Bye bye, Mr. American Pie. Starring opposite Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss in a Broadway revival of Wendy Wasserstein’s The Heidi Chronicles, which opens March 19, Jason Biggs has been showing his true colors since long before Orange Is the New Black. Just ask his Twitter followers.
By Brandon Voss
The Advocate: You famously went full frontal for American Reunion. Do you think that gained or lost you gay fans?
Jason Biggs: [Laughs] It was risky, yeah, but I believe the response was mostly positive. I took great care to present myself in an attractive way. It was done for a joke, so I wasn’t trying to be Michael Fassbender, but I also knew it would be out there forever.
How did you take great care?
Well, I like to keep myself groomed. Knowing that scene was coming, I thought I’d better groom down there. I didn’t want to go too short, because I didn’t think Jim, my character, would be shaved completely, but Jason didn’t want to show full bush to the world. I had to find a compromise. Two weeks out, I addressed it. So I’m shaving, doing my business, and I must’ve lost concentration, because I shaved a huge chunk of hair out. I was like, “Oh, shit.” Basically, I had to shave the whole thing off and pray that, in two weeks time, I would have some hair down there. I was freaked that Jim would have this porno-shaved pubic region that would make no sense. Fortunately, because of my Italian bloodline, the hair grew back fairly quickly, and I think it ended up perfect — the happy middle ground I was looking for.
How conscious are you of the LGBT audience?
Twitter has changed the game in terms of fan interaction, and I have noticed more love from the LGBT community because it’s not my usual audience. For so many years, it was mostly teenagers and college kids who’d recognize me. After Orange Is the New Black, that all changed. My wife and I will be walking through the Village in downtown New York, and a group of lesbians will come up to me, freaking out. It’s awesome.
Do you hear from gay male admirers?
Yes, and it’s totally flattering. I love it. When girls say I’m cute, I almost don’t believe it. If a guy tells me I’m cute, I’m like, “Oh, really? Wow, OK!” For some reason, I trust it more.
What was your introduction to the LGBT community?
My father’s brother, my only uncle, is gay. I have a small family, so he was and is a prominent player in our lives. He had a boyfriend for a long time that we loved like another member of our family.
You’ve also been in show business since you were a little kid.
Yeah, I worked with a lot of gay people. Because of my uncle, it was never strange to me — it was just organically, naturally a part of my life. I remember gay people being a major presence when I did a play on Broadway called Conversations With My Father in 1992. There was one guy in particular who worked in the costume department. I just loved him. He was such a good guy. After we finished the play, I ran into someone else from the costume department, and I was like, “How’s David?” I found out that he had passed away from AIDS. That was my first experience of knowing someone who passed away from AIDS. It really hit me. That’s when I understood that AIDS was no joke.
You’ve been supportive of LGBT rights on Twitter, often making jokes at the expense of things like Chick-fil-A and Russia’s antigay laws.
There’s a handful of issues that, even before Twitter, I’ve had no problem expressing my opinions on, and gay rights is one of them. Whenever someone of note makes a comment in support of equality, it’s great. I believe it’s more impactful if it can be phrased in a way that’s a bit more memorable, like with a joke. I try to find the humor in every situation, but I also believe you’re more likely to be heard if you’re funny. It’s absurd that gay rights are something we have to fight for, so there are plenty of jokes to be made. Everyone can appreciate a joke. Well, for the most part.
You took flak for tweets about The Bachelor that seemed to use “gay” as an insult.
That stemmed from a running commentary I had with a gay friend about how all Bachelorette contestants were gay. If anyone was offended, I regret that, because it’s not at all a reflection of my true feelings. Twitter is me, sure, but it’s a version of me. Listen, my tweets sometimes have feeling behind them, like my tweets on gay rights, but for the most part I’m just making jokes. I’ve definitely learned some lessons about how they can be taken out of context, so I know I need to be careful.
You played a heightened version of yourself in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. James Van Der Beek accuses you of being homophobic because you have a habit of saying, “That is so gay.” Was that based on any truth?
I don’t think so. We improvised a lot of that scene, but I think Kevin Smith might’ve come up with the gay stuff. As a kid, I probably said, “That’s gay,” but that’s one of those weird phrases that became part of the vernacular. When you tell kids what it actually means, they’re like, “What? Oh.”
Aside from outing Bachelorette hopefuls, you’ve tweeted jabs at Anderson Cooper, Ricky Martin, and other gay men who spent a significant part of their careers in the closet. John Travolta has been another target. Jokes aside, what are your thoughts on closeted celebrities?
I can’t imagine how difficult it must be, especially if you feel like your career and livelihood depend upon you not being gay. This industry is weird. I just hope they can one day be comfortable and confident enough to come out. The more actors who come out, the less of an issue it will be. Look at Neil Patrick Harris, who came out and also continues to play straight characters. I think guys like Anderson, Zachary Quinto, and Jim Parsons have shown that it’s not that big a fucking deal. Those guys are doing better than ever. Jim’s on the biggest show in the world. So come out, everybody! Do your thing. You’re certainly going to get more respect from me, and I think that’s the case everywhere. So what if you lose a few people in middle America or on the far religious right? That said, I know it’s not an easy decision to make, and I don’t envy their position.
