|American television and Broadway star Kyle Dean Massey|
American television and Broadway star Kyle Dean Massey co-stars on the hit ABC television series Nashville, but has also drawn rave reviews for his roles in Pippin, Wicked, Next to Normal and Xanadu on the Great White Way.
Three Dollar Bill sat down with Massey – an instructor at such organizations as Camp Broadway and Broadway Artists Alliance – to reflect on life on Broadway and what it’s like to be an openly-gay entertainer in Hollywood.
Three Dollar Bill: Which do you prefer, acting on the stage or the screen?
Kyle Dean Massey: It’s like comparing apples and oranges. I like all of it. My first passion was always the stage, it’s what got me into all of this in the first place. The TV stuff came later. So I lean towards the stage. I know it better.
Laurence Olivier once said acting on screen is all about the eyes, and onstage it’s all about your hands. What do you think?
I approach it all the same way, then steer myself in one direction or the other. I don’t look at (screen versus stage) as different things. I know when I do Wicked – I’ve done the show on and off for several years – when I go back I spend almost all my time auditioning for TV and film stuff during the day, then I’ll come to work at night on a huge show like Wicked and the associate director will tell me, “It’s a little small!” I think people have this idea that stage work is really big and “gestury” but I think it can be just as nuanced as television stuff.
How thrilling is it to star in a big-budget blockbuster on Broadway? Does the glamour and romance of it fade after a while?
Yes, of course it does! (Laughs) It’s just like any other job, I think. You show up and you do it. People often ask me what it’s like to be in a huge glitzy show. And I say it doesn’t matter because when you stand in front of the set you look out at a big, black empty space, sometimes with a spotlight in your eyes. In that regard, it doesn’t feel that much different from doing high school plays. You’re not feeling the environment like the audience is. The only difference is your partners have Tony Awards!
What is it like to be an openly-gay actor? Were you afraid there would be a glass ceiling?
No. It was never a calculated thing for me, to be open about it. I was doing Next to Normal on Broadway and I was being interviewed a lot and people wanted to ask me these questions and I wanted to answer them honestly. It was nothing greater than that.
Did industry people advise you against publicly coming out?
Nope. I didn’t have any kind of fame to protect. I mean, I was starring in a Broadway show – big deal! That’s a very accepting community. People also ask if I’ve lost out on some roles, and there is no way for me to know that. But I do honestly feel I’ve gotten roles because I am gay. I think it goes both ways.
What advice do you have for young gay actors debating whether or not to come out?
I feel very strongly myself that the best form of activism is being an example. So for me being a normal out gay person is more powerful than marching on Washington. It is a personal decision – not like being closeted, but like not sharing everything personal in this day and age of social media. I think there is something to be said about keeping some things private and secret and somewhat special.
What was it like to play Kevin Bicks in the TV series Nashville? Were you able to bring some of your own personal truth to the table?
Totally! I remember when my manager sent me that audition, I knew this was the perfect role for me because I see a lot of myself in this character. The character is based on a real person who is a successful award-winning songwriter, a very cool and talented guy who I identify with. He has no hang-ups about his sexuality.