Jim Verraros on "Eating Out 2 - Sloppy Seconds"

by Jay Laird
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Nov 15, 2006

Jim Verraros may still be best known for his appearance on the first season of American Idol back in 2002, but he's been quite the busy boy since then. He's put out two records with a third on the way, and he's starred in the indie hit Eating Out and its sequel, Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds, which comes out on in theaters this next week (check his web site, http://www.jimverraros.com, for dates and cities).

Days after one of his American Idol competitors, RJ Helton, came out publicly, Jim took some time out to talk with EDGE about being the first American Idol contestant to "come out" (but certainly not the last), and the turns his career has taken since then.

EDGE: Tell me how you got involved with the movie Eating Out back in 2004.

Jim Verraros: Allan Brocka, who directed the first movie and co-wrote the second, happened to be a huge Idol fan, so he got in touch with me and told me about the project. I got kind of intrigued, but I was a little cautious - I mean, the title Eating Out could sound a bit misleading, and I didn't want to end up in a porn! [Laughs] But I went over the script, and I loved it, so I auditioned and got the part.

EDGE: This was all after your big "coming out" right?

Jim Verraros: Yeah.

EDGE: In the second movie, instead of helping someone to play gay, you're playing it straight. Did you feel any resonance with that story line in your own life, like not being exactly "out" on American Idol?

Jim Verraros: I thought it was hilarious, actually. I think it's something we all can relate to at some point in our lives, trying to not talk about "it," or avoid "it," when it's just not the time or the place. Plus, it gave [my character] Kyle a much bigger role this time around. I felt like there was much more room to play, so I was excited about that. With Phillip [Bartel, the director and co-writer] on board, I knew I just had to do it. He just brought something to the production that was fuckin' hilarious.

EDGE: I know you were originally a musical theater major, but then the whole American Idol thing happened. Did you plan on becoming an actor, or were you thinking you really wanted to be a pop star?

Jim Verraros: Not really. Touring with the Idols, I kind of realized, at least at the time, that I was out of my league. At least, that's how I felt, and knew then that I didn't really want to pursue a career in the music industry. In fact, when I auditioned for the show, I wasn't really looking for a record deal. I was looking for the experience, and everything just kind of... happened. Later on, I realized that in addition to acting, music would be a good thing for me to do, too. I knew I was more an actor than a singer, but that was just about being comfortable in my own skin. Going in to do the record happened after the movie. Once I started teaming up with a producer - Gabe Lopez, who produced my first album - I just kind of came into myself. I knew what I wanted to do, and I felt more comfortable.

EDGE: Now that you're established as both an actor and a singer, do you want to go in one direction or the other?

Jim Verraros: I think that it's slowly leading towards acting for me. I feel I haven't done nearly enough to show what I can do, but I love acting, and I love singing. But you can't... you know, I don't want to be Jennifer Lopez, who seems like she'll do whatever sort of project for money. I really want to do work that I believe in. At this point, it's less singing than acting; that's what I really want to head towards. If someone's a fan of my music, then they're going to naturally check out the other things I've done, and then they tend to be even bigger fans. It's nice to see that they know I'm not a one-trick pony.

EDGE: Switching gears here, [fellow season one American Idol contestant] RJ Helton came out last week. Was this news to you?

Jim Verraros: He called me the morning that it happened, and I was a little taken aback. Not completely, but I just wanted to know, why now? What had he recently gone through that he was okay with it now? Now that he's 25, a bit older, a bit more mature, maybe gay has a different meaning for him. He's experienced a lot, and I think he was just ready. I can't even imagine how difficult it was dealing with the gospel community and putting out a Christian record; having this kind of secret must have been really trying for him. But this is his way of finally getting it out there and dealing with it, and now he's totally happy.

EDGE: Did you ever feel like you were closeted when you were on American Idol? Or did you just feel like you were still in that place in life where [preserving] ambiguity was the right thing to do?

Jim Verraros: It was a weird time. We were on tour when I got "the call." One of our reps came to me and said, "OUT magazine wants to feature you in their 'OUT 100' this year," and I said, "Oh!" I mean, I hadn't come out publicly, but everyone knew that I was gay, I thought. She said "What do you want to do? I can say no for you," and in that split second I was like, "No, it's cool!" It was the moment that I just kind of didn't care anymore, and it was the right time for me. To be honest, I wasn't looking to be the next big thing, and I wasn't looking to pursue a music career, so I really did think it was cool. Plus, I thought about all the great things that may come of it as far as helping other gays and lesbians out there who are struggling with being out when they want to pursue something in the industry. I think it's imperative that somebody from our generation steps up and says, "Hey, I'm gay and it's really not that big of a deal." I just wanted to do that, and just wanted to help.

EDGE: So, when you were on American Idol you felt more like it was an "open secret" that you were gay - it was never stated, but those of us out in the audience were expected to know?

Jim Verraros: Yeah, they weren't like, "And here, representing the gays, is Jim. Jim, for the gays, everyone!" But I definitely slipped in my "wink wink, nudge nudges," and things. It was funny, because I'd be touring and there'd be all these cute little gay guys in the front row of the arena, and I'd wink at them and they'd shriek, and they'd be like, "We know!" And I'd be like, "I know you know!" and it was just fine.

EDGE: So how is your family? They seem very supportive.

I think it’s imperative that somebody from our generation steps up and says, "Hey, I’m gay and it’s really not that big of a deal."

