Being An Out Gay Actor: Ben Baur Makes a Difference
“What was I going to do as a business major? I don’t even know. I had all these weird ideas of being an event planner.”
Casually sitting in a room at AMDA LA, alumnus Ben Baur laughs when asked what wild notion brought him to the world of entertainment. “I never considered working as an actor. Business just seemed logical. It seemed like something I could do to ‘make money,’ ‘have a career,’ all that stuff.” He pauses. “I never really thought acting was a thing.”
So says the man who has lived in both Los Angeles and New York City as a successful actor since graduating from AMDA’s Studio Conservatory, having performed on both coasts in multiple TV series, shorts, movies, web series and plays. In fact, Ben Baur has gained more credits and experience than many his age, with appearances in such shows as “The Following,” “Mythos,” “Nip/Tuck,” “#Adulting” and ABC’s reality series “What Would You Do?” He’ll also be starring as Jace Holden in the upcoming movie Something Like Summer, an indie romance currently in post-production.
Ben is best known, however, for starring as the lead in the award-winning series “Hunting Season,” which earned him a nomination for Best Actor at the Indie Series Awards. Ben plays Alex, a writer/bachelor who blogs under a pseudonym about his sexual exploits within New York City’s LGBT community. While an explicit role, Ben notes that the message behind Alex’s story—being honest in one’s sexuality and orientation—has had a profound impact on viewers.
“[Alex] wasn’t able to fully embrace this life he’s living. I think that’s true for a lot of people. It’s finding your authentic self, and having the bravery to live that truth. It’s something that a lot of people can identify with, and especially a lot of people in the gay community, which is another reason that I was so into this project.” With immense media attention, hosting of the series by Logo TV, and an enormously popular second season fueled by Kickstarter, the show has reached a vast audience. As the first episodes went live, letters began streaming in from youths and adults alike who, though still in the closet, were finding strength in Alex’s story.
Audiences weren’t the only ones impacted by the role.
“When I finally decided I was going to be an actor, the decision was always to play it close to the chest,” says Ben, referring to being gay. “The reason I eventually decided, ‘You know what, I can’t do that’, was when I read for ‘Hunting Season.’ Here’s this character who’s being so brave—it made me really want to be that brave, that honest. The thought of having to lie about his stuff and be so careful with what I say in interviews...it sounded so exhausting. It just wasn’t me.”
In 2012, therefore, Ben decided to write and publish an article in the Huffington Post about being an out gay actor, wherein he expressed his concerns about stigmatization, getting typecast in caricature roles and the inexplicable (yet inextricable) association audiences make between characters onscreen and actors’ private lives. While many would fear such a bold move, Ben’s never looked back from the choice.
“It’s a decision that I don’t regret at all. I am who I am, and the more people can voice these things, the more commonplace it’s gonna be, and the less anyone is gonna care. It’s just gonna be about acting.”
Ben’s voice hasn’t gone unnoticed. The attention “Hunting Season” has acquired, combined with the critical praise for Ben’s performance, recently landed him on Out Magazine’s Annual Out 100 List, which honors the top 100 actors and public figures making a social impact on behalf of the LGBT community.
That social impact, Ben reveals, is the key motivation behind his acting. Ben cherishes roles that allow him to connect to his audience through universal struggles. “I like to play characters who are struggling with some form of accepting who they are, and accepting truths about themselves and the people around them. That’s something that really interests me, ‘cause that’s something that a lot of people go through, and something that I feel is very relatable. I want to show audiences someone going through similar struggles.”
“It was definitely an honor being included on a list with amazing people who are doing amazing things,” Ben adds. “It really made me feel powerful in a way. It made me feel like I had a voice, and people ended up listening to it, so I should use that voice in a positive way. That’s what I intend to do.”
Looks like being an event planner will have to wait.