I spoke with Jason Dottley for nearly two hours a few months ago about life on his new television series Sordid Lives, the incredible tight-knit cast, taking it all off onscreen, and his husband Del Shores. While I couldn't fit everything we spoke about in, he was a delight and we are super-excited to see the premiere of Sordid Lives tonight on Logo TV.
Chris, Hunk du Jour: Hi Jason! So you're starring in the television version of Sordid Lives... how did filming go?
Jason Dottley: Oh, it was great! We worked at a pace of maniacs, filming 12 half-hour episodes in 35 days... about 35 fewer than you actually need. It could not have been more fun, I mean -- you've seen who I get to work with, so no complaints from this end.
Hunk du Jour: We love the film -- where does the TV show pick up from in relation to it?
Jason Dottley: The series starts before the film, it's a prequel. It is the day Tammy Wynette dies and for those Sordid Lives fans, we all understand that it would be a pretty big day in Brother Boy's life. My character, Ty, is in LA -- therapist hopping, as Ty likes to do.
Jason Dottley: There are great therapist cameos, Margaret Cho, Carson Kressley, Candis Cayne, and then my husband Del Shores has a brief cameo as well.
Chris, Hunk du Jour: So, throughout the course of the series do we make it to your grandmother's death? Do we get everybody back in the same room? Or is this a set-up for what might happen in season two or three?
Jason Dottley: I think that somewhere in my contract it mentioned anything then I would be killed. Let's just say that Del Shores is not going to do anybody wrong. It's handled brilliantly. I was watching the dailies and Sarah Hunley who plays bar fly Juanita is possibly the funniest thing you have ever seen on television.
Chris, Hunk du Jour: You played Ty onstage in the play, and had a lot of time with the character onstage before getting in front of the camera.
Jason Dottley: My actor's journey with the role of Ty (and I am sort of realizing this for the first time while talking to you) is that I told Del when I was casting, "Honey, I am ty. I was star boy from the south who moved to Los Angeles -- you know if I can't play this role then God help me, I need to take a different career altogether."
Jason Dottley: So as I am reading Ty's life and preparing for the series I go, "Oh my God, this character is nothing like me!" He is so scared of being gay and being out that he can't even give a straight answer to his ex-girlfriend or he is just a scattered mess. That's the opposite of who I am and that was a great sort of moment for me to realize I actually don't get to play myself. It's exciting to see that character onscreen become an even different Ty than I played him out on stage for so long.
Chris, Hunk du Jour: What was your experience like as a gay kid?
Jason Dottley: I went from such a scrawny kid to being a fat chubby... Del kept a picture of me from fifth grade on the cover of the Sorded Lives script on set, like a funny joke to show people -- you can't imagine the difference.
Jason Dottley: As soon as I left Mississippi and my mom and I moved to Florida I just was not afraid of that part of me. I started my high school Gay-Straight Alliance around my 11th grade year. I was "the out kid" and I felt like it was what made me sort of unique and cool - so I just embraced it and the transformation followed.
Jason Dottley: I had to get in such great shape for the sex scenes in Sordid Lives (and I have a full-frontal flash that'll probably be on the DVD of the series), but feel like a hypocrite... I was exercising, yes. I was eating enough food throughout the day, but I was eating stupid stuff like cabbage, sesame seeds and lemon juice. For eight weeks on a bird diet, and it's not okay. I put on 12 or 14 pounds after we were done filming because I was just starving.
Jason Dottley: I want to find the happy medium between playing the game for the sake of my career and also doing things like I am doing now where I tell people, that hopefully I do look great onscreen -- but I don't want them to think that it was magical and I go out everyday and train and just happen to look like that. Some actors stay in shape constantly and I just can't be at the gym three hours a day. I need a french fry, I fucking need a french fry!
Chris, Hunk du Jour: Olivia Newton-John was a huge part of the movie, she is also involved in the TV series -- does Bitsy Mae have a bigger part in the series?
Jason Dottley: Olivia's role is huge. I believe she is in 11 out of 12 episodes. She has contributed five new tracks to the series as Bitsy Mae. This show is unlike any half-hour, where you have comedy and drama and hot sex and get to have musical performances. Her acting work is so wonderful, she has beautiful and funny scenes. She gets in a bar brawl -- she is a force in the series, and is the greatest dream in the world.
Jason Dottley: Del has worked with three-fourths of the cast for at least 15 years. (Some for 20!) It's a big family and then you add to the family a few new people, Rue McClanahan for example as well as myself. Caroline Rhea is so funny as Noleta that it is painful. She is the sweetest person, Rue is so nice and so funny.
Chris, Hunk du Jour: How did you meet your husband, (Sordid Lives creator) Del Shores?
Jason Dottley: We met through a mutual friend. I was waiting tables for about three months of my life, and knew of Southern Baptist Sissies. I overhear Southern people in the restaurant talking about something that sounded familiar and I just asked if it was him, mentioning our mutual friend Sonya. It was just sort of chance that we met there.
Jason Dottley: We went out dancing together; Del and his boyfriend, a few friends, and me. Del and his boyfriend broke up about three weeks later and he called my friend Sonya and asked what I was up to, if I was single. (He thought I'd be a good band-aid for his bad break up.)
Chris, Hunk du Jour: So, you were the rebound guy?!?
Jason Dottley: It wasn't presented that way, but I was living my New Year's resolution of that year was going to be all about me. I'm not dating, I'm not doing anything. So it's mid-January and I'm not going to break that resolution already, but she called me and said one date wouldn't hurt. He calls me and is trying to, I guess in a sense "woo me" and mentions he just worked with Delta Burke in this movie called Sordid Lives.
Jason Dottley: "Oh my God you know Delta?" So he tells me, be really quiet and I'll call her on three-way for a minute... she never answers the phone but you can hear her voice on the answering machine. So he calls and not only does she answer, she's in the most talkative mood.
Jason Dottley: So we dated for a few weeks and I couldn't take the pressure, feeling like our relationship was being looked at by everybody as this young gay boy with this older gay man. Sharyn Lane, his best friend who'd produced the movie gave me some great advice that I think applies to all men in this world.
Jason Dottley: "Listen honey, people are going to judge you, whether they are right or wrong, or if you want them to or not. No matter what. If they want to judge you for something, they're going to find something... so don't give a fuck!" I was like Wow! That's so true. So as long as you know where your heart is then you really can not give a fuck. That moment made my relationship with Del possible because now I don't ever think that. I'm prepared for the press and the nasty blogs -- I've read them before.
Chris, Hunk du Jour: That's good advice -- Jason, thanks so much for talking with us!