‘It was before ‘Will & Grace,’ before Ellen came out, it’s before any of that stuff’
Ryan Phillippe was just a teenager himself back in the early 1990s when he played gay teenager Billy Douglas on the ABC daytime soap opera One Life to Live.
It was the actor’s first acting gig and one that 25 years later he’s proud to have on his resume.
‘There had never been a gay teenager portrayed on television at that point,’ tells the actor, now 42.
Billy was the first gay teen on a daytime soap in the US and his impact was tremendous.
He struggled with coming out to his parents and also with the fictional town of Lanview’s anti-gay reactions.
‘I remember the fan mail that we would get, my mother and I would get, from gay teenagers or from parents of gay teenagers who found a way in to relate to or talk to their child through the show,’ Phillippe says.
‘Entertainment media can do those things, it can make people think differently or see a different side of something and I do remember and appreciating that — even back then when I was only a teenager myself.
‘But in terms of like the larger view, I didn’t have a full understanding of how important it I’m proud to have done it, I’m proud that that’s something I can say was a part of my career.’
Phillippe began landing film roles a few years after leaving the soap in such films as White Squall, 54, I Know What You Did Last Summer and Cruel Intentions.
He went on to have major roles in such acclaimed films as Crash, Gosford Park, Flags of our Fathers and Stop-Loss.
Phillippe has returned to series television in recent years starring in Secrets and Lies and Shooter.