Playing It Straight: The FORT Interview With Alex
Recently, I had the chance to talk to Alex, the first gay man asked to "leave the ranch" on Playing It Straight. Yes, folks, Jackie finally got one right. Anyway, we may not have gotten to see much of (or hear much from) Alex on camera, but after talking to him, I think that was our loss. Here's what he had to say:
Alex, how did you first hear about the show?
I was just walking down the street in DC, and somebody came up to me and asked me to do a tape. So I did.
What were you told about the show beforehand?
I was told that you would have to act as if you were something that you weren't. You know, like act as if you were a professional boxer or something even though you weren't. That kind of thing.
So, they didn't tell you about the whole gay/straight "twist" at first, either?
No, not at first.
Did you know about it before you got to the ranch?
I knew it was part of the show before I got to the ranch, yeah.
So, when they told you about all this, what did you think? Was it something you thought you'd want to do? Did it take some convincing?
You know, it's actually the reason I wanted to do the show. It has an important social message, and that was what interested me in doing the show.
So, what do you think the message of the show is, and do you think the show accomplished its purpose?
I think it absolutely did accomplish the purpose of completely annialating people's stereotypical views of what is gay and what is straight. That is so important to do on television, because on television you have to have almost caricature types of "gay" and "straight". You can't just have a gay character that people don't know is gay unless you do it in a way that we are going to be able to stereotype that person as being gay.
So, in light of what you just said, do you think you were chosen to fill some sort of role on the show? Do you think you were brought in for a specific reason besides the fact that you are gay?
I really don't know (*laughter*). I think everyone on the show breaks stereotypes by just being the people that they are, so…
Given that you are gay and were out before the show, did you feel any kind of awkwardness about basically having to go back "in the closet" for the show?
Well, to be honest with you, I came out when I was in 6th grade. I've never had a girlfriend or anything like that. So it was, for me, a real challenge to pretend to be interested in a girl, because I never even had to do that in my adolescence.
So, it was more like an acting job for you?
It was (*laughter*). I had fun with it.
And, judging by some of the other guys' reactions, you pulled it off. There were some really surprised faces when you revealed you were gay.
Well, you know, I wasn't acting to be straight. I was maybe acting that I was interested in a girl when I was clearly not.
Alex, if you don't mind me asking, do you have a partner in real life?
I do not.
What about your family and friends…what did they think about your participation on the show?
After watching the show, I think they were proud of me and liked the show very much.
Do you find that you get recognized more now that you've been on the show? What is people's reaction when they do recognize you?
Actually, I haven't been recognized from being on the show. Among people that have watched the show and told me they saw me on the show—friends, family, and so forth—they say that they're really proud of the show and they think it's really important. It's also a hell of a lot of fun.
Of course! I mean, when you've got that many good-looking guys around you…
…how can you go wrong? (*laughter*)
Let's talk about Jackie. Given that you had to act like you were interested in her, what was your first impression when you saw her?
I thought this was going to be an almost insurmountable challenge for me. Jackie is somebody who I probably…incredible person, wonderfully kind person…I don't mean to say anything bad, but we wouldn't be friends in real life, I don't think.
Do you think that the wide-eyed, naïve and innocent Jackie that we see on the show is really who she is?
I don't know her (*laughter*). I think, given her background that we're all familiar with, it's a certain kind of upbringing in America.
In terms of Jackie, would you say the whole twist is hurtful? Fair?
Oh, it's totally fair. How can it not be? I think that is one thing the producers were really concerned about—that it not be like another show where it was a surprise. It wasn't a surprise to her. She knew what the game was. She was definitely not hurt by the twist.
Who would you say was the most difficult to get along with and the easiest to get along with?
The most difficult for me was Ryan, which is funny because we actually had a great time together when we left the show. But, when I was on the show, I got along with my roommate Bradley. He and I got along great.
Do you think the show would have worked if it had been a straight guy with 14 women, some of whom were lesbians?
Um, that's an interesting question. I don't see why not. I really don't.
What's your opinion on the whole Ryan vs. Banks incident?
You know, it's kind of a funny story. I grew up in this granola, Northern Californian family, and I wasn't allowed to watch TV growing up. In fact, the first reality-type of show that I saw, I watched right before I was on this show, and it was Paradise Hotel. Of course, that was full of scandal, intrigue, and everything. I watched that the night before I left to be on this show, and I was paranoid about being on a show with a lot of drama and scandal. So, I was sitting there with the whole Ryan/Banks thing going, "This is just unnecessary." It was uncomfortable for me.
Now that you've gotten to know Ryan, is he as obnoxious and over-the-top as he appears to be on the show, or is he a victim of editing?
Well, you can't edit what somebody did (*laughter*). But, Ryan is an incredibly entertaining and fun person to be around. He does that in a way…he brings attention to himself, and that's how he is in real life. He's fun to be around, actually.
You hear all the time about people who use their appearances on shows like this as springboards to other careers. Do you have any aspirations like that? Are you still in law school?
I'm in law school, but I have a real estate development business which is my main love and interest. I think, though, that it's true for anybody that to be exposed and in the public eye is fun and exciting. I would never turn down an opportunity. But, I wasn't pursuing anything before the show, and I'm not pursuing anything now.
Were you surprised by any of the guys who were voted off before you and their revelations of whether they were straight or gay?
Well, I think it's pretty simple, and maybe this is why I wasn't right for the show. I took the show very seriously and did not make any judgements about who was gay and who was straight. I honestly didn't think about who was gay and who was straight. To me, the only real way to tell…I mean, it's the same for straight people as it is for gay people. You tell by a person's…the interactions you have with somebody, the way they respond to you, and you can only do that if there is a kind of mutual physical attraction. Obviously, we weren't really allowed to "go there" when we were on the show. I mean, nobody wanted to give themselves away.
What did you think of the whole Ryan and Eddie thing?
Again, just…it was um…it's great television.
Once the twist was revealed, did you find that the guys concentrated more on trying to figure out who was gay and who was straight rather than trying to win Jackie's hand, or do you think that changed the dynamic at all?
I think, honestly, it was a mixture of both. But, primarily, it was everybody just fighting to get Jackie…I mean that really became the case. People wanted to get around her, to get close to her, to spend time with her. Then, a part of that was also…the game really started to go towards these plans to try and "out" people or get them to let down their guard. That's what makes the show interesting.
So, even though people might have been trying to "out" someone, it was because it would mean there would be one less person to compete for Jackie?
That's right. It's really all about Jackie.
If you had the chance, would you do the show again?
I would. It was definitely a life-learning experience for me, and I have no regrets about doing the show. I think it's a great show.
Well, Alex, that's about all I've got. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me. If/when you get the chance, we'd love for you to stop by the website and say hello.
Well, I'm flattered that you would be interested in interviewing me, and I really appreciate it.
Well, you're very welcome, Alex. Best of luck to you in everything. Hopefully, we'll see you at the FORT soon.
OK, thanks. Take care.
My thanks to Alex for taking the time to talk to me and to FOX for setting up the interview.