Kyle Dean Massey: Broadway’s ‘Next’ Big Thing

Kyle Dean Massey in
Next to Normal (Photo credit Joan Marcus)

Kyle Dean Massey, one of Broadway’s brightest young stars, is illuminating and electrifying in Next to Normal, the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical about a bipolar mom and her family. The out and proud, 5-foot-10 hunk plays Gabe, the dashing and dynamic 18-year-old son, and Massey reaches new heights whether he’s racing up the show’s three-level jungle gym of a set, or hitting a high B when he belts Gabe’s big solo, “I’m Alive.”

So far, he has racked up about 500 performances and won’s award for Favorite Male Replacement.

Tom Kitt, the show’s Tony-winning composer, raves, “It would be challenging for anyone to take over a role from Aaron Tveit [who’s gone on to do TV’s Gossip Girl and the film Howl], but Kyle Dean’s made the role his own. He’s a beautiful actor with an exquisite voice and he’s incredibly moving. He’s also done hilarious backstage blogs for our show.”

In his latest online blog, however, Massey, 28, adds his voice to the growing chorus of “It Gets Better” videos. Inspired by Dan Savage’s message, which was prompted by the recent rash of GLBT teen suicides, Massey reveals how he grew up gay and bullied in Arkansas: “I felt compelled to make my video because I’m proof that it gets better, a whole lot better. I took dance lessons and I was endlessly made fun of. … Don’t let anybody ever talk you out of doing something you love because it makes you feel different. …All that bullying takes a toll … but if you give it time, it’ll get better … and it’ll make you a stronger person in the end.”

Since Massey posted his video on Oct. 8, he has gotten over 8,000 hits and received countless e-mails from GLBT teens. sat down with Massey to discuss how he felt tormented as a gay kid; why he’s proud to be out as an actor, and what it’s been like to work on Broadway with Cheyenne Jackson
(Xanadu) and on film with Liza Minnelli (Sex and the City 2).

AfterElton: Congrats on making such an inspiring “It Gets Better” video. You’ve mentioned that you started taking ballet at age 6, after seeing your older sister in a local production of The Nutcracker, and took up tap. How did other kids react to your dancing?
Kyle Dean Massey:
When I was in elementary school, I’d get called a “ballerina” or a “girl.” In 7th grade, kids would say “You’re gay” or “You’re a fag” because you dance. It hurts your feelings, but in a way, you know it’s true. I felt I always knew I was gay. I used to kiss boys in kindergarten on the playground. I was 5 or 6. It was very innocent. I was always attracted to guys. Always. And people told me, “Little boys don’t do that.” I was confused. Why can’t I? I don’t recall kissing little girls. Then you figure it out: “Oh, that makes you gay.”

There were gay people in my town [of Jonesboro], but they were so closeted. There were rumors. “They pick up guys and they’re trash, trash, trash.” They were flamboyant and I thought: “I’m not like that.” I never had gay role models, but one of the first gay people I ever saw was Pedro Zamora on MTV’s The Real World, and I’d watch every episode. He’s gay and he’s totally normal. But I always felt odd. To this day, I don’t know many out people in Jonesboro.

AfterElton: Arkansas isn’t known for being gay-friendly. Didn’t they outlaw gay adoption?
Oh, it’s a horrible place to be gay. It’s worse than that. My sisters have kids. If they were to die and I was the only family member, their kids would go into foster care. I wouldn’t be legally allowed to take care of them. It’s awful. It’s terrible.

AfterElton: You said you were “consumed with being gay” in school. How?
I wanted to walk, talk and dress differently because I was afraid people would think I was gay. If I did my hair this way, does it look gay? It was constant. Like putting on a show.

AfterElton: Do you think, in a weird way, it prepared you for becoming an actor?
No. There’s a difference between acting and pretending. The essence of being an actor is being truthful. Trying to pass for straight is the complete opposite. You lose so much of yourself. I felt like I was a better actor and way better performer after I came out of the closet. Because I was finally true to myself, I could be true to a script and true to a character.

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