Brokeblack mountain

North Texas native Trevante Rhodes on the making of Moonlight, the most acclaimed modern gay romance since Brokeback Mountain


Trevante Rhodes, above, plays the oldest version of Chiron, who struggles with his feelings for his best friend Kevin, played by Andre Holland, below, in ‘Moonlight.’ (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Not to sound overconfident, but as soon as Trevante Rhodes was cast in the indie film Moonlight, he knew he was making a hit. Not that he could predict the box-office receipts — who could? — but a hit in the sense of an instant classic, a cinematic winner … oh, hell, just call it what it is: A great film.

“As [arrogant] as it may sound, when I read it for the first time, I knew [it would work] because it’s so personal,” says Rhodes. “From Page 7, I knew this was something I had to do. I thought, I have to tell this story! I’m a romantic, and it’s an epic love story, man!”

And a love story in many unexpected ways: Between African-American men living troubled lives in the inner city of Miami. Moonlight — adapted by writer-director Barry Jenkins, from a semi-autobiographical story by MacArthur “Genius” Grant laureate Tarell McCraney — is told in three chapters, all centered around the same kid. In the first chapter, Chiron (now called “Little”) is about 8 (played by Alex Hibbert), and comes under the protection of a local drug kingpin named Juan (Mahershala Ali), who shelters him from his drug-addled mother Paula (Naomie Harris). Chapter 2 meets Chiron (Ashton Sanders) about 10 years later, as a moody high school kid grabbling with issues of sexuality. By the third chapter, Chiron is known by the street name Black (Rhodes), a badass drug dealer, finally hoping to find a way toward self-acceptance. Throughout, it’s Chiron’s friend Kevin who anchors him… and stokes his sexual longing.

20151116_015419_Moonlight_D25_0375.tifThe challenge facing Rhodes — a native of Little Elm who admits to falling into acting “by happenstance at the end of college” — was “summarizing” Chiron’s journey at the end … and doing so with little guidance from the first two chapters. “We shot in sequence, but Barry was really adamant that Andre Holland [who plays the adult Kevin] and I not watch the [footage of the earlier chapters],” he says. “We wanted to look for similarities in what they were doing, but Barry really wanted us to focus how we changed so drastically. I think that was liberating for me as an actor” to do that.

He had to fill in a lot of blanks about what happened to Chiron in the intervening years between his chapters, but he plays it close to the vest (“I won’t go too deep because it’s like a magician telling you his secrets,” he says), but “In my mind, he spent some years in jail and after that he developed this life and adapted to what the world’s mold of him should be.”

That is a large part of the message of Moonlight — should you conform to expectations society has of you, or break free? Rhodes says embodying Chiron’s inner conflict was something he related to — but for different reasons than the character he played.

“We all have identity issues and we all struggle with insecurity and with trying to find out who we are and what love is,” Rhodes says. “Yes, it’s a very specific story about gayness and blackness, but it’s about humanity — a human life. And we use these very specific topics as a conduit for a universal story. I dealt with issues not so much in regard to sexuality or my relationship with my mother, but I was bullied some and that spoke to me, But the differences were really enticing to me [as an actor]. Back in middle school and high school, I felt that being a hyper-masculine, physical being was my way of projecting success out into the world. I thought if I had this physicality about me, as well as being able to articulate myself appropriately, [others would think], ‘Hey, that guy has it all figured out.’”

Rhodes didn’t, of course. And that’s where he found the core of his character.

“Chiron is someone trying to find out who he is, and has to fortify himself to project what masculinity was to him,” he says. “I look at love on a scale of 1 to 10, and most settle for 6 or 7. But Chiron found his 10 when he was like 8 years old! [He needs to realize], I can be tough and gay and happy with the guy I love. I need to live my truest life or at least attempt to experience it.”

Moonlight opens today in North Texas. For a review, see Page 41.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Moonlight’ is the unmissible film of the season

20151024_Moonlight_D09_C1_K1_0303.tifIn Greek mythology, Chiron was a centaur — half man, half horse. He was both wild and artistic, a hunter and a healer: Two identities within a single body.

That description begins to explain the character named Chiron in Moonlight, easily one of the best films of 2016 and the most poignant love story since Brokeback Mountain. We first meet Chiron (Alex Hibbert) as a sensitive 8-year-old, maneuvering the mean streets of Miami — trying to avoid bullies as well as his cracked-out mom (Naomie Harris, who’s amazing). The local drug kingpin, Juan (Mahershala Ali), takes notice of Chiron, and, with his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monae, who’s revelatory), becomes a surrogate father, even as Chiron wonders whether, as the other kids say, he may be “a faggot.” He’s not, Juan insists — he might be gay, but that’s not the same. He has strength.

The remainder of Moonlight — divided into two more chapters, with Chiron as a teenager (Ashton Sanders, pictured) and a young man (Trevante Rhodes) — is about Chiron coming to terms with those competing identities. Can he be a strong black man and in love with his best friend?

It would be nice to say that Moonlight plays out predictably along that course, but the truth is anything but. Writer-director Barry Jenkins fashions a surprising and sensitive and profound journey for this character and those in his orbit. Like Chiron, it’s tough and dense, but in search of the tender essence inside.

The performances are uniformly intense and heartbreaking. This is a film that dares to challenge its audience to dispel expectations and discover humanity in unlikely places. It’s as if Boyz n the Hood were recast with Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist. Moonlight is the unmissible film of the fall.

Five stars. Opens tomorrow. Read our interview with star Trevante Rhodes in Friday’s Dallas Voice.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Brokeback’ team writing another gay themed movie

Ossana McMThe Brokeback Mountain screenwriting team of Diana Ossana and Texas legend Larry McMurtry are writing another gay-themed drama for True Detective Emmy-winning director Cary Fukunaga. The as-yet-untitled project revolves around the true story of Jadin Bell, a 15-year-old openly gay high school student who, in 2013, tragically committed suicide after enduring non-stop bullying by his classmates. If that weren’t heartbreaking enough, Jadin’s grieving father, Joe, began the arduous task of walking across the continental United States to raise awareness of anti-gay bullying, and as a tribute to the son he lost. But halfway through his journey, Joe was hit by truck and killed. Not the sort of uplifting story most gay audiences are looking for. But if anyone can turn this incredibly sad slice of real life into something visually and narratively compelling and watchable, it’s this team. But when it’s ready, bring your tissues. There’s no way you won’t need them.

A gay couple will be incinerated by aliens in Independence Day 2 … OK, maybe they won’t be incinerated. Maybe they won’t die at all. Who knows, maybe they’ll even be the Will-Smith-ish heroes of the whole film. Details are actually incredibly sketchy right now. But the word from gay director Roland Emmerich, the man who has launched enough cinematic disasters to rival Irwin Allen’s 1970s heyday (that’s the man behind The Poseidon Adventure — Google him, kids!), is that there’ll be a gay couple among the ensemble cast of ID2. Now, if you remember back to the first Independence Day, we were treated to the sight of Harvey Fierstein running around being funny in the midst of impending alien-doom. Then he was consumed by an enormous wall of fire. Worse, the poor thing was single. (Thankfully, though, the dog lived.) But thanks to the march of history and pending nationwide marriage equality, this time around we can look forward to two gays being consumed by an enormous wall of fire. That’s progress, folks. And right, like we said up front, they might not die at all. But they probably will.

— Romeo San Vicente

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Jewel’s observations on gay Texans


In a recent interview with our contributor Chris Azzopardi, singer-songwriter Jewel talked about her move from the largest state in the union, Alaska, to the second largest, our very own Texas. Azzopardi asked her about the move, as well as her gay friends there and here.

The following excerpt really caught my attention. Read on, and have a good laugh:

Question: You started out at biker bars, where you performed for lots of lesbians. Are there a lot of lesbians in your life now? Jewel:  You know, I don’t have any lesbians right now. I used to when I lived in San Diego, but in Texas, it’s been a little bit slim on the lesbian front. [Laughs] But what’s really cool is, I have to do a reality show about the gays in Texas, because there’s this whole gay culture in this really cowboy town that I live in that when guys break up, it’s like, “I’m gonna come get my cows off your place!” “Well, I’m gonna take down the fence I built!” “You better come get your mineral feeders!”

You’re living Brokeback Mountain down there.  It really is like that. And thank god for Grindr, otherwise they could never find each other.

Read the full interview with Jewel after the jump.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The Oscar scorecard


Gay folks — both actors, characters and behind the scenes — are easier to find at the Tonys and Emmys than at the Oscars; it’s one of the reasons we get so excited about Brokeback Mountain and The Kids Are All Right.

But the Oscars do occasionally have their queer appeal — one of the frontrunners this year is an elderly man who comes out as gay to his adult son’s dismay.

Here’s a scorecard for those keeping track,
including who will win and who should … and who might sneak in. Let the office pool begin!

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Picture: Who will win: The Artist, pictured. Who should win: The Help. Spoiler:
The Descendants.

Director: Who will win: Michel Hazavanicius, The Artist. Who should win: Terrence Malick,
Tree of Life. Spoiler: Martin Scorsese, Hugo.

Actor: Who will/should win: Jean Dujardin, The Artist. Spoiler: George Clooney,
The Descendants.

Actress: Who will/should win: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady. Spoiler: Viola Davis, The Help.

Supporting Actor: Who will/should win: Christopher Plummer, Beginners. Spoiler: None.

Supporting Actress: Who will/should win:
Octavia Spencer, The Help. Spoiler: None.

Original Screenplay: Who will/should win: The Artist. Spoiler: Midnight in Paris.

Adapted Screenplay: Who will/should win: The Descendants. Spoiler: Tinker Tailor Solider Spy.

Cinematography: Who will win: The Artist. Who should win/spoiler: The Tree of Life.

Film Editing: Who will win: Hugo. Who should win:  Moneyball. Spoiler: Descendants.

Art Direction: Who will/should win: Hugo.

Costume Design: Who will/should win: Anonymous. Spoiler: Hugo.

Score: Who will/should win: The Artist.

Song: Who will/should win: The Muppets.

Sound Mixing: Who will win: Hugo.

Sound Editing: Who will win: War Horse.

Visual Effects: Who will/should win: Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Spoiler: Real Steel.

Makeup: Who will/should win: Albert Nobbs. Spoiler: The Iron Lady.

Foreign Language Film: Who will win: In Darkness. Spoiler: A Separation.

Animated Feature Film: Who will win:
Chico and Rita. Spoiler: Rango.

Documentary Feature Film: Who will win:
Undefeated. Who should win: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory. Spoiler: Pina.

Live Action Short Subject: Who will/should win: Raju. Spoiler: Tuba Atlantic.

Animated Short Subject: Who will/should win: The Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Spoiler: La Luna.

Documentary Short Subject: Who will win:
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 24, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

WATCH: Perry’s ‘Brokeback Mountain’ encore

Below is Rick Perry’s latest ad from South Carolina, entitled “President of Honor,” which is apparently designed to pander appeal to the state’s large military population. We noticed that Perry appears several times during the ad in the same jacket he wore in his infamous anti-gay ad “Strong” — which, as we all know, is quite similar to the jacket Heath Ledger wore in Brokeback Mountain. It’s interesting that despite all the parodies featuring the jacket, Perry hasn’t abandoned the tan Carharrt. Maybe the governor and his campaign are just completely oblivious, as would be suggested by this tidbit out of South Carolina from Politico:

As if Rick Perry didn’t have enough problems.

The Texas governor was greeted at a restaurant in Anderson, S.C., by a young woman who posed for a photo with the Texas governor while saying it is “good to see someone as homophobic and racist as you.”

He smiled, took the photo and moved on.

—  John Wright

Top 10: Perry presidential bid galvanized gays


BROKEBACK PERRY | Rick Perry’s ‘Strong’ ad, in which he’s wearing a jacket similar to the one worn by Heath Ledger in ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ has the second-most dislikes of any video on YouTube.

No: 3

Rick Perry began 2011 being sworn in to a third four-year term as Texas’ governor. He ends it on a bus tour of Iowa, where he’s trying frantically to climb back into contention for the GOP presidential nomination as the Hawkeye State’s Jan. 3 caucuses near.

Perry is perhaps the most anti-gay governor in Texas history — and that’s saying something. So, when rumors began to swirl this spring that “Governor Goodhair” was planning to run for president, the LGBT community seemed to collectively grimace. For most, the downside of Perry holding national office would far outweigh one small consolation: At least he would finally have to depart the Lone Star State.

Longstanding rumors that Perry is a closeted homosexual quickly resurfaced. And, as if to try to put an end to them once and for all, Perry organized a “day of prayer” at Reliant Stadium in Houston, called The Response and funded by the American Family Association. The AFA is considered an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and those who signed on as endorsers of Perry’s prayer rally certainly had the views to back up the designation.

The Response drew a huge response from, among others, the LGBT community, with activists staging counterdemonstrations in H-Town during a sweltering first weekend of August. Perry insisted The Response wasn’t political, but a week later he announced his campaign for president.

Republicans were smitten, and Perry skyrocketed to the top of GOP presidential polls — positioning himself as a highly-sought-after, more conservative alternative to presumptive frontrunner Mitt Romney.

Just before he formally launched his presidential bid, Perry stated at an event in Colorado that he believed marriage is a state’s rights issue and New York’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage was “fine with me.”

Under intense pressure from social conservatives, he quickly retracted the statement and came out firmly in support of a federal marriage amendment.

But that didn’t stop Rob Schlein, then president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, from writing a controversial column in which he said he would vote for Perry over President Barack Obama, despite the governor’s anti-gay record. The column was one of several factors that led National Log Cabin to de-charter the Dallas chapter, which is now known as Metroplex Republicans.

Perry would go on to sign a pledge from the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage and come out against the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” But in the end, it appears his right-wing credentials weren’t enough to overcome major, repeated gaffes during nationally televised debates this fall.

In the most memorable one, Perry forgot the third federal department he would eliminate as president in what has become known as his “oops” moment.

Desperate to recover from the gaffes, Perry’s campaign lurched even further to the right — releasing a campaign ad called “Strong” in which he declared: “I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”

“Strong” spawned many parodies, with some harping on the fact that Perry’s jacket in the ad resembled the one worn by Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain. “Strong” also garnered the second-most dislikes of any video on YouTube. Above all, though, where it really counts among Republican voters, the ad didn’t work.

As of this week, Perry was polling fifth in Iowa — and second among candidates from Texas behind Congressman Ron Paul.

— John Wright

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Another misstep for Perry’s campaign


Hateful bigotry of Texas governor’s presidential campaign ad is surpassed only by its asininity

David Webb
The Rare Reporter

Just when I thought the 2012 Rick Perry for President campaign couldn’t get any nuttier, guess what? Yep, it managed to get sillier with the release of Gov. Perry’s campaign video attacking openly gay and lesbian members of the U.S. Armed Services.

Never mind that in the video dubbed “Strong” Perry is wearing the same type of tan Carhartt ranch coat actor Heath Ledger wore in the gay romance movie Brokeback Mountain, and that the video’s musical score was inspired by gay American composer Aaron Copland. The message is ridiculous, and the video’s distinction of registering more than half a million “dislikes” (646,000 dislikes to 20,000 likes) is probably attributable as much to its asininity as its hateful bigotry.

Facing the camera, against a wooded backdrop that conjures images of the big gay movie’s outdoor scenes, Perry declares that he is not “ashamed to admit” he is a Christian.

“You don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know that something is wrong when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas and pray in schools,” he declares.

Perry adds that as president he would “end Obama’s war on religion” and “fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage.”

Aside from the imagery and the music of the video making Perry and his campaign staff again look like fools, the idea that openly gay and lesbian members of the military somehow undermine Christianity is ludicrous. Or are children supposed to resent gay and lesbian soldiers because they get to go off and fight wars while they are stuck at school, unable to pray out loud?

I doubt that it will come as a shock to Perry, his staff, the voting public or even school children that there are openly gay and lesbian people working in every level of local, state and federal government and private business — even churches — without harm to Christianity. Yet for some reason they expect everyone to swallow the notion that openly gay and lesbian members of the military will put the nation under the control of pagans.

What about openly gay and lesbian soldiers who observe Christianity by going to church, reading their Bibles and praying? Are they to be the demise of their own religion?

And do U.S. citizens who are Jewish or members of other faiths matter at all to Perry and his campaign staff? Under the Perry plan, are the children of those citizens to be indoctrinated into Christianity?

As to Perry’s promise in the video’s closing, it would be news to everybody if it were learned President Obama had declared a war on religion. Those laws regulating Christmas displays and school prayer were put in motion decades ago, a long time before Obama ever thought about running for political office.

Open prayer in school was banned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1962 when Perry was in grade school. Surely he remembers.

