The Instinct Interview: "Chosen" Changes The Action/Thriller Genre's Gay Game
I grew up a fan of action/thriller entertainment. For most boys, that's life. For me, it was disenfranchisement. If a movie or show dared to feature an LGBT character, they were trotted out as a sad trope, someone who needs to be saved or an effeminate villain whose manners are as much a center of their evil as their actions. You can imagine how refreshing it was for me (and countless other gay action/thriller fans) to watch the third season of Crackle’s hit Chosen, which features a mold-breaking yet relatable gay teen as a lead character.
We meet Alex Acosta (played by Alexander Le Bas) during a sultry make-out session with his boyfriend, Trevor. Interspersed with shots of them doing what young guys in love tend to do, we see Alex’s mother Josie (Rose McGowan) returning home fresh from murdering a guy as part of the sinister game the family’s been “chosen” to play. Josie looks as if she’s ready to murder her son, too, after opening his door. Refreshingly, her anger has nothing to do with Alex’s sexuality. It’s a non-issue for this fictional family. Alex continues to defy stereotypes throughout the rest of the third season, a gay action hero whose character arc rises above convention and sets a new high bar for the genre. A few guys from the Chosen team (including Alexander himself) caught up with Instinct’s Jonathan Higbee to reveal the story behind the game-changing (in many ways) third season.
Jonathan Higbee: How did the team bring the role of Alex to life?
Evan Charnov (Writer/Executive Producer): Being that Chosen is such a brutal world when creating Alex we knew that he had to possess not just confidence but a true inner strength if it was going to be believable that he’d managed to survive for so long and still believe in things like love and family. So, we felt it was the perfect opportunity to model him after a growing segment of the Millennial teen gay population that have found the courage to strongly embrace who they are early on and by doing so act more fearlessly when navigating life's challenges. Yes, his life is a mess but it has absolutely nothing to do with his orientation. He’s just a teenager with a bad case of puppy love, but whose mom happens to be one of the most feared players in the Game. So like many teens, straight and gay, his problems are due to a circumstance he had no hand in creating vs his sexuality, which is such an overly used trope. I think this makes him universally relatable. Alex also had to be a contrast to Megan his twin sister who was kidnapped and almost killed and has the emotional scars to show for it. Alex has yet to be touched by the Game as profoundly but he’s completely sensitive to his sister’s suffering. He lifts her up and both actors really bring out the underlying humanity and fragility in their characters relationship and the futility of their situation.
Toby Wilkins (Director): It was important to me that the character be a realistic portrayal of out gay teenagers in 2014. I did extensive visual research on tumblr, Instagram, fashion blogs. I pulled images that highlighted the various aspects of who I wanted Alex to be. How I wanted him to dress. What his sense of style would be, and how he presents himself to the world. I shared these images with the costume designer and casting director as a guide. When Alexander walked into the audition he was everything I was looking for. He had an unassuming confidence about him that worked in perfect harmony with the underlying bashfulness he brought to the character. Also, Alexander's own Instagram feed just felt like our Alex. The scene where we first meet Alex and his boyfriend Trevor was one that I knew we had to get right. Evan and I brainstormed a few key lines of dialogue on the day which really helped ground their relationship and brought realism and wit to the way the two boys communicate. Believable gay teen speak without being stereotypically sassy.
Alexander Le Bas (Alex Acosta): I was fortunate enough to have the chance to meet with the director Toby Wilkins prior to filming to get a better understanding of the character. Toby helped me find the truth in “Alex Acosta” far before we showed up on set the first day. Once I understood the character’s real life problems, it became quite natural to live out the story.
I love the authenticity of Alex and Trevor’s relationship. Talk to me about how you approached that with your co-star.
ALB: It was a really interesting dynamic working with Tristen Bankston (Trevor). Beforehand, we discussed the more sensitive scenes in this season. Although we are both heterosexual, I don’t think either of us found it hard to push past our sexualities and find the love behind the characters.
Was it a difficult decision to play gay early in your career? Face any hesitation from your team?
ALB: No, it wasn’t a difficult decision in the slightest to play a gay role. The way I looked at it, the relationship between Alex and Trevor was no different than any couple, and I knew that if I could find the truth, everyone would feel our honesty and care for the characters as I did. My team was very supportive, and no one seemed to be concerned that it was going to have a negative effect on my career. My team and I were confident in the show and knew that I was in very good hands.
Why would you say Alex Acosta is a role model for gay teens?
TW: Because he's in love with his boyfriend, he's comfortable with who he is, he's confident in his identity and and his sexuality. But I suppose for me it's as much about the positive role models in his family too. Like, we always see this "family struggling with it" stuff, which is only one side of the story and it's the side that made me terrified to come out at his age. If I had been exposed to stories of acceptance ... that would have changed everything.
You can start watching Chosen seasons 1 - 3 now on Crackle. There goes the weekend!