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For any person in the late 20’s to early 30’s, they know how much of a fucking rockstar Daniel Franzese is.  The uber talented and incredibly handsome actor & activist has been at the forefront of many people’s minds and laughter since he shot to superstardom as the “Too Gay To Function” Damian in the megahit Tina Fey/Lindsay Lohan movie “Mean Girls”.  Damian possessed a huge comedic wit in that movie that paired incredibly well in his scenes with Lindsay Lohan and star of Masters Of Sex Lizzy Caplan, that there was no doubt in my mind that he had quite a bright future ahead for himself.

Since Mean Girls, his popularity has continued to be on the rise.  He has had guest starring roles on shows like “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and my personal favorite TV series, “The Comeback.”  He also has launched a hilarious Youtube series called “S**t My Italian Mom Says” which has reached millions of views since its inception.  Now Daniel is starring in the 2nd season of HBO’s critically acclaimed series “Looking” in which he plays Eddie Bear, a openly HIV positive counselor in a homeless gay shelter who takes a liking to Agustin’s character, played by Frankie J. Alvarez.  Although the show has had its back and forth critiques, something that seems to be a constant with social media and critics is the positive feedback his character gets.  He has breathed a new life into the 2nd season of this show, and his ever growing relationship with Agustin’s character on “Looking” is a great distraction from the very present main character’s story lines of Kevin & Patrick.

With the season finale airing tonight at 10PM eastern, 9pm Pacific on HBO, Daniel was nice enough to sit down with me and discuss his rise in the entertainment world, his take on “Looking” and his new series that is debuting on ABC Family this coming fall.  Take a look at what the Brooklyn native had to say.

Hey Daniel, thanks for sitting down with me!  So I just saw that you went to TBRU (Texas Bear Round Up), one of the biggest bear events in the world.  Did you have fun and have you ever gone to one of those events before?

I’ve gone to bear parties before but I have never been to an organized bear event like that, ever.  It was absolutely wonderful and the bears there couldn’t have been nicer to me.  The friendliest group of people I have ever met.  This was a great indication of how I am known in the bear community as there wasn’t a bear there that didn’t recognize me from my work, which was quite the awesome feeling.

Let me ask you about the show you are on at hand and what everyone is talking about, Looking.  I’ve been a fan of the show since the first season and when i found out you were going to be on the show I was ecstatic for several different reasons.  How did this whole thing start for you?

Well I was having a conversation about the show with my friend Lori Malkin who is a casting director.  She asked if I was watching the show, which I wasn’t.  When she asked why I said no, I simply replied, “Because they never have bears like me on a gay show like that”.  She then followed up simply, “Then why not become the bear on that show?”.  I was all about manifesting destiny so I looked up the casting director who happened to be the first one I ever encountered when I did my first movie “Bully” back in 2001.  I wrote her an email, sent her some photos, and said “If you ever need a sexy bear!” to which she said “Well, you never know!”.  It turns out they were already thinking of the character Eddie and even further thinking of me to play him and then offered me to play the part.

Daniel Franzese, Manhattan Digest
Credit to: Andrew Jefferis

Not only are you the only bear on the show, but your character Eddie is also openly HIV positive which is a big part of your storyline with Agustin’s character, in particular the past two episodes.  Can you get a little bit into the process of how you immersed yourself into this character?

My neighbor and one of my best friends Ryan is HIV positive and we have coffee every morning together.  I knew him before he was poz and when I was getting the script and talking to him about it. The look on his face said it all as he was so excited that Eddie wasn’t being played as a victim and living a full and well adjusted life.  I know that was the intention from the beginning for Andrew Haigh and Michael Lannon was that they wanted Eddie to be someone who just happened to be HIV Positive and that it really wasn’t affecting Agustin’s decision to be with him.  Going into that portrayal I was excited more than anything to represent a very underrepresented community.

You surprised a lot of people by doing a full frontal sex scene with Agustin a couple of weeks back on the show.  Was that the first time you’ve done a scene like that and was it tough to film?

This is why I think it is good that you brought up the bear community as growing up as the chubby kid who wore my shirt in the pool all the time to having an opportunity in my first movie “Bully” in which I take my shirt off was really uncomfortable for me.  I have since then become very comfortable with my body and just from talking about guys in the past who have been into bears that aren’t bears themselves even and where their first inkling of where there attraction to a larger man came from.  I heard several people reference James Gandolfini being naked in a film was when they realized they were attracted to bigger guys, and I knew that being part of an underrepresented community that displaying nudity in “Looking” would possibly do that for future generations of guys to see the male form in a different view.   We all come from different shapes and sizes and I thought this was a way to see it sexualized in a different way.

