'Love, Simon' Breakout Keiynan Lonsdale Talks LGBTQ Representation in Hollywood & Kissing His Co-Star
Love, Simon has captured the hearts of critics and audiences alike as Hollywood’s first mainstream queer coming-of-age comedy. And while the film’s titular star, Nick Robinson, has been making the press circuit, from everywhere like a guest stint on Ellen to a GQ profile, it’s one of his co-stars who likely finds the story’s gay storyline a bit more relatable. Warning: major spoilers ahead.
Keiynan Lonsdale, who is revealed as the mysterious Blue (the online love interest of Robinson’s character) has his own IRL coming out story. Though he prefers not to label his sexuality, Lonsdale has found himself attracted to men and women. He talked to Billboard about the pros and cons of labels, his upcoming music project and what it was like kissing Nick Robinson: “It was a good scene. I can safely say it went well.”
Billboard: First of all, I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times, but Love, Simon is beautiful. I didn't realize I was capable of crying in a theater, but there I was. Did you cry when you saw the final product?
Keiynan Lonsdale: Yeah, I cried the first time I saw it, but I was mostly just pretty speechless. Obviously, I was in it and read the script, but then seeing it come to life, I was in shock.
I think realizing that I had never watched a film with that much representation. And it also felt like it was told in such a way that Greg [Berlanti] had stepped into my life, and these characters had stepped into my life, and they knew everything about me. It really captured all of these feelings and that yearning when you've gone through that struggle.
And you would know! You recently came out as bisexual. Can you tell me about that process?
Yeah. I actually don't label myself, but… Some people call me queer, some people call me bisexual, whatever it is now, I'm happy with all of it 'cause it all sort of represents me, in a way. I spent a majority of my life in the closet. I knew I was attracted to both [genders], but I was really repressing any kind of genuine feeling I had for guys. It just became really painful. At some point, I came out to a lot of friends and some family, but then I went back in the closet when I started working as an actor in America.
Then I realized in order for me to fully embrace myself, if I really wanted to grow as a person, then I needed to just let go of any kind of shame that I had. And the best way to do that was just to be out publicly. Then it was done. It wasn't something I'd ever have to hide again.
I apologize for mislabeling you. There seems to be a trend with the younger generation, where they don't want to put a label on their sexuality. Can you speak to why you don't want to label yourself?
I think it's because most days I wake up and I feel different than what I did the day before. I could wake up and I might have no attraction to guys that day or that week, for whatever reason, or then for three months, I may not be interested in a girl at all, or I may not be interested in anyone. For any kind of label, you then feel like if you do wake you and you do feel different, but you've boxed yourself in and everyone is saying you have to be this way. You're also sort of in another kind of closet where you're not able to fully explore that genuine freedom of that moment because you feel like you're not supposed to because you said that you're just one specific way. For me, personally, I think that's what it is. It's just allowing people to be people.
That said, I do definitely believe that labels are important. It's incredible to have a community for people to identity with. It goes both ways.
That’s so genuinely interesting. And there's so many people like you that kind of feel that way. I think it’s kind of how culture is shifting as we really start to understand sexuality and gender. Earlier, you mentioned that you went back into the closet when you started acting in America. What made you come to that decision?
I had come out in Australia. I'd only been out for like six months before I booked Insurgent. It was my first role in America and it was a huge movie franchise. All I'd ever hear at the time was how Hollywood treated gay men or queer men, so I was, like, "Well, I'm not going to shoot myself in the foot before I've even started life here," you know?
Also, I didn't even wanna think about my sexuality. I was so nervous to be on set and be with all these talented people that I didn't want it to be a topic of conversation. I just wanted to focus on the work, but then when you do that, you ultimately sort of start lying in different ways. It was all part of the journey and it just took me a little time to figure out.
So in Love, Simon, you play a queer role, which is exciting. There's then a lot of online debate about queer actors being passed over for queer roles. Do you think Hollywood has a responsibility to cast more LGBTQ actors in these roles?
I think, in general, straight actors should be able to play queer roles just as much as queer actors should be able to play straight roles. I think the reason why the debate is there is because we haven't had enough queer actors being cast in anything. People are in need of that representation in general. Overall, an actor's job is to immerse themselves in something that they're not. I think it's just finding an organic balance, and, ultimately, if the casting director was to cast a film based upon feeling and the talent and who was right for the role, it would end up being an intersection of both sexuality and different kinds of people, just because that's what life is.
This movie is groundbreaking as the first gay teen love story produced by a major studio. I think it’s going to be remembered. What does it mean for you to be a part of that?
It's pretty surreal, obviously. Especially while I was in the closet, I never thought that something like this could exist. So my life has sort of come full circle. It's made me very confident in my journey. I grew up wanting to be fixed and wanting to be changed. Now I realize that it was exactly who I was supposed to be, and now I'm fortunate enough to represent that road for a lot of other people questioning themselves.
So, I have a really obnoxious question, but...journalism! Is Nick Robinson a good kisser?
[Laughs.] We did the kiss, I swear, over 20 times. It was a good scene. I can safely say it went well.
What was it like working with him? Are you still friends?
Yeah, with the whole cast, I really felt welcome straightaway. I started a little later than them, because I was still filming on Flash. I missed the rehearsals and everything, which made me more nervous, but they were so cool. Nick is such a lovely, sweet guy and I think he really brought us all together as a cast, actually, and that can be a difficult thing to do, so I'm very thankful.
That's great. So, I'm told you have new music in the works. What can you tell me about it?
Yeah, I've been working and writing my debut album for a while and I'm focusing a lot on music this year. I'm releasing a single really soon, something that I feel like I was always supposed to write and I'm just excited for people to hear the new stuff I have to share.
The album will be mostly pop, but at the same time, I love R&B and electronic and I'm trying to… I guess it's the same thing. I sort of don't even wanna label it, because I just wanna make music. I think ultimately when I'm creating it, I'm not thinking what genre it's in. I'm just going to make the music and go from there.