Nick Pugliese believes Americans on both sides of the political aisle can learn a few things from the film “Dramarama.”
“Dramarama,” which opened in theaters last week and is also available for virtual viewing, stars Pugliese as Gene, a high school drama geek and an alter ego of sorts for the film’s writer-director, Jonathan Wysocki. The dramedy takes place in Escondido, California, a conservative-leaning town located about 31 miles north of San Diego, circa 1994.
“It’s about a group of friends who are all across the board politically, religiously, spiritually ― and they talk about it,” the actor, who is making his film acting debut, told HuffPost. “They argue about sex, AIDS, pregnancy, gay people … and they’re still as close as ever. They have conversations where they know they’re going to disagree, and they’re fine. Their bond is made stronger. That’s something I feel like we, as a country, have forgotten how to do.”
Catch the “Dramarama” trailer above.
The coming-of-age film begins with Gene trying to calm his nerves before he comes out as gay to his friends at a murder mystery-themed sleepover party shortly before graduation. Things, however, don’t go exactly as planned.
Unbeknownst to Gene, each of his pals is also grappling with an adolescent crisis of their own. Rose (Anna Grace Barlow) is exhibiting over-the-top theatrical antics that mask her self-doubt, while Claire (Megan Suri) seems to be harboring a secret. The handsome Oscar (Nico Greetham) professes to be straight ― so why does his gaze seem to linger on Gene in their one-on-one moments?
In his interview with HuffPost, Pugliese said his teen years were vastly different from those of his “Dramarama” character. The 25-year-old actor grew up in California’s Bay Area, where he was drawn to the performing arts from the get-go. His family and friends also embraced him when he came out as gay. Still, he instantly related to Gene and sees his character arc in “Dramarama” as universal.
“I honestly just felt like I understood him,” Pugliese said. “It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, that was the 1990s, everybody hated gay people then and now everyone loves them.’ There are still places in the U.S., even in California, that still think that way.”
“Most people, when they’re learning about themselves and coming to terms with their own sense of self … there’s some part of them that still wants to hide,” he added. “It was just this gut feeling of ‘I can play this, I can do this, I know this,’ which doesn’t happen very often.”
Now that “Dramarama” is out in the world, Pugliese is eager to continue acting, but he’s also turned to writing as COVID-19 continues to affect the film industry. During the pandemic, he and his “Dramarama” co-star Danielle Kay wrote and starred in the short film “Thank You for Being Here,” which premiered at Los Angeles’ Outfest last month and will continue to make the film festival rounds.
Pugliese has long admired the likes of Michaela Coel and Christoph Waltz, whose behind-the-scenes talents are just as impressive as those seen in front of the camera. And if Pugliese has his way, “Dramarama” will pave the way for more LGBTQ-inclusive stories in film that don’t feel specifically issue-driven.
“I want queer characters at the center of every genre,” the actor said. “We haven’t had a heist movie where the robber is a queer character. We haven’t had a psychological thriller with a queer character, nor a crime drama.”
“I want queer lenses on everything,” he added. “Not just a particular queer experience.”
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