The Words of Jesse Archer
He has plenty to say and lots of ways to share it – acting, producing and writing. “My ‘vivid’ mouth has gotten me in lots of trouble,” he says.
“Every story begins with an idea. Then you’ve got to figure out how that idea begins and ends,” observes the gifted actor, writer, and producer Jesse Archer. “Filling in the middle is the fun part.”
Archer’s work is renowned among LGBT audiences. Two of his newer projects — Going Down in LA-LA Land and Eating Out 4: Drama Camp — were sought-after tickets at summer film festivals all over the country. At the same time, Violet Tendencies, the film he made last year, was released on DVD.
Most recently, this trailblazer co-wrote and starred in Half Share — a sitcom pilot involving a group of gay friends at a summer house on Fire Island.
“I wrote it with my buddy Sean Hanley,” he says, beaming proudly. “It also stars Alec Mapa from Ugly Betty and Jack Plotnick from Girls Will Be Girls. It’s hilarious!”
Archer, who in many ways personifies the spirit of gay pride and freedom, came from decidedly more conservative beginnings.
“Would you believe I was ‘made in Taiwan’?” Archer says. “My parents were Christian missionaries over there. So I guess from then to now, I’ve come farther than a Virginia Slim, baby!”
Raised in Beaverton, Ore., he said that once high school rolled around, it became difficult to ignore who he really was, despite his best efforts to fit in.
“I ran track and cross-country, got straight As, wrote for the school paper and took drama. My favorite was swim team, though, for obvious reasons,” he says with a wink, then takes a slightly more somber tone. “In Beaverton High School, I did everything I could to not think about how I was different — I guess that was my first performance.”
Archer took time out to travel after graduating from the University of Southern California, and his first book, You Can Run: Gay, Glam, and Gritty Travels in South America (Haworth Press, 2007), is based on some of these experiences. Among the places he has visited are Paris, Capetown, Buenos Aires, and even Kansas City.
“I had the most fun there ever one road trip,” he said.. “It was on the way to South Dakota. All I remember is green apple vodka mixed with Squirt, two guitar-playing lesbians, and a Dolly Parton drag queen — NOT in that order!”
Eventually, he found himself in New York City’s East Village, where he met another up-and-comer by the name of Casper Andreas. That was the beginning of a professional pairing that seems like an independent filmmakers’ match made in heaven. Initially though, their association ventured to be … different.
“Would you believe we went on a date?” Archer said. “He took me up to the Twin Towers, just about a week before they fell. We joke that 9/11 was analogous to our romantic life -- or at least I do. Casper would never joke about 9/11!”
For his part, Andreas calls his pal “a force of nature” and says he is “one of the first people I turn to for advice on a script, an early film cut, or life in general. As an actor he is fearless; as a writer, he’s brilliant!”
Together they wrote the gay romantic comedy Slutty Summer and its sequel of sorts, A Four Letter Word. Then in 2010, Archer produced, co-starred, and wrote the franchise’s third offering, Violet Tendencies. He played the flippant, flamboyant Luke in all three. Unashamedly libidinal and outspoken about it, Luke also seems to be having more fun than anyone else!
Going Down in LA-LA Land is expected to open theatrically in early 2012, followed shortly thereafter by its release onto DVD and VOD. It tells the story of a sexy stud (played by Matthew Ludwinski) who moves to Hollywood to become an actor and finds other “opportunities.”
“I‘m his first boss — an evil, bitchy queen who basically drives him headlong into porn,” Archer says with a laugh.
This man of many talents is likewise responsible for the column “Jesse on the Brink,” a kind of Sex and the City-esque exploration of urban gay life that appeared in the pages of OUT magazine until 2010.
“I still write the blog version though,” he clarifies, “and also have written for The Advocate online.”
Even the quickest perusal of his numerous articles shows that he does not take the easy way out — or, necessarily, the politically correct way — in the stories he tells.
“My ‘vivid’ mouth has gotten me in lots of trouble,” he acknowledges, “but I try to say what I mean and mean what I say despite the consequences or the possibility of my intention being misunderstood. My philosophy is, if you are easily shocked, you need to be shocked a whole hell of a lot more often!”
One explanation for such a viewpoint might come from his “surviving the spiritual terrorism that came with coming out,” which he counts as both the greatest challenge and the greatest triumph he’s ever experienced. Anyone who has read his column knows that the struggle has given him a strength of integrity. He’s particularly candid where it concerns gays’ and lesbians’ efforts for equality.
“The gay community is really at a crossroads these days,” he said. “There are those who want to go mainstream and those who want to remain ‘on the edge,’ so to speak.”
Archer says that being part of the LGBT community shouldn’t require one to think any one way.
“There are no behavior requirements,” he says. “The problem I see is when some of us tell the rest of us we need to behave a certain way in order to gain equality. Essentially, it’s Stockholm syndrome, when you identify so strongly with your oppressor. … This remains the biggest, most insidious threat facing us.”
His movies feature vivid and varied types of gay relationships.
“I really do like it when an audience has to read between the lines,” Archer says, adding “I also try to live this as a person – I’m a realist, totally and 100 percent.”
In fact, this outlook has inspired some of his most innovative work.
“I grew up without any seeing any gay representation on film, TV or real life,” Archer said. “So I hope audiences are entertained, but I also hope there may be someone out there who’ll watch and not feel quite as alone as I did. I think making people feel less alone is the only thing at all worth doing.”
For more information about Half-Share and to watch the trailer, check out www.half-share.com. For more about Archer’s latest endeavors, check out www.jesseonthebrink.com.