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EXCLUSIVE: Actor Daniel Franzese Writes a Touching Coming Out Letter To His Iconic 'Mean Girls' Character Damian

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by Daniel Franzese
April 22, 2014 1:32 PM
59 Comments
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Doug Jones @heycomet Daniel Franzese

Daniel Franzese, who played openly gay Damian in "Mean Girls" -- which came out 10 years ago this month -- asked us to share this touching coming out letter he wrote to his character in the film.

Dear Damian

It’s been a long time since our last encounter.  Ten years to be exact.

I was twenty-six; you were sixteen.  You were proud of who you were; I was an insecure actor.  You became an iconic character that people looked up to; I wished I’d had you as a role model when I was younger. I might've been easier to be gay growing up.

You WERE beautiful in every single way and words couldn’t bring you down.

What you may not know…

When I was cast in the role of “Damian” in ‘Mean Girls,’ I was TERRIFIED to play this part.  But this was a natural and true representation of a gay teenager - a character we laughed with instead of at.  (You can thank Tina Fey and Mark Waters for that.  I can only take partial credit.)

When we first made this movie, I’m not sure any of us knew how loved and quoted this movie would become.  You certainly hope when you pour your heart into something, that people will respond - but to paraphrase Gretchen Wieners, “we can’t help it that we’re so popular.”

So, why the hell did it take me so long to come out of the closet?  

Here’s why:

When I first became an actor, I wanted to play lots of roles - Guidos, gangsters and goombahs were my specialty.  So, would I be able to play all of those parts after portraying a sensitive, moisturizing, Ashton Kutcher-loving, pink-shirt-wearing kid?  I was optimistic.  Hollywood?  Not so much.  I was meeting a "gay glass ceiling" in casting.

For example: 

One time I wanted to audition for a supporting character in a low-budget indie movie described as a “doughy, blue-collar lug of a guy.”  The role was to play the husband of an actress friend of mine who I had been in two movies and an Off-Broadway play with.  She and I had even moved to L.A. together.

I figured I was perfect for it.

They said they were looking for a real “man’s man.”  The casting director wouldn’t even let me audition. This wasn't the last time this happened. There were industry people who had seen me play you in Mean Girls but never seen me read in an audition but still denied me to be seen for “masculine” roles.

However, I did turn down many offers to play flamboyant, feather-boa-slinging stereotypes that always seemed to be laughed at BECAUSE they were gay. How could I go from playing an inspirational, progressive gay youth to the embarrassing, cliched butt-of-a-joke? 

So, there it was.  Damian, you had ruined my life and I was really pissed at you. I became celibate for a year and a half.  I didn’t go to any gay bars, have any flings and I lied to anyone who asked if I was gay.  I even brought a girl to the ‘Mean Girls’ premiere and kissed her on the red carpet, making her my unwitting beard.  

It wasn’t until years later that grown men started to coming up to me on the street - some of them in tears - and thanking me for being a role model to them. Telling me I gave them comfort not only being young and gay but also being a big dude. It was then that I realized how much of an impact YOU had made on them.  

Meanwhile, I was still in the closet.  Deleting tweets that asked if I was gay, scrubbing IMDB Message Boards for any indication, etc.  (It’s important to note that I was actually DISCOVERED singing in a Florida gay bar by casting director, Carmen Cuba, for my first role in Larry Clark’s ‘Bully.’) 

I had the perfect opportunity in 2004 to let people know the REAL Daniel Franzese.  Now in 2014 - ten years later - looking back, it took YOU to teach me how to be proud of myself again.  It’s okay if no one wants to sit at the table with the “art freaks.”  Being a queer artist is one of my favorite things about myself. I have always been different and that's rad. People have always asked if I was really gay? While my reps usually lied to protect me. My friends and family all knew the truth but now it's time everyone does. Perhaps this will help someone else. I had to remind myself that my parents named me Daniel because it means "God is my judge" So, I’m not afraid anymore.  Of Hollywood, the closet or mean girls.  Thank you for that, Damian.  (And Tina.)  

By the way…in June I am the Celebrity Grand Marshall of the Portland Gay Pride Parade.

so…

We go Glen Coco.

With love and respect,

Daniel Franzese

P.S.  I hate it when people say I’m “too gay to function.”  I know you do, too. Those people are part of the problem.  They should refrain from using that phrase. It really is ONLY okay when Janis says it.

