Contrast Magazine met with the always stylish Mark Indelicato to get his take on growing up with Ugly Betty, playing the gay best friend, and his obsession with Alaska Thunderfuck 5000.
Check out the full interview here.
I was born in a small town called Bristol, Pennsylvania outside of uh Philadelphia and um I moved to LA when I was 11.
Um I mean I lived a pretty anonymous live in Pennsylvania.. Like my family was just very kind of blue collar American family and uh I moved to LA to start working on Ugly Betty so not only was I in just like a completely different physical place but um I was kind of living a different… I was just getting a lot of attention that I had never gotten before.
Um, I don’t know, I mean I think it was just because I was so young and my mom was always with me um because Ugly Betty was from the time I was 11 until I was 16 so I feel like I didn’t really handle fame in any kind of particular way just because I felt so protected and so safe with my mom.
Yeah, and it really… I mean… for me because I was so young, again, it was like I wasn’t doing it because I wanted people to recognize me. I just really liked doing it. Yeah, I really liked the actual art of acting so…
Uhh I moved to New York in 2009, um, because [of] Ugly Betty. We shot the first two seasons in Los Angeles and then they moved the show to New York for the last two seasons so I spent my freshman and sophomore year of high school here in New York.
Ummm… Well, I mean I’m from Philadelphia. I lived there until I was 11, so yeah.. I was really used to the winter.
Uhhh no… *laughs*
No… *laughs*… Duckie Brown, yeah. I used to go to fashion week a lot when I was younger but I don’t know, it’s… it’s very overwhelming to me now. There’s just a bunch of people that really don’t need to be there that are there so I just uh feel like maybe I just shouldn’t be there and just be one less person waiting in line pushing people out of the way.
I don’t think that it ever really affected me in any way. I think if anything, I always have been really scared of it.
Yeah, I mean, uh, Gregg Araki is a filmmaker that I’ve admired for such a long time and um so when he asked me to be in the film, I was obviously elated, and um, he gives his actors a lot of freedom and I really think Mickey is, I guess, he’s just a little bit more of an over dramatic version of myself. A lot of it was improvised. Shailene Woodley, Gabourey Sidibe, and I.. we really clicked automatically, and we play three best friends so all the scenes where we’re in the basement hanging out talking, a lot of that chemistry was already there, and he just let us feed off each other.
I was on set for about two weeks and um, again, I mean he hired actors that he trusted. He hired actors that he admired, and he really just gave us the freedom to do whatever we wanted and I feel like that is why it was able to get done so fast because we were given that freedom to play, and uh, and also, he kind of just told us, or me, “Do what you did in the audition. Do what you showed me when you first came in,” and so I guess that it’s easier to get things done when you’re kind of encouraging the actor to feed off themselves and feed off the people around them.
It was the same vibe. I mean, I’ve been really lucky to work with people that are really amazing actors and just really nice and down to earth people. And you hear so much about these casts who all hate each other and they are all fighting for more money and all of that bullshit, and it’s-it’s awesome to just work with a great group of people. It makes it easier to kind of just do what you do no matter whether that’s on television, on stage, or on film.
I admire theater actors so much. I mean I work through a medium I guess that you can just do it over again if its shit. You know when you’re acting on stage, you have to give the audience whatever you have and if you fuck up, then you have to cover it up. I mean you just have to think on your toes so much more. And I think that… I admire stage actors very much and I admire improvisation actors ‘cause that’s something that is very difficult for me to do.
Alaska Thunderfuck 5000.
I don’t know; I watched every season and I actually watched five seasons on Amazon Prime in two weeks so that’s something I’m extremely proud of. *laughs* And uh, I guess just going through, I identify so much with her. Alaska and her whole vibe is just so me, her “HI-EEEEE,” and I think it’s just so funny.
My cover photo on Twitter is Alaska saying, “HI-EEEEE.”
Well I think that I’ve been confronted with the whole issue of sexuality from the time that we started filming Ugly Betty. I was getting asked if I was myself gay when I was 12 years old before I even knew that I was, so I think I have been confronted with sexuality from a really young age. And I think that also playing a character that is gay and myself being gay I do feel like I’ve been like type cast as something, um but then again a lot of people have been type cast and it’s working really well for them.
I don’t think that I uh… I don’t think that it really has as much to do with my sexuality as much as it also has to do with my physical appearance. I mean I think that there is a very specific archetype of the leading man. There’s a very specific man that leads the cast, I think in a lot of ways, um and for me I’m perfectly fine being the gay best friend. I think that it’s great, and it’s fun, and you know… it’s nice to be able to bring some of myself in to everything that I do too. Maybe in Ugly Betty it was more subconscious, I was subconsciously bringing parts of myself into the character, um, but I have a lot of fun seeing bits and pieces of myself.
That’s a really hard question. I think that you have to really just engage with it. At least for me when I was trying to hide myself and trying hide my sexuality, you could kind of see that and people feed off of your insecurities and I think that if you… and now… I’m now the first person to make fun of myself and make fun of being gay. And it’s not funny, but it’s a coping mechanism and I think that if you get defensive and have to run around and say I’m not gay I’m not gay I’m not gay, people are just going to keep calling you that. Each situation is extremely unique and I don’t want to brush it off like it’s not a big deal because I think the amount of abuse that one experiences also informs the way that they handle it, uh, but for me it really hasn’t been as pervasive in my life as it has been for other kids, and you know, these kids who are taking their own lives. It was never that pervasive for me. But I do think that you know, you can sit there and cope with it and joke about it, but at the end of the day, there’s something that needs to be done about it. I mean, I think that it’s really difficult to change uh people’s beliefs. You can make gay marriage legal and you can put all these laws and policies in place, but the root of the problem is the homophobia that is running rampant in people’s social ideologies in this country and around the world.
Highlight of my career?
*laughs* I don’t know. The highlight of my career… hmm.. I mean I think that the highlight is really still happening for me because it is very gratifying still to this day to be able to talk to people that you know watched Ugly Betty, and you know whether they’re boys, girls, trans, whatever – gay, straight, bisexual, that come to me and just kind of express how much that show and that character informed their lives. And uh…
And I think that the greatest thing about the show, you know, what is so gratifying, is that I can watch it now and really identify with every single character. And I think that’s why people respond to it so well.
You see different versions of yourself, and it’s extremely gratifying to hear that it has helped people or informed the way that they handle their problems with sexuality. And I think I’ve had people come up to me to say that the show and my character have changed the way that they looked at gay people and just kind of sexuality in general, and that I think is the most gratifying thing.
It’s so awful in the first two seasons. The first two seasons I had a huge gap in my teeth and braces, and the most awkward years of one’s life are on TV and Netflix now – they’re archived. *laughs* And you can see them whenever you want.
Oh man, my friends and I were thinking about this the other day! Oh, God what did we say.. It was something really funny.. Oh shit… Well every Halloween I dress up. I’m one of those….
Well I’m not a drag queen so I can do whatever I want. But I guess we named my alter ego Selena. It was something…I want to be Alaska’s drag daughter… so Selena Thunderfuck.. That’s my drag name… cause don’t you take the last name? Is that a thing? Yes, YES it is.
Watch out Season Eight.
What do I want to do with my life now? I actually just recently relaunched my blog, The Fashion Gangster, and it was originally was just a style diary blog that I had with a bunch of pictures of me with different outfits on self timer in high school, literally, and people really responded to it. And I stopped doing it for a while, and now I just relaunched it and its more of a collective now. There’s a style diary, fashion section, and there’s kind of this culture section where I’m including work of my friends who do fine art, and excerpts of pieces that I’ve written, political op eds etc.… and I’m um really excited about it. It’s been getting a lot great response.
I mean I would love to see it grow and expand, but for me I think the main goal for the website is to give people visually pleasing content and then also in the same site have the opportunity to see what’s going on in the world and see the opinions of young people. It’s…it’s frightening to me that young people don’t care enough what’s going with the world and that’s kind of the goal of TFG to give you pretty pictures, and pretty girls, and nice clothes, and whatever, but also to expose people to different viewpoints.
I guess my goal would be to be an ambassador for UN Women because I focus specifically on how US foreign policy affects Middle Eastern women in Iraq, and it’s something I’m extremely passionate about. It makes me so happy to…to be in an academic setting and be doing something that matters outside of myself, outside of New York, outside of you know the culture that I’m used to. It’s just I’m so interested and I would love to be an advocate for equal treatment of all people, not just women and men, but I think that the issue of equality is extremely prevalent today, more than it has been in a long time.
Well this Friday it’s finals week so uhh… *laughs*
*laughs* On a normal Friday night…. Even on a Friday night…I’m like either sitting in my apartment with my roommate with a bottle of wine and a spliff *covers mouth*.. or I don’t know, I don’t really go out in New York that much anymore. That’s something I used to do when I was like 18.
Like 1OAK, Dream and all those places.
Written by Joanna Purpich | firstname.lastname@example.org
Features Editor at Contrast Magazine
Follow Mark on Twitter for updates on The Fashion Gangster and any of his upcoming projects. Tell him Contrast Magazine sent you. *wink*