Mean Girls is one of those defining pop culture moments. It has resonated in a huge way since its 2004 release, greatly contributing to LGBT youth and the equal rights movement. It made us feel OK to be ourselves. As the now-iconic film sees its 10-year anniversary, one of the actors, the incomparable Daniel Franzese, is looking back...and officially coming out.
In a heartfelt letter, thanks to Indiewire, the star gives his character Damian some much needed advice. "You were proud of who you were; I was an insecure actor," he writes. "You became an iconic character that people looked up to; I wished I’d had you as a role model when I was younger. I might've been easier to be gay growing up."
What many people might not know (us included) is that "when I was cast in the role of 'Damian' in ‘Mean Girls,’ I was TERRIFIED to play this part," he continues. "But this was a natural and true representation of a gay teenager - a character we laughed with instead of at. (You can thank Tina Fey and Mark Waters for that. I can only take partial credit.)"
He adds, "When we first made this movie, I’m not sure any of us knew how loved and quoted this movie would become. You certainly hope when you pour your heart into something, that people will respond - but to paraphrase Gretchen Wieners, 'we can’t help it that we’re so popular.'
Why didn't he come out then? Well, Hollywood and a little thing called tyepcasting. Franzese explains, "One time I wanted to audition for a supporting character in a low-budget indie movie described as a 'doughy, blue-collar lug of a guy.' The role was to play the husband of an actress friend of mine who I had been in two movies and an Off-Broadway play with. She and I had even moved to L.A. together."
"They said they were looking for a real 'man’s man.' The casting director wouldn’t even let me audition," he says, begrudgingly. "This wasn't the last time this happened. There were industry people who had seen me play you in Mean Girls but never seen me read in an audition but still denied me to be seen for 'masculine' roles."
Franzese then details that his Mean Girls role changed his life...in some pretty detrimental ways. "Damian, you had ruined my life and I was really pissed at you. I became celibate for a year and a half. I didn’t go to any gay bars, have any flings and I lied to anyone who asked if I was gay," he asserts. Even online, he took measures to erase any indication that he liked the same sex, noting, "Deleting tweets that asked if I was gay, scrubbing IMDB Message Boards for any indication, etc."
But the past is the past. The time is now. "I had the perfect opportunity in 2004 to let people know the REAL Daniel Franzese. Now in 2014 - ten years later - looking back, it took YOU to teach me how to be proud of myself again," he concludes.
Oh, and his P.S. is about the best damn thing ever: "P.S. I hate it when people say I’m 'too gay to function.' I know you do, too. Those people are part of the problem. They should refrain from using that phrase. It really is ONLY okay when Janis says it."
Bravo, Daniel. We hope your letter gives others the strength to be who they truly are, too. Your admirable work is one for the books and will always live in our hearts. Thank you.
You can read the letter in its entirety over at IndieWire.