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59 Comments

  • Schmazindle | May 3, 2014 2:27 PMReply

    <3 To U Daniel - PS I ALWAYS knew u were gay cuz u can avoid beig who you are but it's always written all over you. I learned the hard way. While I'm straight I had to hide myself from the world too. Only after a lot of heart ache and the social acceptability of being different did I come out of my own closet. Good for you for standing up to your inner fear and allowing yourself to be ok with who you are. :)

  • MaryMary | April 24, 2014 9:59 PMReply

    I was smiling through this whole beautiful letter, but burst into tears at "We go, Glen Coco."

    Thank you for sharing this. Your courage is exemplified not just in coming out, but in your self-inquiry and your search for growth and truth. Go the hell on, Daniel. We see you. Much love!

  • Ralph | April 24, 2014 12:57 PMReply

    You go, Glen Coco!

  • hazario | April 23, 2014 4:42 PMReply

    Was adorably cute back then and still handsome as ever!! However we all had a sense of your sexuality 10 years ago. Wish you nothing but the best.

  • Sui | April 23, 2014 10:07 PM

    Correct, Robin. He did this to get his name out in the public again.

  • Robin | April 23, 2014 9:03 PM

    He didn't do this for you.

  • Nikki Noffsinger | April 23, 2014 4:16 PMReply

    You are so one of my heroes. I am a 39 year old mom and grandma (gas that's weird to say). I have always taught my kids to be open minded and that we are equal. You are a blessing to the human race and are a great mentor to gay kids as well as straight kids.

  • Heather | April 23, 2014 2:11 PMReply

    Kudos to you Danny that you can come out and not be ashamed! All of this who are
    Just being negative or just being well let's just say "stupid" with the things that your saying
    Really need to take a good look at their own life! Instead of being negative or derogatory how about being supportive to another human being! I went to high school with Danny
    And he was and is an amazing person! Oh yeah and KATJA yes that would be "piper pride" as in broward county!
    All the negative and derogatory people need to read over and over again his statement as
    To what his name means..."god is his only judge" yes that would absolutely mean YOUR NOT!!

  • bla | April 23, 2014 1:03 PMReply

    okay... this is a great letter, but i'm not sure "celibate" means what he thinks it means

  • Robert | April 23, 2014 11:32 AMReply

    Daniel, I am so proud of you! Being gay in this world is tough at some points, but luckily I had people that I love to get me through it when I came out at 19. A lot of my friends already knew and they told me that they were waiting on me when I was ready. We all love you Daniel and I'm glad you now feel comfortable to be you with the world! Damian, I know, is proud of you too! :) You go be as fetch as we all know you are!

  • laim | April 23, 2014 10:33 AMReply

    Wow, what a messed up guy.

  • Danny | April 23, 2014 3:37 PM

    Yeah you are, aren't you?

  • Jess | April 23, 2014 9:14 AMReply

    'the greatest pe[rson]you will ever meet'...

  • Amy | April 23, 2014 8:35 AMReply

    I met Danny back in high school many years ago when he was my sister's friend. Danny was amazing and funny, a good person. He was a popular guy but was not rude or obnoxious. He was friendly with everyone no matter who you were. I hate that we live in a world where you felt you could not be open about who you really are when it changes absolutely nothing. I have not been in your life and I don't claim to be your best friend but I remember who you were when I knew you and how you seem to be still to this day. You are a part of Hollywood and it has not gone to your head. So you have come out of the closet and I say again it changes nothing. Stay strong and know you are a role model for others like you and I hope one day people will not feel scared to come out and say they are gay. I have many friends that are and it doesn't change a thing. Love you Danny and can't wait to see what the future holds for you! As always, Dawn's little sister = ) Amy

  • Lena | April 23, 2014 6:01 AMReply

    I'm going to be one of those people who thank you for playing Damian and being Daniel. It's okay to get lost somewhere in the middle, as long as you find your way back out, which you did. Thank you for being brave, inspiring and human, owning up to the fact you were scared. It takes a lot to admit that.

    Wishing you all the best! :)

  • joel | April 23, 2014 5:31 AMReply

    what about? 'OMG, Danny DaVito I love your work!'

