Now, perhaps Grabeel is reacting this way because of speculation among fans or in media about his sexuality. I don’t know. But he could certainly learn a few things from his High School Musical castmate Zac Efron, who in his Details cover story and interview handled the same situation better than most actors I’ve seen.

In any case, I’m still looking forward to seeing Grabeel and Milk later this year.

JAmes Franco rates Sean Penn his ‘top’ Onscreen Love Interest [tr]
Harvey Milk Bust has Coming Out Party [tr]

(thanks matt)


  1. John M says

    That was written for children, it doesn’t look like a denial, it looks like a careful wording not excluding the possibility that he is gay.

    ” In the movie Milk, I PLAY a homosexual… that doesn’t mean that I am gay.”

    No, the fact that he played a homosexual in a movie doesn’t mean he is gay but it doesn’t preclude the possibility that he played a homosexual and coincidentally is gay himself.

  2. Giovarist says

    This sounds more like it was written by a PR agent. In fact, I’m sure it was. “Hot young actors” shouldn’t play gay roles unless they want to risk be pigeonholed, especially if they’re gay in real life. That’s just the way the business is, and whether or not Lucas Grabeel is actually gay- he’s smartly playing the game by making this comment.

  3. anon says

    It’s always fun to hear a description of an era from someone too young to have experienced it directly. The 70’s were a mixed bag for gay men, with some fairly safe areas in the country and some very dangerous areas. It was also the era after the bar raids and postal police arrests, and psychologically at least, pre-AIDS. Apparently, his acting in the film did not teach him these nuances.

  4. says

    I think it’s important to take readership into account here — Efron was talking to Details, knowing that the article would be read by adults. As John M points out, this is clearly written with Grabeel’s very young fans in mind, and so it’s written in a pretty different way.

    That said, this has “publicist/manager” written all over it — someone’s worried that their family-friendly client is going to alienate his fan base. Or rather, his fan base’s conservative parents.

  5. FizziekruntNT says

    Grabeel’s lack of sophistication and immaturity only served to show just how under-represented we are in film as ACTUAL GAY FILM ACTORS. After reading his entire entry, it would seem he means well, but the whole “I’m not really who I portray” was so unnecessary. Is the whole of teenage and young adult society really so mentally challenged and repressed? I honestly do not for a moment remember thinking that any actor in ANY film was for some reason THAT person in reality at any time in my life. Is Mr. Grabeel having identity issues? Poor thing. Another fine example of cultural mediocrity.

    I’m sure the film will be a fantastic representation. I’m sure the film will even serve to educate, but even so, if I hear one single stupidass remark from another actor about how they’re not gay in real life, or that it takes some sort of mental midget’s leap of courage to take on such a role because they’re playing a gay character, I will refuse to see the film. I’ll write a nasty letter to every single publication possible to boycott the film, and I’ll even picket the goddamn thing because I’m just so fucking sick of the bloated egos of these morons that think they’re so important, and that for some reason, we should be even remotely interested in them or their personal lives.

    Nice try Lucas. FLUNKED!

  6. Paul R says

    His official site is for children? And his publicist doesn’t know proper grammar?

    And wasn’t it just announced that Sean Penn is getting divorced?

  7. Leland Frances says

    Shivering Shakespeare! One can forgive the juvenile timidity, but what hideous grammar! If it was written by a “PR” person, he/she is good at simulating a 6th-grade education! Nor can one forgive his ignorance about the film’s subject—which he clearly absorbed from its creators. Milk was the FOURTH “openly-homosexual elected political official in the United States” not “the first” and was elected in ’77 not ’78.

  8. Bob R says

    I’m just really sick of straight actors playing gay roles and then making sure that in the “Making of…” extra on the DVD or the press knows to publicize that they’re really “not gay, but very straight” and just playing a role.

    Oh, how I hope for the day that openly gay and proud actors can take these roles. I’m just so tired of all the homophobia. Screw this creepy looking little twerp.

  9. dctopman says

    Three comments:
    1. Most of his fans are tweens and young teenagers. The very detailed explanation of what an actor does may be very educational to his core readers and may help to open some minds that may have be closed to to parental upbringing and specific family circumstances. His pro-gay rights comments in the first two paragraphs are very positive and inspirational. I think it is great to see a 23 year old, who is looked up to by alot of the future voters of America, promote positive change.

    2. If you read his blog, So far all of the responses have been very positive with no gay bashing in site. These youngsters (I’m 47) seem to really have thier shit together. I gives me hope for the future.

    and finally, maybe the most telling:
    3. The quote is “In the movie Milk, I PLAY a homosexual… that doesn’t mean that I am gay.” It also does not mean that he is NOT gay. His comments never say that he is not gay.

  10. John in Manhattan says

    He needs to use the word HOMOSEXUAL alot more, especially when addressing youngsters. Parents insist on it!

    He’s 23 and already a twat.