Orange Is the New Black has educated and enlightened mainstream audiences on LGBT issues. Besides the subject matter, you’re working with openly lesbian and trans actors. How has the show educated or enlightened you?
On transgender issues, more than anything. Laverne Cox is just an incredible person. She was on the cover of Time, as I’m sure you know. It’s impressive how much Laverne has, almost single-handedly in the last year, raised awareness of transgender issues. It’s almost like she’s using acting as a platform to help educate people, and that’s inspiring. It’s amazing just to be around Laverne and the gay members of the cast, but we also have Latinas, black people, Asian people, and that extends to our writers and crew. It’s fun. Our set feels like the most diverse little spot in all of New York, which is one of the most diverse places in the world. I feel really proud to be a part of it.
Did you see the Watch What Happens Live! video in which Laverne explained why she could never marry you?
Yes, because of the Biggs-Cox wedding invitations, and she’s absolutely right. I get it. My only disappointment there is that I didn’t think of it first.
Your Orange Is the New Black character, Larry, found himself in the very active steam room of a gay bathhouse last season. Was that educational?
Yeah, there were a lot of penises out. [Laughs] We filmed that over at a gym in Chelsea. We brought extras in, of course, but it’s a gym where it wouldn’t be unlikely for that scene to transpire, from what I understand. Those guys were very comfortable with themselves. The wardrobe people would come around between takes, but they were in no rush to cover up. Look, there’s nothing that makes me uncomfortable. That scene was hilarious — the fact that Larry’s dad would have a Groupon for that place? If it’s in the right context and everything feels earned, there’s nothing I won’t do.
You wore nothing but a towel for that scene, but you’ve often stripped for things like a PETA PSA and a fake Magic Mike audition tape. Where does that body confidence come from?
Well, all of the times I’ve put my body on display, it’s always been in the context of a joke. That’s where the comfort comes from. If I feel like I’m getting a laugh, I’m OK with it. If you asked me to do a proper, romantic sex scene, that’s when I would be uncomfortable — especially if I wasn’t in particularly great shape, which is most of the time.
In Orange Is the New Black, Larry discovers that Piper, his fiancé, had a serious lesbian relationship before him. How did you feel when you learned that your own wife, actress and author Jenny Mollen, had previously dated a woman for six months?
I thought it was sexy. It speaks to Jenny’s desire to experience everything. When Larry first finds out, Piper chalks it up to a phase. At this point in the series, we see that it’s maybe more than just an experiment for Piper — we don’t know how it’s going to play out. For Jenny, it really was just a phase, an experiment. But, you know, she probably wouldn’t be opposed to it if that situation came up again.
Did you have a period of sexual experimentation?
I cannot say that I have. Like Jenny, I want to try it all, but I think I draw the line at same-sex relationships. I’ve just never had those desires.
What do you remember about playing “Baby Glenn,” a gay man famous for falling down a hole, in an episode of Will & Grace?
I had a blast, but I was very nervous. When you play a gay character, the worst thing you can do is be stereotypically over the top. I didn’t want to insult anyone or look like I was making fun.
You must’ve had similar concerns playing someone pretending to be gay in the rom-com Over Her Dead Body.
Exactly. All the other characters had to believe I was gay, so I had to think about what this straight guy would do to pretend he was gay. A lot of thought went into that performance. [Laughs] It was way too much acting for a movie like that!
You’re due for another gay role, no?
I think so too. It’s been a while. I’m totally ready.
There are two male parts in The Heidi Chronicles. I was disappointed to find out that you’re not playing the gay one on Broadway.
I know, I know. Honestly, both those guy roles are incredible, and it would’ve been quite fun to play Peter, the gay role, but Bryce Pinkham is going to crush it. He was so good in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. But you know what? If you’ve got two male roles, and one of the guys is named Scoop Rosenbaum, I think I know which role you’re going to put Jason Biggs in.
Your smooch with Seann William Scott in American Pie 2 won an MTV Movie Award for best kiss. Is that a proud moment?
For sure. People usually ask if I was embarrassed to do things like that — pie-fucking, kissing Seann — but the truth is that I loved it. Those ridiculous scenes only work if you totally go for it, so I am proud of that.
You both had to act like that kiss was the grossest thing ever. I imagine it was actually quite pleasant.
Listen, if I had to go there, who better to do it with than Seanny? He was a good kisser. That kissing scene was, like, a whole day of shooting, so we kissed all day. In one take I gave him tongue. I must’ve been in the moment. I really liked when I brought up my hand to bring his face in, and that ended up in the movie.
Do you have a dude crush?
I have a few of them, to tell you the truth. You know who I really like? Mark Ruffalo. He’s got this rugged thing and a good vibe going on. I don’t know him personally, but feel like I like him as a person and for what he stands for. Also, Billy Crudup is amazing. I had a dude crush on him when we worked together on The 24 Hour Plays. He’s quite a sweetheart — and pretty easy to look at.
Have you ever had to squash gay rumors?
Not in my career. When I was maybe 13 or 14, my younger sister literally sat my parents down to say, in all seriousness, “I think Jason is gay.” I was like, What?! She said, “Look at him. He’s in the theater, he doesn’t have a girlfriend, he loves going to Fire Island with his uncle. It all adds up.”
The Advocate, February/March 2015 issue; extended online version.