The United States of Keir Gilchrist

There is no denying that Toni Collette has the juiciest role (or roles) on
Showtime’s new dramedy United States of Tara.
But sixteen-year-old Keir Gilchrist has generated a fair bit of buzz for his
turn as Marshall Gregson, Tara’s
fourteen-year-old son, who just happens to be out and proud.

In your typical gay teen storyline, the fact that Marshall
is out at such a young age would likely involve a great deal of internal angst,
a coming out arc with the parents struggling to come to terms with and accept
their gay son, and problems at school.

But when your mother suffers from dissociative identity
disorder, meaning your nuclear family includes not only mom, dad and an older
sister, but your mom’s alters – including an out-of-control sixteen-year-old
girl named T, a Leave it to Beaver
mom named Alice, and the sexist, macho, and very male Buck – being gay just
isn’t that big a deal in the overall scheme of things.

Marshall at dinner with the "Alice" alter had the chance to talk with Gilchrist last
January in Los Angeles
while he was there to promote USoT at
the Television Critics Association winter tour. In person, Gilchrist is
soft-spoken and thoughtful, two characteristics he shares with the teen he
plays, but he also enthuses about video games and sports.

Starring in a show where an actor as well known as Collette
gets to play four such eclectic, scene-stealing parts might not leave room for
many actors to shine, but that hasn’t been a problem for Gilchrist, who has
been singled out by some television critics as giving the show’s breakout performance.

One reason for that might be due to the fact Gilchrist gets
to play scenes with Collette not just as his very accepting mother, but with
each of her alters as well.

Marshall confronts the alter "T"

In last Sunday’s episode, Marshall vented his frustration at T for
having yet again taken his mother away from him when she was supposed to be
attending one of his school functions. Marshall’s
anger and hurt were palpable but not over-the-top, thanks to Gilchrist’s deft
handling of the material.

So what made the Canadian actor (born in England) want
to play the part? Says Gilchrist, “One, it’s a combination of a great show and
then just a really fun part, so it was something else I hadn’t done before. I
never really get to play a cool, suave character. I usually play nerds, so it
was cool to do that.”

is out to his friends and family from the very start of the show, something that
was in the initial breakdown for the character. When Gilchrist auditioned, a process he
described as grueling, he was told the character was “gay, but not like
stereotypical whatever, just like a normal guy.”

Gilchrist appreciated the fact that Marshall was out
and free of angst without any explanation as to why. “It is kind of like you’re
dropped right in. All the characters are already formed when it starts. It was
kind of like, out, gay, just kind of set up the character for you. I talked
with Diablo Cody [USoT’s executive
producer] about it a little bit. I talked with Craig Gillespie [the director] a
lot and we just formed the character.”

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