Actor Tyler Alvarez has been laser-focused on his career. From his first professional acting gig in a Totino’s pizza commercial, he has pushed himself and continued the hustle to be among Hollywood’s leading stars of tomorrow. His credits read like a potpourri of genres, a testament to his chameleon-like ability to embody a wide variety of characters. He became a teen favorite with his role in Nickelodeon’s Every Witch Way, followed up by his appearance in Orange is the New Black, his lead role in Netflix’s American Vandal, both seasons of Never Have I Ever, and Hulu’s latest offering for Pride, the teen rom-com film Crush. He hasn’t taken a breath and has recently wrapped up filming the Randall Park-led ensemble comedy series, Blockbuster, which takes place in the last Blockbuster in America.
Knowing his journey towards stardom would only be legitimate if he was proud of his identity, he celebrates almost exactly a year since he came out publicly on social media. Even with our current boom of “out” Hollywood actors, the career path that Tyler had established had not been focused on his sexuality.
I did not want to come out because I was afraid of how limiting it would be for acting jobs. I was afraid that I’d be up for a part, they’d find out that I was gay and they wouldn’t pick me. I mean, I had been “out” since I was 15 to everyone in my life, even the people I worked with knew I was gay. I didn’t really do a good job of hiding it, nor did I try. But I was afraid of that.
What sparked me coming out was a multitude of things. It was a bunch of little conversations over a few years. I had a mentor of mine say to me, “Which side of the line do you want to be on? Do you want to be part of the change, or do you not want to be a part of the change?” That stuck with me. Then I heard an interview with Viola Davis, years later, say, “If it means something to you, let it cost you something.” And I’m like, yes. This human rights movement is more important, is bigger than me, bigger than my career, is bigger than whether I get this job or not. Then I came to the point of wanting to be part of that change, to do something in this world. I try my best to live with no regrets and that would be something I would regret if I turned 80, I would look back and be like, I wish I had come out and know how that could have impacted other people or helped other people.
Alvarez says that coming out hasn’t had an impact on the type of roles that he has been called in for. He has always been called for both gay and straight roles, but now, since his coming out, he is honored to play them. He has often been cast as a straight teen, and his appearance in the queer-centric Crush is no different. He plays Dylan, a hypersexual high school kid who can’t keep his hands off his girlfriend. He pulls it off with aplomb, after all, isn’t that an actor’s job, no play the role effectively? Now with his sexuality out in the open, does Tyler feel a need to play straight roles in a certain way, careful of his inflections and mannerisms?
Here’s the thing, sexuality isn’t a personality – it’s just who we kiss and do other things with. So, no, I’m not paying attention to those things. I might not say, “yaasss, queen!” like in life, but it’s more about the verbiage than it is about the way I act. Being gay is the people I love, not how I act.
The magic of Tyler’s film Crush is the optimistic way romance is depicted. At the center of the film is a high school teen who identifies as a lesbian. In the categorical way that rom-coms work, she has plenty of comedic and touching missteps along the way until she finds her true love. Her sexuality and the sexualities and gender identities of the characters around her are not presented with pomp and circumstance, or with loud overtures of making a statement. The film is sweet and just … is. Is this the future of our youth? Unless you are told something is not normal, it is. The same teen angst, the same heartbreak, the same awkward first kisses, that all exists regardless of who you love or how you identify. The celebration of young love also adds levity to a typical drama-heavy library of LGBTQ media that often centers around coming out, the AIDS epidemic, or the violence towards our community.
Crush is the kind of story that I am drawn to right now. I want more of those stories, we need more of those stories. We have seen what the coming out looks like, what about after that? And that’s what I love about this movie – just a girl who has a crush on someone and that person happens to be a girl. It’s just about love and it normalizes it. We need more of that now.
I wish I had these movies to watch when I was younger and in the closet. God, my life would have been different. What I love about these queer stories is because is now WE get to see what it is like. We get to imagine. We don’t have to watch the heterosexual version and put ourselves in it, we can actually just see ourselves.
