Can someone politely inform Edward Cullen that his reign as the tall, dark and handsome star of the supernatural genre is over? As anyone who has seen new CW series The Originals can attest, there’s a new undead poster boy on the block—and this time he’s gay (the character and the actor)! We caught up with the man behind the fan-favorite “Josh Rosza” character, Steven Krueger (soon to be seen in the big screen’s inevitable mega-hit adaptation of Goosebumps), to talk vampire pop culture, typecasting and what it is that makes a gay vampire tick.
After a lot of smouldering guest star gigs (Pretty Little Liars, anyone?), The Originals is your most significant role yet. Is it what you had in mind for your first big break? I don’t think anyone thinks they’re gonna end up playing a gay vampire, or on a supernatural show or anything like that. I always skewed towards legal and medical procedurals, so this was a new thing for me.
What were your feelings about the supernatural genre? Were you a fan of it before? Are you now? Oh, I definitely am a fan now. I wouldn’t say I was a fan before; I was more naive. When I got the audition, I watched the pilot they had done for The Originals. I knew The Vampire Diaries was very popular, and as soon as I saw the pilot I was completely sold. The level of talent, the cast, the sophistication of the writing, the storyline and everything completely sold me on it.
What do you consider the mass appeal of vampires? I’m not sure it’s particular to vampires as much as it is to this whole supernatural world that’s extremely popular right now, and I think it’s that fantasy realm that people can watch and lose themselves in. Of course, shows like [The Originals] and movies in this genre always rely on the audience’s suspension of disbelief, so it’s that fantasy element that allows people to escape their lives a little bit.
If you look at it, it’s not like it’s a new genre. I mean, back in the ‘80s there was all kinds of vampire and supernatural stuff. For whatever reason, this generation has just really latched onto it. I think with the evolution of technology and television we’re able to make it look a lot more realistic, whereas back in the day, it looked a little campy. These days, you watch stuff on television and it looks real. On our show, the visual effects, the stunts—they’re pretty amazing.
The fact that your character is gay is probably the most normal thing about him, and it’s great that we’re in an age where that can be the case—and the show is on a major network in primetime—but visibility is still very important for the LGBT community, wouldn’t you say? Oh, absolutely, and don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Josh’s sexuality is a footnote to his character. The cool thing about Josh is that he’s a character, and when people identify and talk about him they talk about him as a character, as a fully developed person, and being gay happens to be a part of that. It’s not a coming out story—as soon as Josh was introduced to us, it was very well established that he was gay.
That said, I do think it’s important, especially to the LGBT community, that at some point we get a look at that part of Josh’s life. ... I’m hoping Josh stays alive long enough! I don’t think he should be gay in name only, if you know what I mean. I think it’s important to explore that part of his life, that part of his personality and that part of his character. All in good time...
How would you say being gay informs Josh’s impulses as a vampire? That’s interesting. One of the things I try to avoid—and one of the things the writers have done a good job at avoiding—is playing that stereotypical gay character where he’s kind of sassy. I think it’s always important to have your sexuality in mind. I mean, let’s be honest, when we’re interacting with somebody else, one of the first and foremost things we’re doing is evaluating whether or not we’re attracted to that person.
I have a lot of interaction on the show with Marcel [Charles Michael David], with Klaus [Joseph Morgan], and I’ve tried to kind of infuse my feelings as far as romance goes into the scenes and conversations with them, and it’s all very subtle and nuanced. But I absolutely think that your sexuality as a character has to inform the choices you’re making as an actor.
What can you tell me about homophobia in Hollywood? We’re being led to believe it’s gotten better. From your estimation, has it gotten any less hostile to openly LGBT actors? I’d like to believe that it has, and like you said, some of it is posturing—us being led to believe that it’s the case, when if you’re on the ground and you’re out there, it might not be as much of a non-factor as people want you to believe that it is. I think it’s important to fight against that.
Do you find Internet celebrity culture menacing, in that your privacy is evaporating the more successful you get? Yeah. It’s this idea that celebrity and fame for maybe the first few weeks or months can be cool, but once the novelty wears off, all you’re really left with is that you’re a very public person who is constantly having his privacy invaded. And I get it, and people always respond saying, “Look, this is what you signed up for,” and that’s true to a certain extent.
I think everyone that gets into this field knows the risk; they know what they’re getting into, but at the same time, I think the actors and the people who are interested in the actors—there has to be a certain level of human decency with regards to privacy, with regards to letting people do their thing. I will say that I haven’t experienced a lot of it yet, but I can absolutely see it evolving.