This COVID experience has made most of us sit at home and hang out with no one else but ourselves. Alone without the distraction of social life and social pressures, we have no one else to account to but ourselves; it has become a time of reflection and self-awareness. Without having to go to a job every day, we can wear what we want (save for Zoom sessions), listen to the music we want to listen to full blast, eat when and how often we want to (for better or for worse), shave or not shave, put on nail polish, and basically throw care to the wind when not having to answer to the restrictions of work-life or keep up with current fads. A benefit of COVID has been the surge in LGBTQ voices coming out from mainstream entertainment. From Academy Award nominees and TV stars to YouTube and reality TV personalities, we’re coming out!
Actor Misha Osherovich came out for the second time during COVID. One of the stars of the latest Blumhouse Films hit, Freaky, was inspired by the downtime of COVID to come out as non-binary. Having already come out to his conservative, Russian family as gay, this may have been a bit easier but no less risky considering the surge in publicity they received from Freaky’s premiere at #1 at the Box Office. Do they think it will affect their rising star in Hollywood’s circle? For sure, and they are all about it. This is a sign of the future of our LGBTQIA+ community: we’re here, we’re (fill in the blank), and we’re starring in your films.
This season we’ve seen a surge of gay representation in holiday films, commercials, and mainstream programming. Our themes are now interwoven in Hollywood stories, even in horror films. The basic premise of Freaky (starring Vince Vaughn) is teenage girl swaps bodies with middle age serial killer, camp horror-comedy and bloodshed to ensue. But, in Blumhouse Films’ rejuvenation of the horror film genre, there’s a bit more going on here. Under the laughs and blood splatter, there is an exploration of gender roles and a reinterpretation of the gay stereotype.
In addition to Misha’s mainstream work (The Goldinch, NOS4A2), they wrote, starred in, and produced the short film E.very D.ay detailing Misha’s own struggle with eating disorders. The film is raw and beautiful at the same time and an early, independent success for this up-and-comer.
We chatted with Misha about their career while obsessing over their Instagram profile and ordering Freaky On Demand (available the first weekend of December):
How does it feel to have a movie premiere as the #1 film at the box office?
I mean it feels incredible, I am so ridiculously proud of the team behind the film. Obviously, it’s an interesting time for moviegoers with the pandemic, but I’m glad our film is out in the world for people to enjoy – whether it’s in the theater with a MASK or streaming.
What was the audition process for Freaky?
You know it came at a time when I was auditioning a lot so, initially, I remember reading the script and thinking, “Wow, this is really strange. And it WORKS.” But after my initial audition, I went about my life and didn’t think about it for a while. But once I got on a zoom call with Chris, our director, to discuss the role I told him this: “If you give me this role, I’m going to make this kid a real fully fleshed out human. I won’t be playing a stereotypical gay best friend. I think you’ve written something more than that.” And I guess I said the right thing because here we are.
What was your creative process in developing the character to fit the camp element of the film, but avoiding making Josh a hyper stereotype?
Honestly, it’s all in Michael Kennedy and Chris Landon’s writing and supported by Chris’ direction. These guys have such a clear vision for their film – especially the camp elements. I was surprised at how easy that part of the job was. Say the lines, mean what you say, invest in the (albeit crazy) circumstances of this world, and the rest fell into place.
While on the surface, Freaky is a fun play on the Freaky Friday story. But, there seems to be an underlying exploration of gender roles and identities. Was this something discussed on set?
Absolutely. It wasn’t lost on anyone, especially not Michael and Chris, that this film was commenting on some pretty big topics. That’s the whole point of the film. We point our campy finger at everything from gender identity (body swap) to Hollywood tropes (the Black and queer characters typically getting killed off first) and we do it with pride. That’s what makes this film so brilliant in my opinion.
What was your relationship to horror films before Freaky?
I really dug horror! But I had nowhere near the understanding of it as a genre that I do now after Freaky. I used to write it off a bit, actually. Now I have a real appreciation for the power of horror films to have a real impact on the world.
Who would you switch bodies with for one day, and why?
Lady Gaga. No question. She got me through some really dark times, and she’s been a part of some of my most joyous moments. I want to be inside that crazy beautiful creative mind of hers.
Quarantine has been a time of reflection for all of us. Quarantine is responsible for your coming out as non-binary?
It is indeed! I began quarantine living alone for a good chunk so obviously, I had more time to think about my life. I started literally talking to myself – and a lot of my convos with myself were about gender. I realized that I don’t identify as a man. I don’t see or feel myself in the “he/him” realm of things. So at first I just said it out loud to myself: “I’m not a man. I think I’m non-binary.” And my internal reaction is something I will probably never forget. My chest and shoulders literally felt lighter. I got so happy I danced around my apartment in my undies. It was a really beautiful experience.
What does non-binary mean to you?
I’m actually really enjoying this question every time I get it because LITERALLY everyone has a different answer to it. For me, it actually means the “anti” and the rejection of my former gender identity. I never felt traditionally masculine growing up, I never felt at home calling myself “man” and using he/him pronouns. It never deeply resonated with me. I also grew up in an extremely conservative household – so I never had the language to grapple with my queerness. But as I grew up and I started making friends in the queer community and using clothing to express different parts of my gender identity etc., it started to feel so deeply wrong to call myself a man and to go by “he/him” – it didn’t feel like me. Being non-binary for me is not only a rejection of the identity that was forced upon me growing up, it’s also a celebration of the giant gender question mark I love being. It makes me feel literally lighter and more empowered and at home in my body as I move through the world.
How did your team – PR, manager, agent – respond to your coming out as non-binary?
They all responded with incredible positivity in their own way. The pronoun conversation was smooth and easy, and I was especially impressed at the enthusiasm with which my PR team immediately approached my identity. They have been so amazing to work with as I introduce non-binary Misha to the world.
Do you think coming out as non-binary will affect the type of roles you’ll be reading for?
I do think so, and quite frankly I hope so. We are in such an exciting time in Hollywood when it comes to queer representation. I’d be thrilled and honored to tackle a meaty non-binary/queer role. But hey, I also love playing with my presentation for casting. I’ll just as gladly read for a standard “boy” role and have just as much fun doing it.
You have come out twice, first as a gay, then as non-binary…what was that like coming from a conservative, Russian household?
Coming out as gay when I was younger was really messy, I was essentially outed to my parents who (at the time) were incredibly scared of having a queer child. (We are doing much better now, as an adult I’ve been able to reconnect with them.) And now with the recent coming out as non-binary, I’m getting the total opposite experience. My friends (chosen family) have been so incredibly supportive, and even my parents and I are able to talk about it. It’s difficult for them, and they don’t fully understand the terminology I’m using or the feelings I am describing – but they are trying. That means the world to me, and it’s not something I could have ever dreamed of years ago.
What about Russian culture has helped you in your acting career?
Well first off the language itself. My first film role was a Russian role! I booked The Goldfinch pretty much exclusively because of my Russian language abilities. But also the emphasis on discipline and detail. I was raised playing classical piano and reading novels. Russians get what hard work means, especially in the arts.
Movement has played a big part in your theatre career and studies. What was it like struggling with an eating disorder while having to be so in tune with your body?
I would actually argue my theatrical movement training and my eating disorder recovery go hand in hand. You can’t successfully pull off a show like Clockwork Orange (at New World Stages) without really respecting your body (as opposed to abusing it.) And as it happens, my eating disorder got so bad that was truly in physical danger when it came to my health. Dehydration, heart problems, etc. So having to be so aware and in my body for my career has taught me the same kind of awareness and respect I bring to my recovery.
E.very D.ay is such a naked project and an intimate glimpse into your eating disorder. A lot of people don’t realize that dealing with an eating disorder doesn’t go away or get easier, it is an everyday struggle. What gets you through each day? What advice can you give?
Making this film was equal parts cathartic and very scary. And the title actually is indicative of how I approach recovery – I take it one day at a time, renewing my commitment to recovery every day. And honestly, that’s the best advice I can give to anyone struggling with disordered eating/distorted body image: be patient with and kind to yourself. Protect your recovery because many days it will feel incredibly fragile. And I DO fall down – I do relapse, sometimes quite badly. I want to demystify that part of recovery. I really do hate the idea that one slip up means you’ve “lost” months or years of hard work. That is absolutely untrue. I wake up every morning and make an active decision to engage with recovery, to be good to my mind and body. Even if I fell down the day before.
If you were to be given a sizeable budget to make your next film, what would it be about?
I would absolutely tell a story about the intersection of queerness and mental health. So much of that subject area is unexplored – and I want to see real, messy, human queer characters tackling complex mental health issues. Think a totally queer Girl Interrupted or even the horror route like a We Need to Talk About Kevin moment. Don’t get me wrong – HEALTHY queer joy and comedy is just as important to put out into the world: but my lived experience has been deeply steeped in mental health struggles. So those stories are what I want to bring to the screen.
Your Instagram is absolutely beautiful. How do you mentally prepare for a photoshoot?
Honestly, it’s one of the easiest things for me. I’m a nerd. I love prep and homework. I make the mood board or work with the photographer to make one. I check in with the stylist about looks and talk with hair and makeup. I make a playlist and I take notes about what shots work for what theme. It’s all so mathematical and yet so playful once we all get to set. I really do love it.
With your increased visibility, you have become a voice of the LGBTQ community and the non-binary community. Do you feel pressure to constantly put your best foot forward and say the right thing? Does that ever get exhausting?
Of course it gets exhausting, but I’m actually doing my best to relieve myself of that pressure. I am one voice of many in the queer community. And my most profound moments as a queer individual have actually been when I listen to other folks speak about their experience. Sure, I’ll share my story – my mental health journey and my queer path. But that’s one very small part of this endeavor we are all working towards, queer visibility. I hope that I am as much a listener as I am a speaker as I move forward in life.
What message do you have for your fellow non-binary acting family?
I’d say the message is something that I’m even still learning today, it’s something like this:
You have in your possession an understanding of your identity that is a literal superpower. That feeling of security you were always longing for when it comes to presentation and how you move through the world: you get to write that story for yourself now USING this new superpower. Now that you have your non-binary identity and you’re discovering what queerness and gender mean to you: hold onto it and use it.
Personally, that philosophy has gotten me farther in life in the most gratifying and genuine way than any other declaration of identity. Because now I get to be passionate about ALL of who I am, instead of hiding parts of who I am to fit a mold. I get to be fully me in the casting room, on social media, with my friends and family and I harness that authenticity as my superpower. I hope that other queer and non-binary folks both in and outside of the industry can use that same mentality.
Trailer for Freaky
Follow Misha on Instagram @MishaOsherovich
Photo: Instagram @chrisdoesportraits
Last modified: December 3, 2020