Derek James and Charlie David: The strong gay-straight alliance behind “Mulligans”
When you watch the film Mulligans, you are definitely struck by the on-screen chemistry between the movie’s two best friends – one gay, one straight – played by Charlie David and Derek James. But the chemistry is tested when Tyler (James) invites college buddy Chase (David) home for the summer holidays and the friend begins an affair with Tyler’s secretly gay father (Dan Payne).
Despite the on-screen drama, the rapport between Derek and Charlie came easily because they have been the best of friends for nearly a decade. Another similarity is that Charlie – best known as Toby on Dante’s Cove - is gay and Derek is straight.
“We’re really proud of it,” Derek said of Mulligans. “We were just a couple of people trying to do what we wanted to do. It was sort of interesting to show up and work and go, ‘Oh wow. We’ve never really done this before.’ We had talked about it but then we were actually doing it. It’s just easier. In the world of writing, if you’re lucky enough to have two actors who are actually friends, you don’t have to give so much exposition because the chemistry’s just naturally there so the audience believes them because it’s real.”
Derek and I chatted about the film and his friendship with Charlie at the monthly The Smoking Cocktail mixer at O Bar in West Hollywood last night. He showed up to promote the movie – a sensation on the film festival circuit for the past year – because it comes out on DVD Tuesday. Derek was in a particularly good mood because he had just been nominated for the Canadian Leo Award for best supporting actor for his performance in the film. (Dan Payne was nominated for best actor. The awards will be held in May.)
He said of Charlie: “We were roommates and he was the best man at my wedding – I was married for awhile – so working together isn’t really work, it’s just sort of life. Thank God he’s smart because I just like coming up with funny ideas.”
In the film, Charlie’s character of Chace comes out to his friend during the early part of the summer after Tyler keeps trying to get him to hook up with one of the girls. It echoed real life about 10 years earlier.
“That’s real for Charlie and I. We were friends and I just sort of didn’t question it. I gotta be honest, I was sometimes suspicious but I didn’t care about it, it didn’t matter. And then he told me it was like, ‘Okay, sure. Whatever. Can we just go back to being normal now?” … I’ve been going to gay clubs with Charlie since I was like 20. It was like, ‘Let’s go to your world, you come to my world all the time.’ When you’re younger, of course, in these types if environments, you’re so insecure and anxious of course. You project way more on to everyone that you meet and I remember that from my youth. But after awhile it’s like, ‘Whatever.’”"
Of course, in the early days Charlie was not yet one of the most famous openly gay actors in television and film. His series Dante’s Cove has just been renewed for a fourth season, he wrote and produced Mulligans, and was one of the stars of the hit indie films A Four Letter Word and Kiss the Bride. He also hosts the travel series Bump!
Says Derek of his very handsome friend: “It’s funny to walk around with him, it’s like walking around with the gay world’s Brad Pitt.”
Mulligans is not the end of their professional collaborations. Derek and Charlie are teaming up again for a new film called Happy Hour which they hope to begin production on by the end of the year. While Charlie wrote Mulligans, this time it is Derek who wrote the script.
“Now we get to make our next movie so we’re really excited about that. It’s going to be an outrageously dry comedy. Knowing that we succeeded once, we can do it again. Charlie and I will be the buddies in the film. It’s a really silly comedy about a family. It’ll be quite different from Mulligans but the same quality.”
So, is he playing straight again?
“Yes,” he said. (laughs). “But I play gay in the movie though, that’s one of the fun parts. I don’t want to give it all away but I’m straight playing gay in the film to help out his friend.”
But Charlie’s character is gay in this film, thankfully. Still, Derek says: “We try not to make gay a thing. Like we have a gay marriage take place in the film. We want that to just exist naturally like it’s not a big thing. Nobody talks about it like it’s an issue. People understand that it is a huge issue, of course, but we just like pushing the envelope creatively and have a good time watching a movie.”
Here are a few scenes from the movie: