Nobody could ever accuse Mark Deklin’s role of Blake Reilly on the hit ABC series GCB of being boring. I mean, the guy is doing quite the Texas Two-Step. Blake has got one foot in his marriage to his beloved friend Cricket Caruth-Reilly, and the other, having sex with men should the occasion arise. But the loveable thing about him is, through it all, Blake is a good guy, and through Deklin’s performances, he has made being the head of the fictitious Western Wear Division of Caruth Industries someone to root for!
Frontiers caught up with the steamy star to give us the inside scoop on playing a closet case and portraying a marriage on the down-low in this day and age. Plus, we get a preview of the GCB season finale (Sunday, May 6, 10 p.m. on ABC), which could spell trouble for Blake’s massive secret. Will he finally be exposed? And, Mark reveals what it has been like to take on a gay character on the small screen and have the LGBT community seemingly rally around him. Here’s what the extremely bright, charming and beyond sexy Deklin had to say about it all!
What first went through your mind when the powers-that-be at GCB first told you the back-story of the character of Blake, and that you would be playing a gay character on the series?
It was interesting because I actually read for the role of Rip, David James’ Elliot’s role on GCB, and also the role of Zack. It was my understanding they were considering Brad Beyer who plays Zack, for Blake. And, somebody at the network apparently said, “Let’s switch those two around!” So then I got called in and had a meeting with Executive Producer Darren Star to talk about the role. And I have to tell you, my first thought of playing a closeted gay man was very interesting because I don’t know anyone who is closeted. I am certain I probably had a certain prejudice about it that this is someone who is living a lie. So I was trying to wrap my head around it because it felt like a very old-fashioned notion to me, that in 2012 someone would live in a marriage like this. So I talked to them and said, “Help me wrap my head around this, to make it feel like something in our generation.” And they explained to me, and through Robert Harling, our writer in particular, that in the South there is this thing called the “white marriage.” It’s a lot more common than you would think.The other thing that he explained is that Blake is not tortured or self-hating. He knows who he is and he is comfortable in his own skin. But, he has made this arrangement in order to function in this particular society that he lives in, and it works for him.
I had heard that the show did not want Blake to come off as a “bad guy,” especially since he was hiding his true sexual identify. Would you say that is correct?
Yes, I think that was important for all of us. Let’s start with the fact that if he was lying to his wife, then I think it would be very hard for audiences to like this guy. I knew from the pilot script that this is someone who the character of Amanda could really rely on. Blake is going to turn out to be one of the most trustworthy, likeable, good-hearted people in that particular community. We had to get past the hurdle of how do you create that character in a situation that is essentially a lie? So what kind of happened was that the lie was taken out of it, and Blake is not lying to himself or Cricket, but they are playing a particular role within their society, and if you think about it… everybody does that. Everybody plays roles out in the world and home is where you get real. I have said in the past, we are not condoning that lifestyle choice, but we are not condemning it either. We are just looking at it and saying, “What might this look like?”
Do you feel whenever there is a "gay character" on daytime or primetime television he or she is put under a microscope? I would hope there would come a time where it would not be put under this microscope and just be part of the fabric of the show. But I guess that for many in the viewing audience it gives the show some much-needed interest.
No question about it. It shouldn’t be an issue. There are so many incredible role models out there now that I would hate to think that any kid growing up gay today would feel the need to be marginalized, or hide in the closet, or anything like that. I would hope we are slowly evolving into a world where that is just not necessary, and as you say, where it’s just not an issue, but part of the fabric of things. Clearly, right now that is not the case. The thing that people want to talk about the most with this character is not, “Hey, let’s talk about that Texas accent you got.” Everyone wants to talk about the fact that I am playing a gay character. Obviously, it’s something our society gets hung up on, I think. Americans do sort of have sexual hang-ups. Look at all the time that was put into Bill Clinton’s blow job, and the rest of the world was laughing at us for caring that much. Somehow in the American media, violence seems to be okay, but sex suddenly ruffles feathers. I have played murderers, Nazi’s, rapists and spousal abusers. I mean really apprehensible people, and no one has made an issue out of it. No one has ever said, “Wow. Was is it difficult to take on a role like that?” And here on GCB, I am playing a nice guy who happens to be gay, and that’s what everybody fixates on.
It’s amazing to me still to this day, but when you portray a rapist, nobody cares to call that out.