Jim Verraros: We don't go to pride marches or anything together, but they're as good as parents can be. My dad comes from an incredibly Greek Orthodox upbringing, so it was hard for him to tell his family, but he did, and their reaction was to say, "You have to love your son" - and of course he does! He hasn't seen my movies or anything, and I don't think he will, but that's fine. Kids have it so fuckin' hard right now, I think I have it pretty good. And then there's my mom. She's gone to gay bars with me, she's gone to independent gay film festivals with me, you'd think she was like the president of PFLAG. She's awesome. Even though there's no closed captioning on the screens for these films, she'll still go, and she can just watch me and laugh, because she knows my facial expressions and she thinks it's funny. She's got so many gay friends, and she's so "in the know" with the gays. We love her. She'll even say things like, "Let's go to a gay bar. You never take me to a gay bar."

EDGE: Wow, I keep hearing about more and more young gay guys taking their mothers to the bars with them. I don't think I could do that, and I'm pretty close with my mom.

Jim Verraros: Hey, I think my mom's got a little bit of a crush on my partner. He's a little bit older than me, and after they met she said, "Your boyfriend's really incredibly good looking," and I was, "No, Mom, hands off, you're weird, stop!" [Laughs] She's great.

EDGE: Since both your parents are deaf, how has it been sharing your career with them?

Jim Verraros: That whole thing with American Idol was interesting because people thought I was lying about my parents on the show to try to get some sort of sympathy vote. Yeah, right, like I'm going to lie on national television for something I could easily get caught for! My parents have always been supportive. They'd go to my musical theater shows and there would be an interpreter in the audience for them. It's nowhere near what I wish they could grasp, but it's better than nothing. Yeah, they can't really hear my voice or hear my lyrics, but they can read, and I can pump up the bass for my dad, who loves it. There are tracks on my album that he loves; he'll just turn up the bass and love the beat of it. They're as supportive of every part of my life as they can be.

EDGE: And then there's your ability to ham it up with the facial expressions...

Jim Verraros: I think that comes with having deaf parents. It's part of the communication. It's all in the face. You read things with your eyes. I still hammed it up in Eating Out because that's the role, but it just kind of works when you have that experience.

EDGE: Are there other acting roles that you particularly want to pursue?

Jim Verraros: Yeah, you know, I can't be the boy next door forever. I ain't getting any younger! [Laughs] I'd like to do something that's a bit more dark. Evan Rachel Wood, she's one of my all-time favorite actresses of our generation. With every role, she's this fantastic dramatic actress, and she's so right-on with everything. I'd love to have a career like that. You can tell she's very choosy with what she does. On the other hand, there's Lindsay Lohan, who will do anything just to get seen. I'd love do something darker, maybe a kid with an addiction, whether it's drugs or alcoholism. I would love to play a deaf role just because I've dealt with it all of my life, and I could easily do that. Just rangier things, if that makes any sense. The comedy's great, don't get me wrong, I love doing it. But I need change... [Laughs] Oh yeah, because I've done sooo many films I need a change, ha ha.

EDGE: I know you're kidding, but I can see that. I mean, even just watching so many gay films, sometimes I get sort of "niche fatigued."

Jim Verraros: Yeah, there's so many, Boys Boxer Shorts 4, and Boys Briefs 9, or whatever... and then there's films like Latter Days, and we get compared to that.

EDGE: Sloppy Seconds got compared to Latter Days?

Jim Verraros: Yeah, and I'm like, "You can't, that's an impossible comparison." I just don't understand what people expect when they come across a title like Sloppy Seconds. I mean, this clearly isn't a Hollywood multimillion-dollar studio budget film. And I read these awful reviews, and I just laugh because I'm picturing this old balding man with glasses and an argyle sweater with his arms crossed sitting through 85 minutes of Sloppy Seconds with a frown on his face, just pouting the whole time. I mean, you can't not laugh at something like this, but people expect our film to be something it's not. I figure, hey, if it spawned a sequel, it's because clearly we're doing something right. People are buying it. It did really well for an independent film with the DVD sales.

EDGE: Let's look at this movie as what it's intended to be...

Jim Verraros: Yeah, Variety ripped it to shreds. I was like, "We need someone gay to review this film, apparently, because people aren't getting it." And then the next review is Running with Scissors, which is also sort of gay, but of course they love. I just think it's awesome that Sloppy Seconds has to be on the Oscar ballot alongside these other films, because every film with a release is on there. Yeah, Sloppy Seconds in contention for an Oscar.

EDGE: Any upcoming projects you'd like to talk about?

Jim Verraros: I'm doing a film early next year. We're shooting in Rio De Janiero. The director is Roberto Jabor, who's very similar to Pedro Almodovar. It's a dramedy. There's an actor from [Allan Brocka's film] Boy Culture, Jonathon Trent, who will be in the film as well. And then my next album is going to be done probably February 2007. And American Idol Rewind is on every Saturday at 5 (check your local listings!).

EDGE: Sounds like you've got a lot going on.

Jim Verraros: I'm just hoping for more! Who knows, maybe there will be Eating Out 3: Serving the Troops, and I'll go into the military and dish out some "Don't ask, don't tell!"

When he’s not writing reviews, Jay Laird writes games, comics, and the occasional Z-grade suspense film like "The Strangler’s Wife". He is the founder of Metaversal Studios, a Boston-based entertainment company.


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