David Dean Bottrell Gets Real and Gains Street Cred

Written by | The Lens, Things to Do

Throughout character actor David Dean Bottrell’s multi-decade career, he has played just about every kind of character you can think of. His credits span a list of iconic TV shows that is longer than a CVS receipt and include True Blood, iCarly, Modern Family, Justified, Ugly Betty, NCIS, Castle, Law and Order: SVU, and of course his deliciously villainous turn in Boston Legal. This season, he plays his most colorful character yet: himself.

After a decade, David Dean Bottrell Makes Love: A One-Man Show, featuring tales of missed connections, random hook-ups, and poor decisions, returns with new stories and an update to include dating from a gay man’s perspective in the digital age. If you have never had the privilege of seeing David tell a story, caution: you may need to bring an extra pair of pants. His signature humor, unique outlook on life, and almost too crazy to believe real-life experiences take the stage with finesse and hilarity that only a craftsman like David can pull off.

After ten years, hasn’t David learned how to make love yet?

Well, as they say, practice makes perfect!  And I’ve been practicing a lot lately! Mostly on the weekends. 

I’ve gotten 10 years older – which was something I always dreaded, but it’s actually been great.  And the word “love” really means something very different to me now. I always thought of it as this rare, hard-to-find commodity. But now it feels like something much more accessible. And less sexual or romantic. I guess it feels more spiritual now, if that’s the right word. As long as we’re surrounded by living, breathing humans, then there’s someone to notice, someone to care for, someone who deserves a little attention. It’s a gift any of us can both give and receive.  

In my youth, it seemed very uncomplicated. I’d date someone for a while. Then, when it ended, I’d wash my hair, put on my tightest jeans, and go back to the bar. I’d stand there for a few minutes until someone came up and talked to me, and that was my new boyfriend. It was really that easy. I miss the part where we were all fishing from the pond of guys who were actually in the room. There was some sport (and some skill) involved in that. More than once I managed to steal some guy that someone else had tagged. It was so fun. Apps are not so fun to me. What I don’t miss from those days is the fear that this particular evening of fun might cost your life. 

Dating in the gay community is notorious for being fodder for comedy. From David’s many attempts in the gay world, he has a master perspective on why it’s so hard to date.

I think it kind of depends on where your community is located. If you don’t happen to live in some huge place like LA or New York, I think one of the biggest problems is “choice.” But if you live in a mega-metropolis, it can seem like a new truckload of sexy, appealing partners gets delivered to your local bar every weekend. And let’s face it – it’s easy to get trapped in always waiting for something bigger, better, smarter, or cuter to arrive. 

Dating a zillion men must come with a crazy hookup story. Eagerly, David shared a sneak peek into the world of David Dean Bottrell Makes Love and again solidifies the fact that David’s real-life stories can rival any script he’s acted.

Once, a guy answered my Match.com ad who said he was new to town and didn’t have a car, so I agreed to pick him up for a coffee date. Imagine my surprise when I pulled up to find him waiting for me outside a drug rehab facility. Before I could speed away, he ran up and jumped in my car. I didn’t know what to do, so we just drove around for a couple of hours as he told me his long, bizarre story about going on a black-out bender in St. Louis and waking up in Los Angeles in this facility. He mentioned that he didn’t have any money, so if we went out for lunch it was going to be on me. I didn’t know what to do, so I finally took him back to my house, where, when we ran out of things to talk about, jumped into bed and had some gangbuster sex. I then drove him back to rehab and never saw him again. 

David Dean Bottrell Makes Love (Photo by John Flynn)

The show does have its intimate moments as well. Talking about dating and love cannot come without doses of heartbreak, what-ifs, and lost loves. It is raw and unfiltered Bottrell, a gamble for any actor.

This show is the scariest thing I’ve ever done. When you’re acting, the job is to basically disappear behind a character someone else wrote. When you’re storytelling, it’s the exact opposite. There is no character – it’s you. And your job is to become as transparent and honest as possible. Prior to this show, I was always so embarrassed by my love life. I either had no partner or a partner who was a huge mess with big hard-to-miss issues (like active meth or alcohol addiction). When I started this show, I thought I’d feel judged if I told the truth. And the exact opposite has happened. People consistently say, “OMG, I thought it was just me. Thank you for making me laugh about all of it.” 

With the lack of privacy that often comes with stardom and in our age of an oversharing social media world, there is the risk that a well-established actor like David could tarnish his image. We see Bottrell in all his naked glory, bumps and all.

I was nervous about it at the beginning. But oddly, it’s actually expanded my career. I think my old “brand” was sort of a nerdy, churchgoing, schoolmarm. Not many people in the business knew I was actually sort of a desperate whore. I think I gained a little street cred by revealing it. 

The show has been a critical hit as well as with audiences. Though the stories are from a gay man’s experience, it is a hit with straight audiences as well. The language of love truly knows no limit.

It’s enormously fun for me to tell a blowjob story and hear an entire “mixed” gay-straight audience crack up. I think the reason most people dig the show is because the stories are about three universal questions: How do you find love? How do you keep it? And what do you do when it goes away? It’s amazing when you think about it. Love has been written about for thousands of years, but it is still a total mystery to everyone. I guess it always will be.

This is a weird thing to say, but I think that, as funny as the show is, it is basically about faith.  Faith in ourselves and faith in other human beings who have the same wants and needs that we do. I think making a real connection is still very possible, but we got to have the balls to exit the safety zone and really try.  

Though Bottrell was never in the closet, he is not typically one of the first actors who come to mind when thinking about a “gay actor.” It wasn’t a leading part of his Hollywood story. As a character actor, it just never came up.

I came out when I was 19, but my coming out story feels like it’s never-ending. And it’s not like I’m exactly “Stud Manley” or anything. Weirdly, it still feels like every time I start a new job or attend an industry event, or get introduced to someone’s family, the process starts all over again. And the truth does set you free. I have always assumed if anybody buys a ticket to my show, they already know that I’m gay.  I mean, Jesus, it’s in my Wikipedia entry! I feel grateful to be gay and I am deeply proud of my community.  In the world we live in, there are so many hugely successful out LBGTQ actors (particularly funny ones) who have big straight followings. The days of “Don’t ask – Don’t tell” really feel like they are behind us, in show business anyway.  Some days, I feel like we have outgrown the need to state it.  I can’t imagine a headline saying, “Lesbian Comedian Jane Lynch appearing on Broadway” or “Gay Actor Neil Patrick Harris headlines new series.”  But if someone is up-and-coming and they are establishing their brand, I’m really glad when I see the LGBTQ tag upfront, because it gives me a chance to support and amplify their signal – something I hope the whole community is ready and willing to do. 

What is it like for a veteran like David to see a younger generation of openly celebrated LGBTQ actors?

It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I am so proud of everybody. And the trans and non-binary crew is ripping up the rule book! And they are all really, really talented! It’s a dream come true. We are everywhere in the business now.  It’s great.

Not only has dating changed drastically over the course of David’s life, but so has the landscape of television since his time on Boston Legal.

It’s almost unrecognizable from 2007. The increased corporatization of the entertainment industry has really increased the pressure to make everything faster and cheaper. Great work is still being done, but it’s being done in less-than-ideal circumstances. And then the product has about two weeks on the air to succeed before being deemed a failure. It has affected what gets on the air for sure.  Remember that hideous reality show on Fox, Labor of Love, where all those guys were competing to impregnate that white woman? I told a friend of mine who worked for Fox that they should have called the show, It’s Cum to This. On the other hand, the streaming world has created a whole new playing field.

As far as David’s love life goes, spoiler alert: he is all good.

I met someone wonderful about four years ago and we’re still going strong. I tried hard to get rid of him, but he wouldn’t go away. And now, I’m so grateful for that. He’s deeply kind. It’s not an act. It is really who he is. He wants to help everyone. I am in awe of him.

Even amidst David’s crazy relationship with love, he has found his mate. Is there any hope for the rest of us eternally single gay men?

If you’re young, have fun and keep your eyes open. It will probably take care of itself.  If you suspect you have already, or are about to, exit the “young” category, my advice is to be honest with yourself and trust your grown-up instincts. Change what you suspect needs to be changed. What you want is probably just on the other side of that shit you don’t really want to do. So, begin – do it.  You’ve got nothing to lose. Stay in the game. It’s not too late.

David Dean Bottrell Makes Love: A One-Man Show returns to New York for 8 Weeks at the Triad Theater at 158 West 72nd Street New York, NY 10023 (2nd floor above Seven Hill restaurant).

Last modified: April 14, 2022