Ultimately, I can’t imagine many people viewing the overturn of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which was supported by a majority of the American public, enacted by Congress and signed into law by Obama, as an assault on Christianity.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said last week that Obama was probably not aware of the Perry campaign video claiming he had declared war on Christianity, but regardless the president is proud of his support of LGBT issues.

The video looks like evidence of the Perry campaign’s desperation following the governor’s disintegration in national polls since his announcement in August he would run for president. Perry dropped from a double-digit front leader status to 5 percent following a series of debate missteps and disastrous public appearances that showed him to be outmatched on the debate stage by every other Republican in the campaign.

A new American Research Poll shows Perry now has 13 percentage points in Iowa, the first primary state. But he still is in back of the pack, far behind Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.

Regardless of where Perry goes in the polls, I’m confident he will again sabotage himself in some manner, unless he has an undercover gay or lesbian person on his campaign staff doing it for him.

Speaking of which, after Perry’s anti-gay ad was released, leaders from the gay Republican group GOProud outed one of the campaign’s consultants as gay. It was later learned that the consultant, Tony Fabrizio, had written an email prior to the ad’s release calling it “nuts.”

But aside from that effort and the obvious aspect of Fabrizio being a traitor who apparently has sacrificed the LGBT community to make a few bucks for himself, he doesn’t appear to have been doing a good job of using his expertise as a gay man to help Perry navigate difficult waters. Who will ever forget the image of Perry deep-throating a corn dog at an Iowa state fair while Romney graciously nibbled on his?

What were they thinking when they handed a corn dog to Perry, who has been fighting rumors that he is secretly gay for years?

In fact, a common question today is, “How did he ever go so far in Texas politics?”

There is only one group of people — other than personal friends, relatives and other beneficiaries of the governor’s influence as an elected official — to whom Perry still appeals: That is conservative Christians who put their religious beliefs ahead of every other consideration, regardless of whose rights get trampled upon in the process.

No wonder Perry released such a video and continues to offer it on his campaign website, but I don’t think there are enough of them to vote him into office.

Many people who started off supporting Perry have now fled from his camp, saying that his performance as a presidential candidate has brought about a national embarrassment. The worst part of it is that there is no telling what Perry and his campaign will do next. But it’s bound to be a dilly.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. Contact him at or

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Introducing the ‘Brokeback Perry’ meme

On Wednesday morning, when I first saw Rick Perry’s new anti-gay ad, I posted here on Instant Tea that it looked a lot like a scene from Brokeback Mountain. At the time, though, it’s doubtful I could have put my finger on what triggered this reaction. Well, now we all know: It’s the jacket, stupid!!! The above image, which is of unknown origin, showing Perry in the ad below Heath Ledger in the movie has gone completely viral. It’s also given birth to a meme, as you can see below and on Frogman’s Tumblr. Also, in case you want to put one of those jackets on your War on Christmas list, Senior Editor Tammye Nash informs me that it’s likely a Carhartt (and she would know).

—  John Wright

Calendar men

There should be plenty of beefy hot cowboys in town during the IGRA rodeo, but why not enjoy them all year long? Thanks to, you can. Their Cowboy Outlaws calendar means you don’t have to book a trip to Brokeback Mountain to find aw-shucks hotties. is a social networking site celebrating the queer community (mostly men) on the rural side of the fence: farmers, cowboys and just-everyday guys. Founded by Harley Deuce, the site and the calendar are in their 7th year celebrating the cowboy.

“I grew up in a rural environment,” Deuce says. “ is a result of going to gay rodeos and helping the people stay in touch, promote the sport. I appreciate what the cowboy represents.”

No professional models were harmed in the making of Cowboy Outlaws — all models in the calendar are members of the site. And those members are willing to bare it all. Yup, all. This is the gift that keeps on giving — until December, at least. will host meet-and-greets at both Woody’s and Best Friends with this year’s gentlemen, some of who are competing at IGRA. But with a limited edition in print and the appeal of the men, Deuce says to plan your visit.

“The line can get long, especially if people are waiting to get all the guys’ autographs,” he says. “Get there as soon as it opens.”

Not a problem.

— Rich Lopez

Best Friends Club
2620 E. Lancaster Ave., Fort Worth.
Oct. 7 at 7 p.m.

4011 Cedar Springs Road.
Oct. 8 at 8 p.m.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas