AAdrian Pasdar has a lot of secrets. Turn on the TV on Sunday nights and you’ll see him on Political Animals, playing an awfully suspicious looking President of the United States opposite an honest-as-ah-shucks Sigourney Weaver as Secretary of State. Before that there was a little show called Heroes, in which he played a politician with a big secret—he could fly. And on Desperate Housewives, his smarmy-hot lawyer looked so secretly shady you half expected co-star Eva Longoria to surrender her Victoria Secrets.
In 1987, the 47-year-old actor had a then quite uncommon movie secret; the cult classic Near Dark cast him as a vampire. Before that, at the age of 19, he participated in one of the most homoerotic film scenes made by a big studio (secretly, of course). Pasdar sweated up and dressed down with Tom Cruise and company and played man-on-man volleyball in Top Gun, a scene that looks like the predecessor to every Abercrombie & Fitch ad, and, 25 years later, is still credited for stirring the loins and opening up the closets for secreted gay men.
“I’m perceived as playing a guy who has a secret,” says Pasdar, whose cautious, quiet speaking voice actually sounds a bit secretive. “That’s how it goes. Secrets work well, for TV, for movies. I’m happy to be that guy.”
Not surprisingly, Pasdar had no idea that Top Gun would be such a huge hit, nor did he envision that anyone besides girls might be into the sport. “From the inside you don’t have the perspective,” says Pasdar. “It does have those sensibilities. I think it has a homoerotic element to the military to begin with. You attach what you want to it. You’re going to find the element that attracts you whether you’re gay or straight.”
It’s not such a secret that gay men have a crush on the square-jawed, ripped-as-bubble-wrap star, even if, off-camera, Pasdar hides that too—“I wear shirts that are two sizes too large”—but what’s less known is that he’s been married to the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, Natalie Maines, since 2000. They have two children.
“People go out of their way to put their names in the spotlight,” says Pasdar. “All those people you see have sought out that press. For five thousand dollars a week I could get my mother on the couple of People.”
Pasdar says he doesn’t judge any celebrity for seeking out publicity, but that it doesn’t suit his lifestyle. “Natalie and I will weight it,” he says. “Sometimes it’s fun. I don’t go to after parties; the decisions are poor when there’s alcohol involved. I’ve learned my lesson. It’s not the public’s right to know what I’m doing all the time.”
But sometimes it’s inevitable. In 2003, ten days before the United States invaded Iraq, Maines told a London concert audience that “we don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” The now-legendary comment snowballed from negative press, to nasty letters, to CD burnings, to a radio boycott, to hate.
“We had police protection everywhere, we had death threats,” says Pasdar, adding “Thank God the kids are too young to remember. We calmed things down by not feeding the trolls. We wouldn’t engage. We backed away. I think my wife looks at The Dixie Chicks as being an experiment. Her real life is being a mom. It pushed her more into who she was. My wife doesn’t have a bullshit bone in her body. She’s a truthful girl, and I think that’s ultimately why people admire or at least respect her.”
Pasdar himself finds politics “fascinating,” and says he has the proclivity, but not the stamina, to pursue it in a formal manner. “There’s not a night that goes by that I don’t flip the channels, good or bad,” he says, adding, “very often you’re preaching to the choir, you’re causing more damage. Unless I was running for office I don’t see the plus side.” When I mentioned his longtime friend Sean Penn’s penchant for getting involved, Pasdar jumped in: “Sean’s running for office. Watch how that plays out.”
On Heroes, which ran from 2006 to 2010, Pasdar played the politically ambitious Nathan Petrelli, who, along with half the cast, had supernatural powers. The show started out with a big bang, then dropped off the radar almost as quickly.
“The first season was fantastic,” says Pasdar. “The wheels fell off. There’s no reason for a show to fail on its fourth season unless it’s eternal strife.”
Pasdar has nothing but admiration for the writers, and makes it clear that whatever happened (once again, there were secrets—“We were never let in on what was going on; it was cloaked in mystery”), the intentions were great. “All good shows, like The Simpsons or The Sopranos, it’s about family,” he says. “I think the writers missed that. The family element was ignored at its own peril.”
Near Dark was almost Heroes in reverse. The film didn’t make much of a buzz at first, but later became a monster cult hit. “It got caught in no-man’s land,” says Pasdar. “It didn’t have the sensibility of Lost Boys. People didn’t know what to do with it … it was a vampire Western.”
Most of us would be billionaires if we could predict what makes a film catch on, and Pasdar can’t pin-point exactly why Near Dark finally made its mark, or even if it’s in anyway responsible for the surge of Vampire Entertainment today. He does offer up a hypothesis on its staying power.
“There are so many bad movies that come out that film buffs go back and see if there’s something they’ve missed,” says Pasdar. “There are so many horrible movies, just diarrhea; so they go in their DVD player and find something good. There’s that cool part of discovering something that not everyone’s seen.”
I don’t know if Pasdar’s been interviewed by any gay publications before, and I don’t have a secret formula for figuring out how to get the other half to talk testosterone. With Pasdar, I found out, it’s in his details. Not only does he have a reputation for living recklessly—the dude sailed from L.A. to Hawaii on a 42-foot sailboat, and dreams of doing Ironman next—he’s as intense about his workout as he is everything else.
“I work out really hard,” says Pasdar, adding “It’s not to maintain any sense of vanity. I punish myself physically. Somehow it makes me feel better about my success. I run about twenty-five miles a week. I’m brutal on myself most of the time. I do a prison workout, usually in hotel gyms. I box too. It’s a matter of consistency.”
When Pasdar answers a question, he tends to talk eloquently, pull back, then dive right in and speak without censor. On being a straight man with gay fans, he says, “I guess I can understand where people would be concerned about that. If that troubles them I won’t condemn them …” He stops, thinks, then plunges in. “… Oh sure, I’ll condemn them. They need to get over it. My manager is gay and he’s one of my best friends. He’s been my manager for twenty-seven years and never once has the issue of gay people in Hollywood come up.”
If keeping your private life private and speaking openly is a secret, maybe we should start spreading the word.