With his piercing eyes, buff body and charming smile, Paolo Andino may not look like the typical comedic actor—but he is one reason that people have been raving about the second season of Logo's The Big Gay Sketch Show ( which came out on DVD April 29; $26.99 ) . Andino—who, among other characters, plays muscular UPS man Naldo—recently talked with Windy City Times about the show, coming out and Tina Fey.
Windy City Times: Congratulations on a very funny season. People have said that the second season is funnier than the first.
Paolo Andino: Thank you. I'd like to attribute that to my involvement in it.
WCT: Oh, of course. [ Both laugh. ]
PA: You know, the first season was when the growing pains happened. There was so much that needed to be okayed by the network. When the second season came, they gave us a blank slate and said, 'Do whatever you want.' That first season we did what we needed to do, which was to get that go-ahead. We had to do the sketches for the suits the first year, so how unfunny can you possibly get doing sketches in somebody's office for approval?
WCT: And I understand that two of you were brought in for the second season: you and Colman Domingo.
PA: Yeah, me and Colman. Curiously enough, we both have the same agent and we were both in the same episode of Law and Order, where he played a prosecuting attorney and I played a policeman.
WCT: And you didn't keep any props from that show?
PA: [ Laughs ] No. They're very protective of their stuff.
WCT: So how surreal has [ the success of ] the second season of The Big Gay Sketch Show been?
PA: It's been great. I say that the learning curve for me has been a straight line going up; every day was just so many things that I had never done before. I had never done a five-camera shoot or anything like that, or even been on a sketch. I have a theater background, and I've done a couple of independent movies and soap work—things like that. But the schedule and the pacing of [ the show ] have been crazy.
WCT: Tell me something: How do you not laugh during some of those sketches? If I were on the show, they would never get anything done. I'm specifically thinking of one sketch in which [ ensemble member ] Erica Ash plays the yoga instructor …
PA: Oh, God. Sometimes we laugh, and then we have to do it again. [ Erica ] is so funny—LaTonya Pilates. I'm put in as the token eye candy. I'm like, 'Why do I have my shirt off in this scene? No one does Pilates without a shirt.' They're like, 'Don't worry about it; just get in there.' One line—and I'm shirtless.
WCT: And speaking of being shirtless, some would say that you're fairly—or even unfairly—attractive. Have there been any drawbacks …
PA: … to being so attractive? [ Interviewer laughs. ] Um, no. [ Both laugh. ]
WCT: Well, sometimes feel that they're pigeonholed because of their looks.
PA: I suppose I've had my fair share of that kind of thing. But I deal with pigeonholing on a lot of levels because I'm Hispanic but I don't look stereotypically Hispanic; I don't have olive skin; jet-black, curly hair; or brown eyes. So that's something I've dealt with—having fair skin and green eyes.
WCT: Let's talk about something different: What was it like coming out to your family?
PA: It was very difficult. I knew I was gay when I was 11 and came out when I was 20. Those nine years in the closet were just brutal. It wasn't so much what was [ happening ] on the outside, because I could hide it really well, but what was going on inwardly was hellacious. There was this psychological battle, and I had no one to talk to. There was no clue that what I was going through was OK and that I wasn't this freak of nature.
I remember being with my mom, sister and brother one time walking down the street, and there was this guy with a handkerchief tied around his neck, tight pants and make-up. I looked him and was like, 'Is that what gay is? Is that what I am?' I didn't see myself in him.
When I finally told them, they had a really difficult time at first but they've gotten much better. I thought that this big door would open and we'd have this dialogue, but it ended up being the elephant in the room. I told my parents, and my dad didn't want me telling anyone else.
WCT: I think some people think that they'll be angels singing and doves flying [ when they come out ] , but reality's harsh.
PA: They got to know one of the guys I was dating, who was also Cuban. He was into Cuban things and talked with my family about the culture, so they loved him. One of the 'lessons' they learned was that, 'Hey, this guy is just as normal as we are.' They saw themselves in him, so they were able to accept my homosexuality a little bit more—to the point where my mother became a gay-rights advocate. She works for an organization in Miami that helps prevent gay-teen suicides. She's been their head grant writer for years, and she's their Hispanic liaison and their liaison to the archdiocese. She's won a Colin Higgins Award and a Jefferson Award for her work in gay rights—all of this from a woman who wouldn't invite my boyfriend to Thanksgiving dinner because he wasn't the same as my sister's husband or my brother's wife. So, things change.
WCT: Maybe that will give hope to people who are struggling with coming out.
PA: Yes, and I think it's important to make sure that you give your family ample time to deal with it and realize. You're ready to come out, but they have to go through those same processes you went through. It took me nine years to be able to tell someone else; parents, in addition to what you went through, have all these concerns like, 'Is it my fault?' [ and ] 'Is my kid going to suffer?'
You have to be fair and give them time. Hopefully, you're not getting kicked out of the house. My parents weren't ruthless, but I had friends who were kicked out. I was lucky in that sense.
WCT: Do you think on some level your mother always knew? They always say that the mothers know.
PA: I asked my mom that and she said, 'Yes,' but she wasn't going to push the subject. On the other hand, I had several girlfriends so she may have not known. I remember when I started acting on my homosexuality, I brought home this guy I was dating and said he was a friend. My mom said, 'That boy wants more than friendship from you!' [ Interviewer laughs. ]
WCT: In terms of acting, who would love to collaborate with?
PA: My, God—Tina Fey. [ Sings ] I love her! What I love about her is that a lot of what she does is pointed commentary on our society. You see her being politically and socially conscious; I see myself a lot in that. And I just love Mean Girls, and I'm dying to see Baby Mama.
WCT: How often do you get recognized?
PA: I've just started being recognized. But I can't figure out if they're looking at me because they think I'm hot or because I'm on the show. [ Laughs ] Before the show came out, I was taking stock of that, wondering if things will be different. One guy came up to me a couple weeks ago and said, 'You look like the hot new guy on The Big Gay Sketch Show.' How do I answer that in a nice, modest way? So I put my finger on his chin and said, 'I am!'
WCT: Have you heard from UPS regarding Naldo?
PA: Not at all. I was actually daydreaming about it the other day and wondering what it would be like to do a commercial for them. I was trying to put that circle in a square, thinking, 'They could think it's funny.'
WCT: By the way, who does Svetlana shoot? [ Ed. note: In the last sketch of the second season, the character Svetlana shoots at several of the season's most memorable other roles, including Naldo. ]
PA: Oh, I can't tell you that. Actually, it hasn't been written yet, and it'll be based on viewers' votes. You go online and vote for your favorite character; it's like a reality show.
WCT: What does your partner think of the show?
PA: He was pleasantly surprised. Like you and I, he saw [ the first ] season and was like, 'Oh, it's OK.' Then, he went to all the tapings and he said, 'It's so much funnier than I thought it would be.'
WCT: What's in the future for you?
PA: I'm going to be out your way. I'm doing As Bees in Honey Drown at the Mason Street [ Warehouse ] in Saugatuck, Mich., this summer. I've never been there, and I've just found out that it's the [ Provincetown ] of the Great Lakes.
As Bees in Honey Drown will take place July 11-27 in Saugatuck's Mason Street Warehouse. See www.masonstwarehouse.org .
For more about the second season of The Big Gay Sketch Show, see www.logoonline.com/shows/dyn/big_gay_sketch_show_2/series.jhtml .