He’s played every kind of role, from a terrified sailor clinging on for dear life to the side of a 1940s warship in Pearl Harbour to a virgin who believes in extraterrestrials in The Apocalypse According to Doris.

But, of all the movies he’s starred in, Nicholas Downs is best-known as Blaine, the introverted columnist in director J C Calciano’s hit gay romantic comedy Is It Just Me?

Is It Just Me? follows Blaine on his quest to connect with someone who, like him, is looking for more than just a quick hook-up. Frustrated by his lack of success, he takes to an online chat room where he stumbles upon Xander, a gentle and charming Texan played by David Loren. The two fall for each other and decide to meet.

However, Blaine soon realises that the profile he has been chatting under belongs to his go-go dancer roommate. Rather than come clean about the mistaken identity, Blaine manoeuvres himself into a situation that could well cost him true love.

Blaine was Nicholas Downs’ first lead gay role in a full-feature film.

“The challenge with the character was finding the right balance between making him vulnerable enough and not too much of a sad sack. I wanted the audience to be able to relate to him and not want to grab him and slap him,” he said.

While promoting the movie, Nicholas’ sexuality has been in the spotlight at every film festival he’s attended.

“Before Is It Just Me?, questions about my being gay had never come up. I hadn’t mentioned it, mostly because I didn’t have a platform I could use to talk about it.”

Nicholas is a big supporter of the Trevor Project and recently joined actors Chad Allen and Mike Manning on the Trailblazer Campaign.

“It’s a YouTube project designed to encourage LGBT entertainers, as well as people in general, to come out of the closet,” Downs said.

“It was the right thing to do. If the video reaches just one person and affects them in a positive way, then I’ll feel as though I’ve contributed something towards showing people that they can have the life they want and live it.

“Knowing that helps me sleep a little better at night.”

Although Nicholas has no problems being questioned about his sexuality, there was a time when, like most gay actors, the thought of coming out and risk getting typecast weighed on his mind.

“I was concerned about it when I was younger,” he admitted.

“Being originally from Iowa, I grew up in a family that had a particular viewpoint on gay people. I had to overcome that. I decided I wanted to look back on my life and feel that I added to it in some way, rather than feel as though I only took from it or just stood in the sidelines, indifferent to it all.

“Being honest and proactive for me personally is a better way to live.”

Nicholas has witnessed more than once the backhand given to Hollywood celebrities who haven’t toed the gay line.

“I’ve seen how openly gay people within the industry turn on those who pretend to be straight.

“Most often, it’s fear that stops closeted actors from coming out as opposed to the reality of the outcome. The fear becomes greater than the actual repercussions.

“It’s similar in a way to the reason why some people don’t like gay people. They have a fear of the unknown.”

Always game for new experiences, Nicholas has been busy working as a co-producer on J C Calciano’s latest gay romantic comedy, eCupid.

The movie centres on a character who re-evaluates his relationship only to discover he has everything he’s looking for right in front of him.

It’s a “grass isn’t always greener” story and the first movie Downs has ever worked on fully behind the camera.

“Acting can become a little monotonous when you’re waiting for auditions to happen,” he explained. “By learning how to produce your own work, you create your own opportunities.”

INFO: eCupid will screen at Mardi Gras Film Festival and Melbourne Queer Film Festival.

by LUKE BRIGHTY

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