Ian Novick plays gay at times playing straight in debut lead role
“The One” is a modest and endearing low budget comedy-drama about the romantic entanglements of three bright young New Yorkers. Daniel (Jon Prescott) is a self-proclaimed plain-vanilla straight guy — a college jock with a business school degree and a fiancée named Jen (Margaret Anne Florence).
As the film opens, however, he has just spent the night with Tommy (Ian Novick), a handsome and self-assured gay guy. Their intense fling has Daniel struggling with his sexuality and fearful he will be outed. Tommy, meanwhile, worries the affair will end with his heart being broken. To keep tabs on Daniel, he sets out to get closer to Jen — even going out on a blind date with one of her friends — and risks tipping his hand.
Despite characters who wear their hearts on their stylish sleeves, “The One” is quite likable. The film’s unassuming nature helps it over some of its rough spots — as when the story takes a contrived turn with Jen’s suspicions about Daniel’s sexuality. Novick is particularly ingratiating as Tommy, an achievement unfortunately unmatched by his co-star, Prescott, who plays Daniel too stiffly, always looking uncomfortable.
Writer/ director Caytha Jentis shows promise with “The One,” which scores interesting points about masculinity, sexuality, and identity on the way to a satisfying and appropriate ending.
In a recent interview, Novick, who is straight, spoke with Gay City News about playing gay in “The One,” his first film in a lead role.
Tommy “wants what he wants,” Novick explained of the role’s appeal. “He will do what he has to in order to get it. He wasn’t a passive character. He’s either hopelessly romantic or a total sociopath — not a dangerous one — but he believes his own narrative. He’s someone who never let the facts get in the way of a good story. I didn’t want to assign any noble aspects to him… Saints are excruciatingly boring to play.”
Tommy uses seduction and deception to pursue Daniel and perhaps steal him away from Jen, but Novick was determined that those behaviors not add up to one big gay cliché.
“Going super effeminate and dropping clues about his sexuality wouldn’t work in the story,” he said. “We made him charming and engaging. He just happens to be gay.”
Novick’s portrayal of Tommy is emblematic of the film’s attitude toward gender and sexuality. Much of the story shows Daniel struggling to get a handle on his sexual identity, even as Tommy plays straight to steer Jen’s attention away from his interest in her intended.
“I think Kinsey had it right,” Novick said about sexuality’s fluidity. “No one is completely one way or another. People lean toward one end of the scale, but I’ve met extremely effeminate straight men I’d swear on a stack of Bibles that they were gay. But they are married with three kids. And I’ve seen very masculine guys who are gay and don’t exhibit any stereotype. I think it’s a good choice not to rush to conclusions.”
The actor brought no “technique” to the job of playing Tommy.
“I have friends who are gay, and I see how they interact,” he said.
Regarding his love scenes with Prescott, he explained, “I did what I would do with a woman in terms of physical interaction, but I threw in a big bear hug with a double tap on the back.”
Novick said he, Prescott, and Florence developed good rapport over the course of rehearsals and shooting.
“When you are on a set and waiting around a lot, you talk and find out about the person,” he said. “You get to know them. When the cameras roll and you start working, your natural rapport bleeds over on screen. We got along on set. We were just two straight guys playing gay.”
Novick said he and Prescott particularly bonded while doing montage scenes where their characters are shown “making conversation.” They joked that audiences should read their lips.
As for whether Novick believes that there is “a one,” out there, he responded, “Personally, I think it exists. But I don’t know if it exists for everyone. You can fall for someone quickly, but making a relationship work is more than just the spark that gets you into the relationship. You see them and you fall in love, but then you see them drinking out of the carton!”
Directed by Caytha Jentis
Opens Oct. 7
Quad Cinema, 34 W. 13th St.