Probably the last thing gay viewers watching the debut of ABC Family's new hit college drama Greek expected to see when they tuned in was a gay teen character. Yet when Calvin, a freshman rushing a fraternity, was seen emerging from the bedroom of another male character, that's exactly what they got. And Calvin isn't just any gay character, but a fully developed gay character that is a star jock, confident, and even has a love life — not exactly standard fare for television, especially on a network better known for broadcasting Pat Robertson's 700 Club.
AfterElton.com recently caught up with Paul James, the actor who plays Calvin, to chat about how he got the role, playing gay again, and how lucky he is to have great parents.
AfterElton.com: Congrats on the show getting picked up for another ten episodes. Were you surprised that you got picked up so quickly?
Paul James: I think when we started the energy behind the show was kind of amazing to begin with, so everyone's feeling was sort of, there's no way it's not going to get picked up. I would ask the director, “Can you foresee a way where it doesn't get picked up?” And then we're all sort of nervous … but we all were like it should get picked up. When it did get picked up, there was a weight off everyone's shoulders.
AE: So many shows come out and sink beneath the waves so quickly, even sometimes after just one or two episodes, yet Greek turned out to be such a big hit almost immediately. All the downloads on iTunes for instance. Why do you think it has hit such a chord?
PJ: There hasn't been many shows that are about college, for some odd reason. There's been a couple like Undeclared, but Greek came out in the summer when there's not a lot of competition from network TV. Also I think that just the fact that it's about college, a lot of young kids are looking at it and anticipating that's what's going to be their future. And there's a lot of people who are older, you know, in their 20s and 30s who are looking back on it like that was my past.
AE: There's some in their 40s, as well.
PJ: Yeah. I mean my aunt is like 79 and she watches it, too.
AE: We're now four episodes into the season, Is there anything you can share with us about Calvin in the second half of the season?
PJ: Yeah, the guy that you saw coming out of the door with, Heath [Zack Lively], in the the fifth episode, the starts delving into their relationship more. You see them sort of relate, which is kind of fun.
AE: Does Calvin come out to his fraternity at some point?
PJ: Something happens in the tenth episode, the season finale, which has that in it. I can't give away that. But the tenth episode is full of, [it's] very dramatic and there's a lot of stuff going on. It's like the sh** hits the fan pretty much. And then next season we just sort of explore what the house means to Calvin.
AE: What would you like to see happen with Calvin and his relationship with Heath, and just Calvin in general?
PJ: Oh, man. I really enjoyed the first episode and the sixth episode because those were the episodes where it's not about him being gay. It just is an aspect of his character. Like in the [fourth] episode, which is beautiful, which is just a beautiful episode…
AE: Is that the coming out one?
PJ: Yeah, the one where he came out and then so that was really about him being gay. I really enjoy the episodes where it's just a matter of, “Oh, by the way, he is gay.” It's not a bone of contention or this big thing that needs to be talked about. I have the most fun, when he's just a regular kid.
The other episodes, he's got to deal with the issues and stuff like that, and deal with another guy and another house and like that kind of thing. That's fun, too, but in a different way.
AE: I think gay fans really like Calvin just being someone who happens to be gay and would like to see his relationship with Heath just have regular relationship issues as opposed to…
PJ: Oh, we do. That's completely what, for Heath and I, the fifth episode is about and, I think, the eighth episode. It's about me and Heath and our relationship issues. You don't really see him as much with Rusty. And the rest of the season he sort of goes with Heath and Ashley a little bit more and, the coming out is a big issue. It's huge, but I feel like people kind of just want to see him be a regular kid, kind of navigating through college.