Gay ex-Mormon actor thrilled to be on the web hit 'Husbands'
In the online comedy sensation "Husbands," Sean Hemeon stars as Brady, an out-and-proud, ex-Mormon baseball player who drunkenly gets married to another man, Cheeks (Brad Bell). Then they decide they have to make the relationship work for the good of the gay cause.
"I can relate, although I've never gotten married while I was drunk," said Hemeon, an out-and-proud, ex-Mormon actor, with a laugh. "I love this character. I understand his motivations he wants to put a good image out there for the public, that gays can be married and happy."
The web series launched on YouTube in September 2011 and rolled out 11 2-to-3-minute episodes in Season 1. A second season which currently consists of three 8-minute episodes premiered on Aug. 15.
The show's format will likely seem familiar to anyone who has ever watched a TV sitcom. "This is just a funny comedy about two newlyweds," Hemeon said. "I think it's a lot like 'Mad About You,' only it's two guys. And after a while, you sort of forget that it's two guys. It's just two people."
Director/producer Jeff Greenstein added: "The point is that these are stories which could be told about any young marrieds."
"Husbands" is the brainchild of Jane Espenson ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Once Upon a Time") and Bell, whose online persona, Cheeks, is the flamboyant half of the Brady-and-Cheeks couple.
Bell's part was written for him, obviously. And the role of Cheeks' pal Haley was tailor-made for Bell's pal Alessandra Torresani. Hemeon was the last of hundreds of actors who auditioned for the part of Brady. "We could not believe our good fortune when we found him," said Greenstein ("Will & Grace," "Desperate Housewives").
His character, Brady, is an ex-Mormon from a large family. Which the writers got from Hemeon.
"Brady having six Mormon brothers definitely came from me," the actor said. "After the writers got to know me, they started writing to who I am."
Greenstein said he thinks "the main thing Sean brings to the role is a certain innocence. There's a sweet, guileless, starry-eyed-in-the-big-city quality to Sean that's a nice counterweight to Cheeks' canniness. It's also extremely unusual in a guy with eight-pack abs and the face of an Abercrombie & Fitch model."
Hemeon is more than just a pretty face and all those abs. He's coming to Utah with Espenson and Bell for an event to benefit the Volunteers of America Utah Homeless Youth Resources Center.
"The numbers there tell the story," he said. "Not all the homeless youth are LGBT, but a large percentage of them are. And two out of three gay teens in Utah have been bullied or worse."
The Nov. 11 event at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, dubbed "UniTy: You Are the Future," will feature screenings of season 2 episodes of "Husbands," followed by a panel that will include Hemeon, Espenson, Bell and representatives from the Human Rights Campaign and the Trevor Project.
"It's still tough for gay teenagers," Hemeon said. "And it can be tougher for kids who grew up in Mormon families. That's something I know about, too," he added with a laugh.
Hemeon was raised in northern Virginia, but has ties to Utah. His parents attended Brigham Young University, and he has family in the area.
"My family has been very supportive of me and my career," he said. "Everybody thinks the show is hilarious. Of course, my mother said she had to turn away in the episode when we're in bed." (That scene, by the way, is tame even by network TV standards.)
Hemeon found himself on the opposite side of family members about California's anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8 campaign. After the measure passed, he helped lead a march on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Temple in Los Angeles.
"It was just sort of spontaneous. And it was a real pivotal moment for me," he said. "I wasn't much of an activist, but I learned we have to get involved."
"Husbands" is getting the actor noticed in Hollywood, and he's using his higher profile for events like the one in Utah.
"He is as kind and compassionate as the man you see onscreen eager to learn, thoughtful, unpretentious and hard-working," Greenstein said. "I hope our little web show leads to bigger things for Sean he truly deserves it."
'UniTy: You are the Future'
When • Sunday, Nov. 11; reception at 6 p.m.; "Husbands" screening at 7 p.m.
Where • Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center's JeannÃ© Wagner Theater, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City
Tickets • Suggested donation $30, minimum donation $5; arttix.org or 801-355-2782
More • The web series has launched two issues of a comic-book series, released last month by Dark Horse Comics.