"I'm not going to keep my mouth closed anymore," says T.R. Knight. After more than a week of conversations--in person, by phone, by e-mail--that's the defining statement from the actor who's at the center of the storm of controversy that for the last nine months has engulfed ABC's Greys Anatomy.
From Knight, that's a lot. Speaking out doesn't come easily for him. Raised in Minnesota, he is naturally reserved and averse to talking about himself. "Don't get too big for your britches," he was warned as a boy, and he's always taken that to heart. Why would anyone care about him, much less what he thinks?
But if you saw Knight on TV at this year's GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles, you can't shake the memory of the warm applause that became a standing ovation, his abashed demeanor in the spotlight, and his simple moment of truth. "I'm angry," he said--and paused, caught up in emotion. "I'm very angry at the inequality we face every day."
That anger, it seems, is one reason the press-shy Knight decided to sit down with The Advocate to give his first in-depth interview since coming out October 19 in a statement released to People magazine.
My first meeting with T.R. is over sushi at a Los Angeles restaurant of his choosing. He's late but scores points for politeness when he calls to apologize. He eventually arrives, literally running around the corner. He's coming from a workout session, something he began in earnest this year. His hair is mussed, and he looks rumpled and disarming. His fume isn't the stalkerazzi kind: Although people sometimes glance at him from other tables, no one interrupts us.
Knight is clearly not accustomed to being interviewed. He is a charmingly awkward talker who pauses and frets over his words, stumbling over his sentences and backtracking repeatedly before apologizing for his verbal clumsiness. An innocuous question about what his parents do for a living results in a five-minute explanation of why he doesn't want to discuss that.
At first, his answers are vague and nonspecific (perhaps an unintended result of spending a good chunk of his life in the closet professionally). At times trying to get any specific, personal information out of him feels like dealing with a skittish horse: Move too quickly and he might bolt. And soon he does--he excuses himself to go walk his dog, assuring me that he knows we aren't done talking yet. I hope he means it.
For a self-effacing guy, Knight has a job that's about as public as they come--he stars as Dr. George O'Malley in ABC's hit drama Greys Anatomy, a show that's often the number 1-rated television drama and is sot to spin off another series in the fall. From the outset, Grey's has won points as progressive television, not just for its color-blind casting but also for its attitudes toward women and other minorities. Like gays.
Knight wasn't at the GLAAD Awards in April just to collect applause. He was representing Grey's, nominated for Outstanding Individual Episode for "Where the Boys Are." (The episode won.) Ironically, it was during the filming of that episode--which touched on both gay and transgender issues--that cast member Isaiah Washington got into an argument with actor Patrick Dempsey and referred to an unnamed fellow actor as a "faggot." The blogosphere immediately began to speculate about whom Washington meant, but before rumors could spread in earnest, Knight ended the guessing game with this statement to People: "I guess there have been a few questions about my sexuality, and I'd like to quiet any unnecessary rumors that may be out there. While I prefer to keep my personal life private, I hope the fact that I'm gay isn't the most interesting part of me." Thus began Knight's roller-coaster ride.
Knight readily admits he'd had no intention of coming out professionally. People counseled him to keep quiet, and if he had, the 34-year-old believes, the questions would have died down as quickly as they arose. …