I do understand the folks that cringe at our "making light" of living with HIV. It's not the experience of everyone. You and I are two relatively privileged gay white men, skipping merrily along ...
Yes, I feel very fortunate. But I also think that attitude has a lot to do with it. I remember when I was in the hospital and the doctor diagnosed me with full-blown AIDS (so sexy!), thinking, "Am I done? Should I just give up and die?" And I chose life, and I chose to take my doctors' recommendations and take my meds and do healthy things. And I choose to do the things that make me happy: listen to music, spend time with friends, make jokes. I decided I wasn't going to stop being Charles.
Patient empowerment is a joyful act. And your character Merce embodies that, which is my way of getting back to plugging your fabulous Web series. And speaking of skipping, Merce sure does skip around with force and intention. Were your calves sore, or are you a seasoned skipper?
I think skipping is such a funny thing! And when in our lives do we decide that it's not cool to skip? I liked the idea that Merce never got to that point. He never lost the love of skipping. And you'd be amazed how many times I see grown men skip in NYC. I saw a guy recently, probably in his late 20s, skipping in the subway to catch a train. It was delightful!
What do you think is off-limits when it comes to HIV humor? Was there anything in Merce that you decided not to include, or axed in the writing process?
There wasn't anything in Merce that was off limits. But I do think I'd draw the line at making fun of people who died from AIDS. I've never heard a Rock Hudson joke that I thought was funny.
Is smiling through adversity the message of Merce? Is there such a thing as healthy denial?
I do think there's healthy denial! It keeps us from losing our shit completely. I don't think Merce is in denial, though. I think he just chooses joy.
There are some truly sweet moments in your series. I love the scene between Merce and the dominatrix/life coach. Even as farcical as it is, there's a real conversation going on about Merce wanting to be loved.
Thank you! I'm really proud of that scene. It's really kind of universal: Wanting money or something else that will fill us up, when what we really want is to be loved.
For all the comedy, it's also true that poor Merce gets flat-out rejected by suitors and even gets taken advantage of by a real scoundrel. No matter how Technicolor the series is, those are serious issues. My heart sank for him, more than once, and we've only seen the first five episodes!
Oh, that's great! That means you're rooting for him, and I love that. I wanted there to be a lot of truth in the story, and for him to go through challenges that were both directly related to his HIV and not at all related.
Yes, true. But the point is, does Merce find love before the end of the season? My editors at TheBody.com will want a scoop, and you do not want to mess with them. They will cut you.
Don't threaten me, gurl. I'll never tell. You will have to watch to the end. But I will say this: It IS a musical.
Fair enough. Before I let you go, let's reverse this. When was the last time you had a good cry? I just cried watching Judge Judy two days ago, seriously. This poor lady got ripped off by a boyfriend but Judge Judy wouldn't give her any money back. The lady started to cry, so of course I cried.
I adore that. Truthfully, I've been crying a lot lately. When I was a young actor, I wanted so badly to be taken seriously as an artist, and I felt so lost. Now, all these years later, because of Merce, people are interested in me a bit, and it's overwhelming. I think about that and burst into tears. That happened today at the gym, in fact, right on the ab mats.
Well, no one can say we're not in touch with our more difficult emotions. Thanks for your creative gifts, Charles. And please get back to me on the Kaletra joke so I can steal it.
Will do. I adore you, Mark. Mwah!
This transcript has been lightly edited for grammar and clarity.
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