Eddie is so vulnerable in that moment and has so many walls up and is trying to figure out if Agustin is really real and can handle his baggage.  I think in that moment he feels that “Oh no, this is where the HIV gets in the way and I lose this great thing, that’s why I don’t want to get serious”, and I think its such a difficult  moment for him because he is naked.

What is your take on how gay men are portrayed in the entertainment world in 2015?  Do you think we have hit our stride or do you think we still have to push forward in order for us to become more normalized to the general viewing public?

I’m not sure that Hollywood will ever get any minority right because it is totally judged off of a bunch of people’s different opinions and based on each individual project.  There will always be women that are marginalized, there will be African Americans that are marginalized, and in the same token there are gays that are. I feel like I love the way how “Looking” does it and how they show gay people in that story in San Francisco.  We get to see so many kinds of levels of stories and places that straight people live and I think there is a lot of pressure on “Looking” to represent the entire gay community, but I think that they are just telling a story about some people in SF and I think that is interesting in an under-looked at subculture.

Daniel Franzese, Manhatan Digest
Credit to: Andrew Jefferis

On top of looking, you have a new show set to air on ABC Family this coming fall called “Recovery Road”.  What can you tell us about it?

One of the coolest things about this is that it is written by my roommate in college Bert V. Royal who wrote the movie “Easy A”.  The other show runner Karen DiConcetto is a friend of mine for over ten years who played Snooki in the musical that i co-wrote called “Jersey Shoresical: A Freaking Rock Opera!”.  It is so great that I have two of my dearest friends that are going to be creating the part for me.  It is about a 17 year old girl named Maddie who has some problems with drinking and drugs in school so she makes a deal with her guidance counselor so they won’t expel her if she spends certain nights and weekends in an adult sober living facility.  I play a gay man who has addiction issues contributing to a weight gain; essentially I was a former gogo boy with a cocaine issue.

So these are some pretty deep roles you have been taking lately, however a lot of people know your comedic side from “Mean Girls” and your part on season one of “The Comeback”.  Do you prefer the dramatic side of things or the comedy parts?

Well “Recovery Road” is actually a comedy.  I think on “Looking” I’m pretty funny and definitely do love comedy.  It is my first love.  However I love horrors if they are scary and I love comedies if there is drama and dramas if they are poignant and meaningful. I just love good stories so if there is one there that is where I will go ultimately.

On a complete sidenote here, I hope that when they submit you for the Emmys that at least you and Lauren Weedman (Doris) get nominated for Guest Actor & Actress in a Supporting Role because you both really do great work on that show.

Actually, we are being submitted in the supporting categories.  I am being submitted for Supporting Actor In A Comedy.

Oh!  Well in that sense I hope they give you and “Looking” some love because it has kind of been the same shows winning year after year there and they could use some sprucing up with some new blood.  I mean, enough with “Modern Family” winning.  In other words… I WANT YOU TO WIN!

Thank you :).

You had a hit on Youtube with the hilarious “S**t Italian Moms Say”.  How did that whole thing get started?

My mother was the big inspiration for this, and she is sitting right here next to me while I’m chatting with you. My mom thinks that you said that i might get an Emmy is phenomenal!  The “Shit Says” meme was happening everywhere and I was waiting personally for an Italian one to happen.  Around the same time, right before the meme happened, my friend Michelle said to me “You can come to my apartment but I don’t have anything to offer, not even a piece of cake”.  We laughed for an hour over that and then we thought of all the things we could say or do and then my friend Lisa said “Let’s do this”.  We pulled it together one weekend and did two episodes and then the following weekend did another one.  It was really fun and hit a million views in six days.  It was really fun to watch it unfold.

Besides all of these amazing things, what else do you have going on in 2015?

I have a comedy coming out about five people who get hypnotized while the hypnotist has a heart attack and the people are stuck in its trance. I play a gay man who thinks he is a pregnant woman during this whole thing.  Really looking forward to seeing what people think about that.

Thanks again Daniel for sitting down with us and good luck with “Looking” and everything else you have going on!

Thank you so much!

For more on Daniel Franzese, you can check out his official sites here!

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