Nobody was saying about me, “Oh, do you think in real life he is secretly a murderer? Maybe we should think twice about him.” It’s really sad that we are so fixated on sex and sexuality. I think we lose sight of some other things that maybe we should be paying a little more attention to. I have a daughter and when she becomes sexual I am going to deal with that. I am much more afraid of her meeting with some sort of violence or getting into drugs or what have you, than one day her being sexually active. I think for a lot of people in our society those priorities get mixed around.
How is working with your on-screen partner on GCB, Miriam Shor (Cricket)? Do the two of you break out into laughter, either during or between takes?
She is the best! Miriam and I crack up all the time. First of all, she is hilarious, smart and witty. And the two of us for whatever reason just have this chemistry. We are both kind of nerdy and we are both kind of smart and articulate in our own way. So we make a lot of the same references, and are very often on the same page with things. For example, that Spartacus scene at the end of episode 7, when Blake and Cricket are in bed together quoting Spartacus and finally have sex, that was something Miriam and I came up with. But it is also a tribute again to Bobby Harling. He is such a collaborator and he is not proprietary about the project. He also wants us all to be involved in the creation of this thing. So he had come to Miriam and me when he had talked about the upcoming episode and he was saying, “I am thinking that they would be watching a movie like 300 or Spartacus.” Miriam and I just started quoting that scene with the snails and the oysters and we were both doing foo-foo Laurence Olivier impersonations. We were going back and forth cracking each other up being movie nerds. And then the very next day, we got the script and our entire conversation was in there verbatim in that scene. It was kind of wonderful. Bobby said, “I hope it doesn’t bother you that I basically took what you said and put it in the script?” And we said, “Are you kidding? It’s very flattering!” And we love when we get to inject our own personalities into this. So, that is my long-winded answer to your question. Yes, Miriam and I crack each other up. [Laughs]
There's some “baby” talk—where do you see that going? Are Blake and Cricket going to have a little bundle of joy popping out soon?
I think if we are lucky enough to get a Season 2, I definitely think we will see a pregnant Cricket. I do. I think that is going to happen. I don’t know that for a fact, but I think our Spartacus night will bear fruit!
As any night with Spartacus should! [Laughs]
Somehow fruit and Spartacus go together! [Laughs]
Does Blake really want a kid?
Oh, yes. He very much wants a kid. I think for Blake it’s really interesting, because as an actor you can’t judge the character you are playing. As a human being we can pass judgments of course, but to play a character you have to sort of get inside their head. I was able to imagine someone who lives in a fairly conservative society where gay marriage and adopting kids is probably not going to happen. Again, me Mark, can say, “That’s not right. It should happen.” But regardless, this is the world this guys lives in. So this arrangement for Blake, in a weird way, is him being true to himself. He has found a way to be who he is sexually with a man, but at the same time be that pillar of the community and that father and all those other things that are genuinely a part of who he is. That is not all a lie. He is a great father and he loves his daughter, and he wants to have another baby, very badly.
Then does Blake truly love Cricket?
He adores her, no question about that. I think Blake and Cricket feel they have found the right arrangement that works for them. To them, it doesn’t even feel like a compromise. I think they really believe that this is great. “I am spending my life with my soulmate, but I also get to have sex with the people I want to have sex with.”
What do you think would happen if he found “Mr. Right”?
Well, that is interesting. I don’t know the answer to that. People have asked me, “Is Blake going to come out of the closet at some point?” I have such mixed feelings about that, because as Mark, I find myself going, “Well yes, he should. He should come out of the closet. And he should embrace who he is and wave his rainbow flag.” And I support that. But there is another part of me that has become so fond of Blake and Cricket and their marriage, that part of me hopes they stay together forever. So it’s a conflicting feeling I have. I mean, he has not met “Mr. Right” yet. Booth was “Mr. Right Now.” And back in episode 2 when Blake had to choose between his boyfriend and his family, Blake chose his family. I think Blake is truly and deeply committed to his family in a very unconventional and very unorthodox way.
The season finale of GCB is this coming Sunday, May 6. What can you preview that is coming for Blake as the season comes to its climatic close?
I will tell you this: The last several episodes we have brought out a lot of the comedy. The first three or four episodes of my journey as Blake were about building his humanity and showing this wonderful warm-hearted guy that people could attach themselves to emotionally. And then in the next three episodes or so, I think we earned the right to sort of let Blake get a little bit wacky. We punched up the comedy, which was so much fun. But now we are going to go back to a little more of the soapy element. We are going to introduce a storyline that is going to take a dark turn. The big secret is under threat and there may be certain forms of blackmail and extortion, and beyond that I can’t tell you or else I will be “spoiling." [Laughs] And this is something people have been asking since the beginning of the show, “Is Blake and Cricket’s secret going to be exposed?” I am not saying it’s going to be exposed, but I will say, it’s under threat.
