Up-and-coming Tyler Ross :: Nate of ’Nate and Margaret’
After quite a successful run on the gay film festival circuit, "Nate and Margaret" is now available on DVD. The film, directed and written by Nathan Adloff is a charming story of two friends who happen to have a significant age difference. Budding actor Tyler Ross portrays Nate, a young gay man who finds friendship with his neighbor lady Margaret (Natalie West). Can their friendship survive as Nate is led down the pathway to his first gay relationship?
The film is not one to overtly play into the "gay" syndrome used by some filmmakers. "Nate and Margaret" makes it clear in a very matter-of-fact way that Nate is gay. The major focus of the film is the qualities that make up a friendship and the strength of two people who enjoy being together. Nate’s blossoming sexuality is important here as to how it affects the end results, yet it’s not crucial to the storytelling.
23-year-old Tyler Ross spoke with EDGE about landing the role of "Nate" and what his perspective is on being a straight actor in a gay role. He also gets to the heart of this friendship between Nate and Margaret while sharing a few memories from the time of filming. Tyler Ross is grounded in his belief for gay rights in general and his thoughts on starring in "Nate and Margaret" are refreshing, truthful and commendable to hear... as gay-themed films move forward.
Good role is a good role
EDGE: As an actor and young adult, your career path has placed you in two independent gay-themed films, ’The Wise Kids’ and now your starring role in ’Nate and Margaret.’ Obviously, a good role is a good role, but how do you feel personally about this direction?
Tyler Ross It’s funny because when I set out to do these films, I really didn’t have any planning on necessarily going in this direction. It so happened that these were the roles that were available, were interesting and were offered. I thought in both cases, they were worth doing. Whether or not they were gay, that wasn’t even a factor to me. I obviously don’t mind playing gay as a straight actor. Honestly, the most important thing to me is how I feel about the project as a whole.
I don’t know exactly what people think. I think that people might assume that I’m a gay actor. Actually, I’m almost like, ’Assume away, for now.’ When they’re watching the movie, I don’t want them to go, ’Oh. It’s a straight actor playing a gay role.’ I want them to buy the story so if that is something that would distract from that, obviously that would be a problem. Does that mean I want to keep playing only gay roles? No.
EDGE: Right. For these two films, did one lead to the other in some way or did the films involve some of the same people?
Tyler Ross What happened was I moved to Chicago three years ago to pursue acting full-time. Even though I had been acting, that’s what really set it off. Both films were cast out of Chicago. So, one film did lead to the other. I was cast in ’The Wise Kids’ and we shot in Charleston but most of the big roles came out of Chicago, where the filmmaker lived.
Stephen Cone, the writer and director of ’The Wise Kids’ ended up showing a rough cut of the film to some of his filmmaking friends in Chicago. Nathan Adloff, another gay filmmaker in Chicago, had been writing a script and was getting ready to start casting, saw the rough cut and asked for my information. He contacted me and sent a script and asked me to consider an audition.
No big deal
EDGE: That’s good news, seriously.
Tyler Ross I was happy about it.
EDGE: What appealed to you right off the bat about the script for ’Nate and Margaret?’
Tyler Ross It wasn’t something that I had seen before. I’m sure you heard this before but the relationship reminded me of ’Harold and Maude’ a little bit with the younger guy and the older woman. That friendship was what intrigued me the most. To be able to play one half of that friendship and with Natalie West of all people was something really enticing. On top of all that, it didn’t focus on the homosexuality really. It’s there and inherent to the story but it could have easily been a heterosexual character.
EDGE: The most crucial element is the friendship and in that regards, the relationship could easily have been switched to a heterosexual male instead of you as a gay man. The way the film is written, Nate being gay is a natural thing. It’s not overtly brought to light. You’re just a person.
Tyler Ross Exactly. That’s what I wanted to pull out of it. I came from a Southern Baptist home and was raised Christian and was very sheltered. Then I really got heavily involved in theater and moved to Chicago and I became friends with a lot of openly gay people. I didn’t even know a lot of openly gay people back in Florida.
My compassion for the community really grew once I realized how much they went through and how much oppression really is going on. I was never able to see the difference between... I was taught that homosexuality was a sin but I always tried to understand it rather than to judge. I think I realized, especially when I got to know people myself that what I’d been previously taught wasn’t so true to me anymore. It was how much I thought it was a choice. That’s something I couldn’t wrap my head around is, ’Why anyone would choose to be this oppressed?’ It got to the point where it was like ’Oh. This is my mistake growing up.’ To be taught that there was something like that and that somehow, that sets them apart and it was a choice they’re making.
’Nate and Margaret’ was really refreshing in that regard. It never really establishes that people are treated differently. Nate says, ’I came from a small town and couldn’t be open about it.’ But, in the community that he’s living in, I love the way in which the story is told and that the relationship between Nate and Margaret is really the core part of the story. That helps to push that mindset that there is no difference here. There is a difference but it’s one that should not be a big deal.
EDGE: ’Nate and Margaret’ is part of a new breed in gay-themed films where it isn’t about party boys on a romp or a script where the sexuality of the character is shoved in your face. I think directors are learning to address homosexuality in a more natural way.
Tyler Ross Yeah, right! That’s the kind of mindset that sticks out in my mind that I appreciate and want to help further. Interesting because it doesn’t directly state it and that’s what I like about the movie.
EDGE: As an actor preparing for this role, did you think, ’Why are these two people friends?’
Tyler Ross I think they both serve a purpose in each other’s lives. They each fill a role that no one else really does. The friendship just made sense. I think Nate was just naïve and didn’t have a lot of friends right away. Margaret seemed really nice and they were looking for companionship and they found it in each other in a totally non-sexual way but in a very real and strong way.
EDGE: There are two crucial scenes in the film. There’s a scene where you get angry at Margaret and the one scene where you offer an apology. Which scene if either... was more difficult to portray as an actor?
Tyler Ross I definitely have an answer for that! It’s so funny you asked me that. One was definitely harder than the other. The hard one was yelling at her (laughter). It was at the end of a long, long day and that was the last scene we did. Natalie and I were exhausted and here I had to ’rip her a new one’ basically in multiple takes. We got through two or three of them and we got it. It was hard for me to get through all the words without breaking down and really mean what I was saying without just losing it.
When it came to the ’apology’ scene, it was like effortless to go into tears. It was one of the easiest scenes to ’go there.’ It was easier to apologize. I really didn’t want her to be sad or mad at me.
EDGE: The chemistry between Natalie and you is quite natural and real.
Tyler Ross The way we talked to each other [off-camera] was very similar to the way they talked to each other in the film. I had met Natalie before but now the way we talk together, it’s almost like we are friends. It’s weird. The age difference and experience difference is all there but it’s not really the thing and doesn’t get in the way. We talk to each other on the same level if that makes sense and I have some fond memories. Occasionally, we would share a ride to a location or just sit and chat while they were setting up a scene. It was really nice.
For more on "Nate and Margaret",visit the film’s website,
Watch the trailer to slug>"Nate and Margaret":