  • Diva | April 23, 2014 7:43 AM

    I was thinking the same thing! Loved Daniel in Mean Girls! My college students and I quote the movie all the time. It's almost timeless. The students who relate to the movie now were only 10-12 years old when the movie was released. To anyone who doesn't love Daniel-- YOU CAN'T SIT WITH US!

  • Mart | April 23, 2014 3:14 AMReply

    Sounds like james bradford & lilk have h8 issues. Sorry to hear that they have such negative issues. I personally think hes cute. And like him. But there will always be people that are jealous & hate sadly. On account there lives are misrable. ;-)

  • Amy | April 23, 2014 12:58 AMReply

    You go Glen Coco, indeed!

    You are beautiful. Proud of you.

  • lilk | April 23, 2014 12:55 AMReply

    if you want to get man's man roles you need to loose weight, get fit, build muscle.
    you dont look like a man's man.
    good luck in you career.

  • GrammarPolice | April 23, 2014 4:17 PM

    You need to learn how to spell properly. You don't look like you know the difference between LOSE and LOOSE.

    Go back to school. Good luck being ignorant for the rest of your life.

    GP
    --

  • AL | April 23, 2014 7:27 AM

    Also - this is a wonderful letter, Daniel! Thank you for sharing it!

  • AL | April 23, 2014 7:27 AM

    Well said, James Bradford! (Though to be honest, a man's man sounds a pretty silly category as it is.)

  • James Bradford | April 23, 2014 2:41 AM

    YOU need to revise your bigoted, closed-minded idea of what a 'man's man' looks like.

  • Ryan | April 23, 2014 1:50 AM

    With that beard and that build, he definitely does.

  • Kerry E Nelson | April 22, 2014 11:22 PMReply

    Thanks for finding your beautiful self. Always thought you were handsome as Damien and you are even more-so now. Nice to know that out and in finally match!

  • lakawak | April 22, 2014 10:19 PMReply

    Is he even IN movies anymore? I mean real ones? His career is basically Mean Girls, and the Larry Clarke pedophilia movie Bully.

  • unimpressed | April 22, 2014 11:27 PM

    boo you whore

  • A friend | April 22, 2014 10:49 PM

    Danny struggled with this for years & if the 10th anniversary of a fun movie offers a little more exposure to help someone who's struggling with their own truth now, then it's more than worth it. You can anonymously be judgmental & bitchy about someone who's publicly doing something brave, but you look small, doing it.

  • lakawak | April 22, 2014 10:16 PMReply

    Dear Damian, Remember when I played you? At the time, I actually thought that no one realized I was as gay as you. I have since wised up.

  • Shocked & Surprised | April 22, 2014 9:56 PMReply

    Was he ever in? What a shocker! zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

  • Betch | April 22, 2014 11:30 PM

    stop trying to match fetch happen

  • Bella Bellucci | April 22, 2014 9:44 PMReply

    'You go, Daniel Franzese,' from one LGBT Italian to another! Mean Girls '4-evah.' ;)

  • Carlos M Gutierrez | April 22, 2014 9:40 PMReply

    Ummmm yeah.. I went to high school with Daniel and had a few classes with him. We all knew he was gay and it was okay then and is it okay now.

  • James Bradford | April 23, 2014 2:42 AM

    The watching eyes of a high school classroom are NOTHING compared to the watching eyes of Hollywood, dude.

  • JD | April 22, 2014 8:57 PMReply

    Hey Danny, Mean Girls came out when I was a senior in high school. I was very aware I was gay, but struggling to fully accept it. I always had an idea of how gay people were supposed to be. And I didn't really have any other gay guys I could relate to until Damian came along. Not only did I think he (you) were adorable, but I thought he was VERY relatable. Being an outsider. I loved that he just didn't give a shit about what anyone thought about him. He seriously helped me become the secure, confident, and slightly sarcastic man I am now. I thank you for writing this letter and I hope any gay kids who are struggling with their sexuality not only reads this, but experience Mean Girls the way I did.

  • MissNormaDesmond | April 22, 2014 7:57 PMReply

    You're wonderful. I can't get over how brave it was for you to play that role, and play it so well that you made him a beacon for others, even as you yourself were still confused and fearful and not sure of how to move forward. I'm sorry that so many people couldn't embrace the possibility that an actor's abilities aren't limited by his own sexuality -- it's called "acting", people, and if you don't even allow an actor to audition, that's called "discrimination". In an industry that ought to know so much better, that's a crying shame. I hope that your courage in talking about this openly can be a catalyst for change.

