The Real O'Neals Redux: Let's Get Even More Real

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Our coverage of The Real O’Neals continues in our chat with the show’s star Noah Galvin and co-creator David Windsor.(For the first installment, click here.) First, more from Galvin, who discusses career path and how he’ll keep his role from becoming “a young Jack McFarland.”

Real O'Neals

All photos courtesy of ABC

METROSOURCE: Do you see the show’s fantasy sequences as what’s actually going on in your character’s head?
NOAH GALVIN: I really think they are a wonderful window into the mind of a developing teen. All teens — gay or straight or bi or whatever — have fantastical interior lives. I think Kenny being gay just allows for those fantasies to be a tad more colorful.

The dance episode in the Lent episode is everything — tell me about rehearsing and performing it!
The dance was a blast. We learned it about a week or so prior to filming it. They had scheduled a rehearsal for myself, Garrett Clayton [who played Kenny’s crush], and the dancers with Fred Tallaksen, the choreographer, and set aside a 4 hour window for us to learn what I think is like a 30-45 second dance number. I don’t think they took into account our dance backgrounds. We finished learning and polishing it in 45 minutes, called the producers down to take a look and they were flabbergasted.

Are there any other issues within the gay community you’d particularly like the show to tackle?
Something I’ve always found fascinating is the unspoken rift between gay men and lesbians. I have plenty of friends who are lesbians, and I know lots of gay men do too, but I think there’s something interesting about the dichotomy. I’d love Kenny’s masculinity to be tested by a lesbian.

During the camping episode, I tweeted about Kenny’s Into the Woods references. Is it exciting for you as the writers add new gay aspects to Kenny’s personality — for example, enthusiasm for musical theater?
As an avid musical theater lover, I will — of course — jump at any chance to sing a little Sondheim. And as much as I love that the writers are willing to go there, something we’ve talked about a lot is not making Kenny a stereotypical caricature of a gay boy, as so many other TV shows have done with their own gay characters. It’s a fine line, and I think Kenny SHOULD have moments where he shows his true queeny colors, but it’s also important to normalize and show that he is not just a young Jack McFarland full of musical theater references but a teenage boy still trying to figure things out.

The show has had excellent guest stars so far. Is there anyone you were particularly excited about working with?
Our guest stars have been incredible, but someone I’m most excited by is Tim Gunn, who moderated our panel at the LGBT Community Center in NYC. He came on set and couldn’t stop saying how proud he was of what we were doing and how excited he was to be involved. He is not only remarkably well dressed, but [also] one of the kindest people I’ve ever met in this business.

In terms of your career, do you plan to make sure your next major film or tv role is a stark contrast to Kenny — i.e. straight rather than gay, dramatic rather than comedic, older rather than younger?
I have ZERO control over what my next job will be. I’m on this big TV show now, but I’m still the new kid on the block; nobody is throwing roles at me. I’m being extra picky in the auditions I do take, and I have a wonderful team of people looking out for me. It is something we talk about and I think about a lot, but who knows? I won’t know ’til I read that script and feel a connection with a certain character — be it gay, straight, old or young.

Real O'Neals

Have you ever received a Real O’Neal’s script and thought, “Wow — that might be going too far!” in terms of either the religious or gay content?
At a certain point fairly early on in the process, I was just getting to know the writers really well, and we received a script where Kenny got a little too bitchy, or sassy. Martha and I read it together and both thought it could be dialed down a bit, and when we had a conversation with the writers, it came out that they were having so much fun writing for Noah — who is 21 and out and has been for a long time — that they lost a little bit of 16 year old, wide-eyed, naive Kenny along the way. But that was a conversation that happened very early on and took a simple word change here and there. It’s a funny thing — creating these characters from scratch with SO many fingers in the pot. You really have to find a common ground, and I’d say we didn’t really find our groove till about 8 episodes in. TV is a strange beast.

As Kenny is in some way based on some of Dan Savage’s experiences growing up, I was wondering if you’d made a point of engaging with his work, particularly any in which he describes his boyhood?
Dan’s upbringing or personal experiences did not affect my portrayal of Kenny, [but] I have always been a fan of his writing. He has been a source of advice and all around good friend.

How will you be celebrating Gay Pride this year?

I’m hoping to be invited to NYC pride. I’ve gone a few times and have always had a blast, but I wanna be in the parade this year.

Real O'Neals

And now, more with co-creator David Windsor — discussing actors who are still reluctant to audition for gay roles and how he keeps his gorgeous cast from looking “too LA.”

METROSOURCE: Frances Conroy is such a goddess and so awesome in the episode where she plays the disapproving grandmother. Have you been tempted to insert more obvious villain characters like her into the show?
DAVID WINDSOR: I mean, it’s much more interesting than everyone getting along. What’s great about Frances and her character was that: Kenny and Eileen have [had] good conflict from the beginning of the series. And then the grandmother character was a great way to sort of heighten that even more. …. It also enabled us to show this other side of Eileen that we wanted to get to — which was that she doesn’t necessarily agree with her son being gay but her love for him trumps everything else. And having her mom come in and be the one who sort of holds up a mirror to her was very satisfying to us.

As someone who was raised a “good Catholic boy,” I thought Shannon questioning her Confirmation was beautifully done.
Oh, thank you. That actually came from Bebe [Wood]. One of our executive producers, Stacy Traub, was having a conversation with her on set one day. And she basically went through that, and said, “You know, I had a lot of questions about it when I was getting confirmed.” And [we thought], “Really? Oh, that’s a great story for Shannon!”

How much of Dan Savage’s story were you interested in using and how free did you feel to expand beyond it?
Dan’s life was a really good jumping off point for us. It was very unique, certainly, and interesting. We took a lot of the specifics from his life. For example, in the pilot, the Virgin Mary on the back of the toilet — that came from him — which we always thought was such a wonderfully specific thing to his mother, and it just sort of gave the show an extra special feel. But [show co-creator Casey Johnson] and I always felt total freedom to make it our own.

I was thinking about Martha Plimpton and Jay R. Ferguson — how they’re both so attractive in ways that defy more stereotypically schlubby sitcom Moms and Dads. Do you have to work against that?
The most important thing to us was to make it feel real and authentic. At the same time, we know that we’re making a television show with good-looking people. So I think we were constantly trying to sort of find that balance. I mean, I agree: Martha and Jay are very attractive people. I think that we sort of counteract that with how we dress them; they don’t wear flashy LA clothes.They’re very Midwestern/Chicago. I think that just feels more real. Casey, my writing partner, is from Indiana. So she brought a lot of her Midwestern-ness to it. And she was always on guard of making sure that it didn’t feel too LA.

Thus far, the fantasy sequences seem to have all come from inside Kenny’s head. Are you planning on creating any that reflect another character’s inner point of view?
No, the fantasies are always going to be Kenny’s. We found ourselves at some point in the [writer’s] room last year — we’d come up with something really great — and we’re like, “Oh, but Kenny’s not in this scene. That doesn’t make sense.” We wanted to stick to it just being him because we thought [otherwise] it might get a little muddy and confusing.

Do you think that a guest star showing up on The Real O’Neals is kind of a wink to the gay community — like, “Hey, guys, I’m on your side!”?
I think so. Maybe it’s even more than a wink. I think if people didn’t feel okay about the show and the message we were sending, they would politely decline. So I think just the mere fact that they’re coming on the show says a lot — that they want to be a part of something like this. It was very surprising to us [who would and would not audition] for some parts. Like in the last episode [of the season], without giving too much away, there’s another younger gay character that [shows up] and we found that not a lot of people would come in to read for it. We were really kind of shocked by that. We ended up getting somebody fantastic, but we didn’t have these huge marathon casting sessions because people just didn’t feel comfortable with it. Even in this day and age, in this town, in LA, that still happens. … But I am glad that people like Frances [Conroy] and Jimmy [Kimmel] and Tim Gunn – gosh — he was so wonderful, and to come moderate our panel [at the LGBT Center], too. And he’s been so supportive of the show, it’s just been great.

Last modified: July 27, 2017