    Perhaps all screenings of MILK should be preceeded by a notice that the actors you are about to see are not actual faggots but real men playing them.

  11. Biffy says

    Funny, I’ve never heard “straight” actors quantify their roles by doing interviews say ” I’m not really a bank robber” or “I’m not really a murderer” when playing such a role.

    Sounds like someone has a identity crises.

  12. Rob says

    Didn’t he just play a homo character in High School Musical? That is the character that made him famous, so I’m not sure why he’s worried about this one.

  13. Amy says

    Lucas said in a recent interview that he doesn’t even have a publicist, so this is all him. What a let down, especially on the heels of such a gay-positive commentary about the film. Even if I did laugh at the near-offensive levels of naivete of someone who really does appear to believe that gay oppression stopped in the 70s.

    Lucas has played more gay roles than straight, so he should know better, and he came off looking very ignorant here.

  14. says

    He looks quite fetching in a dress.

    Emile Hirsch, however, is the Mega-Cute one in this cast. I met him at a screening of “Into the Wild” and he was SO FUCKING ADORABLE I could barely stand it!

    As for Diego Luna we all remember his big love scene with Gael Garcia Bernal in “Y Tu Mama Tambien” I trust.

    Yes it would be nice to have more out gay actors. But NPH and T.R. Knight can’t do everything.

  15. Landon Bryce says

    Grabeel is promoting a serious, R-rated, gay-themed film to teenage fans of High School Musical. That makes me inclined to cut him some slack. Grabeel’s character in High Scool Musical is effeminate and not interested in girls. That does not mean he is gay. It does not mean he is straight. Ryan Evans is a talented, sweet, feminine teenage boy. For Disney to have made Ryan a sympathetic character (especially in HMS2) is something that I think is making the lives of girlish boys all over the world a little easier. Rembember, you can argue that kids like Lawrence King and Simmie Williams were killed more for their gender expression than for their sexual orientation. Grabeel’s fans are young enough that it is not at all unreasonable to TEACH that girly doesn’t always mean gay.

    The inclusion of a character as gay-coded in HMS is progress. For Grabeel to be in both this huge Disney franchise and playing gay in a movie is progress. Hell, for a male actor with teenage fans to say that a gay director is one of his favorites is progress.

    Some of you also seem to have forgotten high school. Although I find it odd that Zac Efron is believable to kids as the the star athlete, macho, BMOC, that IS the character he plays. That means that he opens eyes by saying, “It’s not a big deal if people say I’m gay.” Grabeel plays the sissy, which means he can open eyes by saying, “Just because I seem gay, that doesn’t mean I am.”

  16. says

    If you read what he says in the context that he’s also listing all the other roles he’s played as an actor, and explaining that he’s not any of those characters, you can sort of read it as him explaining that just because an actor is playing a gay role doesn’t mean they’re gay, just like him playing his HSM character doesn’t mean he’s that character, either.

    He is speaking to 5 to 17 year olds, mostly, who are fans of HSM and probably hit his site up every day.

  17. biffy says

    So Once again as I posted yesterday . . .

    “Funny, I’ve never heard “straight” actors quantify their roles by doing interviews say ” I’m not really a bank robber” or “I’m not really a murderer” when playing such a roles in a film.”

    Why the need to have to issue this statement? If he is embarrassed/ashamed (that he played a gay individual.) If so, why accept the role in the first place.

    Get out of the line, there are plenty of other (actors) who are more than willing to play the role and not make excuses or apologies afterwards.

  18. paul says

    Interesting…and insulting at the same time. One, I thought this kid came out a long time ago. Secondly, this isn’t his first gay role…he plays a huge homo in HS Muscial. No straight guy would dress the way he does…and they never pair him up with a girl, except his big nosed fag hag sister!! puhlease!!
    stop being afraid, be gay, and let’s move on!!

  19. Wondering says

    Is it really that difficult (as in, impossible) to cast a few gay actors in these roles? Honestly… it’s not like the cast of QAF is doing anything these days.

  20. Pinpin says

    I don’t think what he wrote was in any way insulting at all. Obviously, this material was written with pre-teens and teens in mind if you take a closer look at the choice of words and the text. There has been a lot of media speculation floating around that Lucas COULD BE be gay. So maybe THIS is his sort of defence mechansim for that.

    I mean, I would pretty much understand his feelings if I were in his shoes. Just because I played an effeminate character (Ryan Evans) for all three HSM films doesn’t mean I’d become that character. That would be illogical and just plain absurd. ‘MILK’ is obviously a big-time blockbuster. Lucas probably thought that having a role in it would be a booster for his career. Plus, with almost three years experience of playing (the effiminate) Ryan Evans, it wouldn’t be too hard to play a real homosexual in another film right?

    Come on guys. Lucas Grabeel’s career is just starting to climb the ladder, cut him some slack. 😀

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