    Ignore the people who don't want to understand what you're talking about -- I'm sure you recognize by now that it's coming from their own issues, not from anything about you. Congratulations on recognizing that you always had it in you to be the person you want to be, and letting go of what was in your way. I look forward to seeing you shine even brighter.

  • DJ | April 22, 2014 7:21 PMReply

    He doesn't even go here.

  • M. Seegz | April 22, 2014 7:19 PMReply

    Yet another life harmed more than helped by this abysmal movie. I'm like the only queer person I know who can't stand it. My fellow Pride clubbers will quote it almost constantly and it makes me want to pull my hair out.

  • Tiffany | April 23, 2014 12:23 AM

    To be fair, most people quote it because it's hilarious and amazing. The movie is just full of one-liner gold and excellent delivery. You not liking it and your friends liking it shouldn't break down along sexuality lines. It's about how your taste in movies is sad, and it's sad you can't enjoy fun things or people's enjoyment of things they like.

    Further.... if your life is hurt or helped by a teen comedy from the early 2000's, your issues stem way deeper than this movie can even begin to touch.

  • Bryon | April 22, 2014 7:52 PM

    Hes saying that it saved him........Read slower

  • Corey | April 22, 2014 7:29 PM

    You have no soul!

  • Laura P. | April 22, 2014 6:26 PMReply

    Kick ass, Danny. Well said! Isn't it funny how straight guys can play gay roles but gay guys are forbidden to play straight rolls? And isn't called acting because you are acting like you are someone else? So crazy. Good on ya, for calling Hollywood out. p.s. Shout out from Piper class of '96! :D

  • Katja | April 23, 2014 10:33 AM

    Piper as in Broward County? Oh gurl, that's no pride point.

  • lakawak | April 22, 2014 10:17 PM

    Yeah...I mean the studios and the public just refused to accept Neil Patrick Harris as a straight guy!

  • Laura P. | April 22, 2014 6:28 PM

    Rolls... Roles... whatevah. Melt some butter on it and it's all the same. :D

  • melissa | April 22, 2014 6:02 PMReply

    So what if people already knew. That's not the point of this. Im proud of you danny. Your an amazing person and actor. You can do anything you put your mind to.

  • Jeff Wilder | April 22, 2014 5:45 PMReply

    My hat goes off to Danny,

  • Normandy | April 22, 2014 5:24 PMReply

    oh geez-no need for him to come out-everyone knew-this is just a fame grab for one extra minute....

  • look at this dumbass | April 22, 2014 11:33 PM

    your father stormed the beach at normandy
    he's crazier than a shit house rat

  • j | April 22, 2014 5:17 PMReply

    umm danny we all knew you were gay in high school in drama and radio classes bro... no need to make a big deal about coming out. it was quite obvious brother.... lol just throwing it out there... piper c/o 95

  • Tree | April 22, 2014 11:25 PM

    BOO YOU WHORE

  • Richard | April 22, 2014 6:31 PM

    Piper--Ideally, I would love to one day live in a society where coming out is no longer necessary because we don’t make assumptions about one another’s sexuality and homophobia is laid to rest.” In High school Daniel may have been gay but the truma of realizing that is a fear you may never know... society is more accepting but not totally there yet, so he need to "make a big" deal about it calls on others to make their presence known: “People can’t know that their best friend, brother, sister, co-worker, neighbor, news anchor, favorite singer, or local coffee shop barista is being oppressed and denied the rights [of] their heterosexual counterparts … unless you open your mouth and say it.

  • Liz | April 22, 2014 5:13 PMReply

    This is AWESOME!!! Thank you for writing this Daniel!

  • Rae | April 22, 2014 4:46 PMReply

    Three for you, Daniel, you go Daniel! <3

  • Meredith | April 22, 2014 4:43 PMReply

    This is beautiful.

  • Bill | April 22, 2014 4:28 PMReply

    Being ashamed of who you are wastes your life.

  • Anita | April 22, 2014 3:33 PMReply

    Amazing!

  • Brandon H | April 22, 2014 1:37 PMReply

    She DOES even go here!

    I don't even know what that means, just mega-kudos to you.

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