There is a soap opera feel to GCB. Do you like that element of it?
I do. I think it really has its place. I know there is a desire for it in the viewing public. Clearly, both daytime and nighttime soaps have always been very popular. I think with the serialized format, there is something compelling about it, and the idea of not having every episode be a standalone, but the idea of ending with somewhat of a cliffhanger, or a “tune-in next week to see how this plays out.” I think there is some fun in that and teasing it out, and seeing how far you can stretch the chewing gum till it snaps.
What would you love to see happen to Blake if you could have the opportunity to write something into his story?
It’s funny, one of the things I wanted to happen did happen. I pushed for the musical episode and because I sing, and because of Kristin Chenoweth (Carlene), and Miriam Shor, I was like, “C’mon, I want to do something fun.” So Bobby Harling and I brainstormed some ways to justify having Blake sing, because we are not making a show like Glee, so he is not going to just burst out in song for no reason. So in a sense, I have already had one of my wishes fulfilled. But in terms of bringing one's skill set to the table and having fun with it, I am also an avid horseman. We talk about the fact on the show that Blake is also. So I am really hoping again, if we get a Season 2, that we get to go out to the ranch and we get to see some Equestrian fun.
You must be getting recognized out in public more than before because of your performance as Blake. But, what are people in the gay community coming up to you and saying, after seeing you in a gay role on GCB?
First of all, the recognition has been really nice. The whole LGBT community has embraced this character and I have always been sort of gay-adjacent. I feel like I am becoming this ambassador, which I love. When I find myself at these gay-themed events, whether it’s the Advocate’s 45th Anniversary or presenting at the GLAAD Awards, which I was completely honored about, what I am finding is, I have people saying, “Oh, yeah. I bet they love you at those events.” And what they are implying is, “Everyone is probably eye-fucking you.” And I have said, “You know what has been really nice is that it has not been that sort of cruise-y thing that you are hinting at.” The vibe has been more embracing of the show and saying, “We are so glad you are here.” I have been so delighted and honored by that.
It is wonderful when the gay community embraces you like that, because there aren’t many actors to watch on a consistent basis that are playing gay parts. Certainly it is better than it was several years ago, but even to this day there are not enough of them portrayed on television.
And again, on the one hand I thought, “There are going to be some people in the gay community who will not like this character because he is in the closet.” I was very aware of that. But I also said from the very beginning, “Hey guys. I am not going to play any stereotypes with Blake. I would like to break that stereotype. I don’t want him to be that sort of neutered friendly gay neighbor who doesn’t have any balls or sexuality.” I said, “I want Blake to always be manly and virile.” I am not saying that in a vain sort of way, I just don’t want him to be neutered. They have absolutely honored that. So I have had a number of gay men come up to me and say, “Thank you for playing a gay character who is kind of butch and manly.” One guy said it to me and it was very cool, “I am not attracted to swishy guys, because I like men. I am attracted to men. So thank you for giving us a character who is masculine and attractive.”
You mention the “friendly gay neighbor” and playing the masculine gay guy. So what do you think of the guys on the hit comedy series Modern Family?
Listen, Modern Family is fantastic, and both Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson are phenomenal. What Eric is doing is he is playing a stereotype, and yet not. He is walking that line where he is very swishy and fey, but always believable. But you never feel like, “Oh, look at this straight guy putting on a stereotype.”
And finally, what did you think of Newt Gingrich’s recent comments that GCB is anti-Christian and the use of GCB in his platform, while running for election in the recent Republican primaries?
Well, you know [Laughs] there are so many answers. One of the things I have been addressing is: to any people who say the show is anti-Christian, I think they have not seen the show and they are riffing off the title of the show and not the content in the show. The show is not anti-Christian and the show is actually very respectful towards the church itself. It’s mocking hypocrisy. But as for Newt, I am sorry, glass houses. This is the guy who, going back to the Bill Clinton blow job, was hounding Bill Clinton over it, while he himself was having his enth number of affairs. What Newt did in his marriage is none of my business, just as what Bill Clinton did in his marriage was none of my business. But the hypocrisy of these people who get so self-righteous and who are living in the proverbial glass house, I just don’t understand it. To quote scriptures: “Don’t talk to your brother about the splinter in his eye; look at the plank in your own eye.”
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