Fourteen years ago, Canadian actor Luke Macfarlane came out in the pages of The Globe and Mail.
Sitting down with the paper in Los Angeles, the then-28-year-old star of the ABC series Brothers & Sisters shifted nervously in his chair before saying publicly what his family and close friends already knew. “I don’t know what will happen professionally ... that is the fear, but I guess I can’t really be concerned about what will happen, because it’s my truth.”
What’s since happened to Macfarlane professionally has been, in that Hollywood way, wildly unpredictable. After wrapping five seasons of Brothers & Sisters, Macfarlane bounced around guest spots on network dramas, enjoyed a steady run on the Canadian sci-fi series Killjoys and earned a prominent place within the Hallmark cinematic universe (more on that in a moment). But on Sept. 30, Macfarlane is getting the big break he’s been working toward since that 2008 confession: Alongside comedian Billy Eichner, Macfarlane is the star of Bros, the first gay rom-com from a major studio featuring an entirely queer principal cast.
Playing a CrossFit-obsessed probate lawyer who shakes off his serial-hookup ways to start a relationship with Eichner’s lovably irritable podcaster, Macfarlane delivers the kind of immensely charming performance that makes you wonder why megaproducers like Judd Apatow (who helped make Bros) weren’t knocking down his door the past decade.
The day after Bros enjoyed a raucous world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, the London, Ont.-born Macfarlane sat down again with The Globe for a wide-ranging discussion about his career and the way the entertainment industry has, and hasn’t, embraced queer stories.
When you first spoke with The Globe, you said that you were “terrified” to come out. What was the aftermath of that interview?
The truth is that I don’t know. So much of our careers happen behind closed doors. It’s hard for any actor coming off 100 episodes of any show, and back then I was “Scotty” to a lot of people. It’s tangential, but it’s funny that a lot of my career opportunities were given to me by queer men. Jon Robin Baitz, who had seen me act in New York, was the creator of Brothers & Sisters and gave me the opportunity to play Scotty. But I’ll never know about the jobs that I didn’t get as a result of the interview.
In that same interview, you said you hoped that Scotty’s wedding to Matthew Rhys’s character Kevin on the show “can be part of the cultural fabric now.” That the storyline was the “beginning of more waves.” Fourteen years later, we’re only now getting a movie like Bros.
Working with someone like Billy [Eichner], who is really tuned into the culture, I’ve never had that superpower of being able to tell where it is going. I think we’ve come a tremendously long way, though. And I’m grateful that I’m still in the age category where I can be part of a movie like this. Ten more years, and I would’ve been too old to play this part.
How important was it to maintain your looks as you grew older?
My character in Bros has to look a certain way in order to move in society and have status. Looks are certainly a part of it. And I do think about the opportunities I’ve had to be the action star and how they’ve passed me by. I was lucky enough to do 50 episodes of Killjoys, but would that have been my time to do a Marvel movie? I don’t know.
You should have tweeted at Marvel Studios like Simu Liu did.
Is that what he did? [Laughs] But that’s a perfect example of the culture catching up to the time and somebody being beautifully teed up and ready to go. Simu has everything you need: He’s a brilliant actor, a handsome guy, and loads of charisma. You have to be ready to jump in when the opportunity comes. When I read the script for Bros, it was terrifying because I realized it was totally on me if I messed the audition up. So much of the story I wanted to tell was in this character.
It’s funny, I was just reading your interview Vanity Fair, which called your hometown of London a “small town” in Ontario.
We’re basically Mennonites, yes. I’m still on my Rumspringa.
Were your parents involved in the arts, though? Is that what led you to the Lester B. Pearson School for the Arts, and then Juilliard?
I remember reading plays as a kid, and going to the Grand Theatre in London when Martha Henry was running it, seeing The Glass Menagerie and other productions. I also went to Stratford. But I never understood who these people were. We didn’t have friends who were actors. It never felt like a thing that you could be. But my sister Rebecca is a gifted violinist, and she contemplated auditioning for Juilliard. When she got the prospectus book for Juilliard, I saw the drama section and realized, hey, maybe I could study this.
That’s the thing Canadian actors seem to have to make a decision about early: stay here, or leave.
It’s funny because later in my career, I’ve worked in Canada more and more, and I now understand the difficulty of coming down to the U.S. to get work. If you haven’t created those networks, it’s hard. I get asked all the time, “How do I get into the U.S.? How do I get an agent there?” Well, go to school there and build your connections that way.
The projects you’ve come here to shoot include a lot of Hallmark movies, like Christmas in My Heart and Chateau Christmas. Which makes the running gag in Bros spoofing those movies, like A Very Polyamorous Christmas, a crazy coincidence, given that the script was written before you were cast.
It’s going back to Billy having a finger on the pulse of what’s culturally funny, that zeitgeisty sort of sixth sense. I would’ve never thought when I did my first Hallmark movie seven years ago that I’d end up doing 13 of them. But I love every minute of it. They are romantic comedies, after all.
With Bros coming out, do you think the last Hallmark movie you filmed might be your last?
It’s hard to say. I had a multipicture deal with them, just like in the days of the old-fashioned studios. It gives you a security that most actors don’t have at all. But I’ve been talking with them about developing ideas, like original rom-coms. That’s what’s so rewarding about working with Hallmark. They do start to treat you like the star that you haven’t been treated like in certain places.
This interview has been condensed and edited
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