By Paul Hutnick
Boy Culture was a landmark in queer cinema. Released in 2006, it told the story of a male escort and his two roommates in Seattle as they navigated love, sex, and complicated relationships. The film was celebrated for its candid portrayal of queer life, offering a nuanced and authentic narrative that resonated with many.
Now, nearly two decades later, Darryl Stephens returns to reprise the character for the film’s long-awaited sequel, Boy Culture: Generation X.
The new film aims to capture the essence of the original while exploring the new challenges gay men face in a changing world. We spoke with Darryl Stephens from his home in Los Angeles, where he expressed his gratitude in taking on the role again, for the opportunity it offered in continuing the conversation around queer representation, love, and acceptance in today’s society.
You’ve starred in Noah’s Arc, Another Gay Movie, Circuit, Boy Culture, and now Boy Culture: Generation X. Are you the king of gay cinema?
I’m sure some white dude has already laid claim to that title, but I do get around. Or I did back in the day. I think back then, a lot of gay actors were worried that doing gay projects would limit their access to non-gay roles in mainstream projects, whereas I saw each project as an opportunity to work and be seen. Even if gay indie films were the only gigs I was getting, the roles I was playing were so varied! It was a helluva time!
How has gay cinema evolved over the last twenty years?
It seems like “gay” has gotten more “queer” in cinema and our stories are moving past “blond boy meets brunette boy” to include characters who are trans and gender expansive and from cultures of the global majority. We’re exploring more complicated and nuanced characters as well. Melodramatic coming out stories have made way for comedies about high school lesbians who start all-girl fight clubs to bag cheerleaders. I think we’ve firmly established that “we’re here and we’re queer” and now we’re finally getting to explore the messiness of what being queer in the world right now actually entails. And we’re getting to see queer characters who are empowered and exercising their agency instead of victims and tragic closet cases.
Would you say audiences have changed? Or perhaps what viewers want from gay cinema has changed?
Audiences have evolved along with the culture itself. Queer kids today are standing up in the face of conservatives and making it clear that they are no longer interested in conforming to the patriarchal white cis heteronormative bullshit we’ve all been stuck in. And hopefully, cinema is reflecting that as well. I think it’s important to note that for a long time, for a gay film to be successful, there was an expectation that someone would be naked and having graphic gay sex. Now, with the internet and the countless porn sites at our fingertips at all times, gay films no longer carry the burden of providing that singular glimpse into our sex lives. So now we have more space to explore our emotional lives in film.
The new film is even more diverse than the first, and talks a lot more about race.
Well, the first film took place in Seattle, which at the time felt very white. Director Allan Brocka insisted on making my character black, even though he was a corn fed white boy in the book. Allan’s always been about pushing the envelope and expanding the aperture of gay cinema to include more diverse characters. But he and Matthew Rettenmund (author of the book and co-writer of the new film) were very intentional this time about discussing race, and more specifically, the blind spots inherent in interracial relationships. I think both writers probably have insights into how challenging it is to navigate conversations around race in an intimate context and it really makes for original and bold storytelling.
Is it why you decided to be a part of Boy Culture: Generation X?
Quite honestly, I was excited to work with Allan again. As a director, he pulls something out of me that I rarely get to explore in my work. Andrew’s very thoughtful and a lot of what he’s experiencing is in his head. He’s not the funny one or the sassy one. He’s the thoughtful one. He’s the one who is struggling to figure out what he wants to do with his life. And Allan gives me space to find that quiet uncertainty.
Was it easy to jump back into the role of Andrew?
Most of my scenes are with Derek Magyar, so Andrew came pretty naturally. I feel very lucky that Derek was able to do this project because he initially had a scheduling conflict and they thought they would have to recast the role. Fortunately, it all worked out because working with him all those years ago, we’d created a shorthand and a real appreciation for what the other actor was bringing.
When we last saw Andrew in the first Boy Culture movie, he and Magyar’s character, X, were together at last. Where is Andrew ten years later in Boy Culture: Generation X?
Well, they’ve broken up but they’re still living together in LA. X has decided after all this time to return to sex work just as Andrew is realizing he has no idea who he is or what he wants. It’s that late 30s existential crisis of “am I just my job or is there more to me than this?”
Who is to blame for the predicament in which Andrew and X find themselves?
X apparently broke up with Andrew, but by the time this story begins, the details of the breakup aren’t really the focus. They’re trying to navigate living together as their lives take them in different directions.
Newcomer Jason Caceres joins the BC mix as Chayce. What was it like working with him?
Jason is a delight. Truly. He’s got killer comedic timing and he knows exactly what he’s doing on set. He seems young but he’s a pro.
Does Chayce represent the new gay? It’s crazy to realize that the first movie came out before Grindr!
Chayce represents A new gay. In many ways, he could just as easily be a straight guy teaching X how to monetize sex in the digital age, because if you look at who is dominating sites like OnlyFans, it’s straight dudes who have learned how to market their bodies to gay men. Kids these days, I’ll tell ya…
Sex work has also changed so much in the last few years.
The shroud of mystery that X used to his advantage during the first film isn’t what sells these days. Now, everyone is selling sex. During the pandemic, actors and fashion models had to pay their bills somehow. Suddenly everyone was naked on the internet.
What’s next for you, Darryl?
Kyle Puccia and I have written a pilot that we’re producing this winter. It’s a coming of age comedy about a trans athlete finding his tribe in a new school. As you know, Hollywood has been rocked by labor strikes these past few months and we’ve all had to confront the reality of what streamer and studio execs think of the artists that keep the industry going. It’s been disheartening, to say the least. A number of streamers have also recently been canceling queer shows and then taking them down so viewers can’t even revisit the series. It has all really highlighted the need for production companies that value our work and our stories. So that’s what I’m working on. Telling stories and creating platforms that allow us to see ourselves. You know, changing the world type stuff.
Boy Culture: Generation X is available for TVOD rental across numerous platforms including Apple, Amazon, Google. For more information, visit www.dekkoo.com.