There’s a fascinating irony that Crush revels in a culture where youth not only talk about their sexuality, but they also embrace it. And the adults around them support their identities. It is a not so funny juxtaposition of what’s happening in the nation with laws moving towards quieting those voices. It shows that it’s not the youth that has the issues, it’s the parents. Tyler believes there is no age restriction or limitation on when you can present our community to the masses.
Heterosexuality is displayed in movies and TV shows, preparing straight relationships from adolescence. So, if we are portraying that, then you should be portraying queer stories too. People fear, parents I guess, that it is going to confuse kids. But the truth is, it doesn’t. When I was in elementary school and middle school, I wanted to be straight. I did not want to be gay and there was nothing I could do to make me straight. So, I’m telling you, there’s nothing you can do to make somebody gay.
And thank God for our movie, because the people in Florida can watch our movie and feel seen and people can go on social media and be like, oh wow, there’s a whole world out there. And to queer people that are reading this and people who are in the closet live in an environment where it isn’t accepted, they have to remember that’s only one environment. And there are countless other environments where that is accepted. Unfortunately, our parents or people who aren’t as open, grew up in a time when it wasn’t accepting – so they’ve almost been nurtured to believe that. It’s hard to unlearn those things.
Being pigeonholed as gay wasn’t the only trepidation Tyler had early on in his career. Born into the Cuban and Puerto Rican culture, he was fully aware of the types of roles certain ethnicities were being cast in.
When I was younger and I’d go for auditions for the leads with open ethnicity, I always knew “I’m not going to get this. They are going to give it to somebody who is white.” It’s not until now, looking back at it, me realizing, wow, I was like 15 years old, and I had that in my brain. I thought that that was normal and okay. My experience of it is changing and evolving, but there is still so much work to be done.
Now with the film industry’s focus on LGBTQ representation in the media, Tyler’s headlines have shifted to include mention of his sexuality and coming out. Even this interview shifted focus from his acting and latest film to discuss his personal life. Does he think the stress of his personal labels overshadows his acting or is it more important to promote visibility?
I feel like those are two different things. The movie itself and the character, that’s one entity. And then, because of the way the media is set up and the way the world is, they become one thing. But should we stop? I think I would love for it to be a place where sexuality isn’t necessarily a topic of conversation. I don’t want it to be, oh, the gay actor. I don’t want that. I just want to be “the actor.” Tyler Alvarez – that’s it, there’s not like the straight Michael Caine, the straight Viola Davis. It’s just Viola Davis. But I don’t think it should be hidden. It shouldn’t be a label, but it also should not be hidden.
Having had the opportunity to interview many young actors in the business, Tyler Alvarez is a breath of fresh air. Not only does he have a firm understanding of his identity, but he also knows his place in the industry and is aware of the hard work that it takes to continue. He has not succumbed to the allure of young Hollywood nightlife, nor has he coasted on one successful role. His work ethic comes from his family, and his drive comes from his own willpower.
My grandma came from Cuba and worked as a janitor in the bank for years and even with a 102 fever, she was going to work. My dad is the same exact way, and my mom is very similar. My mom always instilled in me that if you want something, you have to do it. As long as you give it everything you have, then you can die peacefully knowing that you’ve done everything to make it happen. And that’s kind of the way I live by because I have this burning dream and I’m going to do everything in my power to make it happen. And if it happens or it doesn’t happen, whatever, all I know is that I did everything I needed to. I have no regrets. And since I was literally 12 years old, I operated that way. I found my own agents, I found my own classes, and I was taking a train by myself. And I’m still hustling every day. I’m still trying, learning, and growing.
It doesn’t matter what is going on in my life. I am obsessed with what I do. I live, I breathe, I eat it morning to night, seven days a week, there is no off button. Nothing can distract me from what I want. It’s like the expression, if you’re hungry, you’ll eat.
Part of that hustle is working on himself. Tyler’s Pride message to the community reflects his own routine.
Work on your happiness because it’s not necessarily going to be easy and fall into your lap. It takes work. Go to therapy, exercise, journal. Work on your mental health.
Follow Tyler on IG: @TylerAlvarez
You can watch Crush now streaming on Hulu.
Last modified: May 31, 2022