Freckle is iconic. That much is clear from the L.A. actor’s performance in the hilarious web series The Gay And Wondrous Life Of Caleb Gallo. The zany comedy about a group of struggling actors working through love, sex, and friendship premiered in early 2016, but has experienced a second wave of popularity thanks to a clutch of memes featuring Freckle at her best. There's nothing more applicable for every situation than a GIF of Freckle doing a hair flip and saying: "Sometimes things that are expensive are worse."
In the series, Freckle plays a flirtatious, boozy actor who commands attention in every single room, a character that is an interpretation of the real-life Freckle. If that’s confusing, the latter says it shouldn’t be: “Imagine Dolly Parton acting in movies...she's always Dolly Parton.”
The role is a big one for Freckle, who previously starred in some of Caleb Gallo creator Brian Jordan Alvarez’s online shorts, including one called "When your gender fluid friend gets more attention from straight guys than you." The pair met in L.A. 10 years ago when Alvarez slid into Freckle’s DMs and said “I touch myself,” which was an allusion to the song Freckle performed in a 2010 stunt audition for American Idol.
Over the phone from Los Angeles, Freckle explained how the role came together, what it’s like to start a genderfluid acting career, and why the internet is so damn special.
The dialogue on the show is incredibly natural. Were a lot of your lines improvised?
A lot of the scene work is scripted. [Alvarez] wrote me those lines, but they're pretty much based in real life. That was my apartment we shot in, I was lounging around in furs and silks for a year because I had come into some money and didn't have a job. I just lounged and prayed to gods or goddesses...became a siren. Everything you see in those scenes is like Freckle, but I was performing around Silver Lake in bars. It's kind of like my vaudeville years. I have a lot of music friends, way more than I have actor friends. I was always opening for them, or they'd throw me on stage and I'd dance for them. So I was Freckle for a while.
A lot of it is improvised, but I don't want to discredit him. A lot of it is written. There is a lot of relaxed comfort and sometimes shit just comes out of my mouth. He definitely creates the situations thought. This casting director was trying to fuck with me and was saying that it might be hard to get a role, like we wouldn't hire Cher to play other roles. And I was like, “Okay buddy, I'm going to Silence of the Lambs you real fast.”
Cher is also an Oscar winner.
She's also an Oscar winner! I mean I think she's lost some of it, but she was good enough in that. She hasn't lost it, she just lost some expression in her face. We all do. Who needs expressions when you have eyes. Norma Desmond says that in Sunset Boulevard, you can quote me: “Words? Back in the day we didn't need words, I can tell a story with my eyes.”
I wanted to bring up old Hollywood actually. A lot of you and your character seems like it’s from this silver screen era. Where does that come from?
Your impulse and intuitions are right. A lot of Freckle is based on old Hollywood. Judy Garland is a big one — more of her as as singer, who's offstage. A star not on stage anymore. Betty Davis and Joan Crawford. The main reason I draw from the old Hollywood stuff is because I don't watch TV or movies currently. I haven't for a decade. I just don't enjoy it. My friend Ed was like, “You don't enjoy movies, do you?” and I go "Nope." TV? Nope. He was like, “What do you like?” and I said, “YouTube.” Because I can watch Judy Garland alive. I can always find a new Judy Garland video I've never seen or a Betty Davis video, or a ‘70s interview with Eartha Kitt. I'm way more thrilled with that with any TV show or movie. I did watch Big Little Lies and Feud, so I'm a little bit of a liar, but I don't tune in regularly.
“My interest in acting doesn’t come from a commerce place, it comes from an art place.”
Has it been tough finding roles as a gender fluid actor?
I don't care about the label, I just want a call time. I'm transcending gender. I think I was somewhat talented enough to get into this arts high school in L.A., somewhat talented enough to win this award called the Emerging Artists Award, and so I thought it was going to be easy to break into acting and then I was like, “Oh shit, people hate gay people.” Gay marriage wasn't legal. A network was not going to broadcast a gay person into the living rooms of middle America. I didn't know that and I couldn't change — not that I wasn't a good enough actor to play straight, my interest in acting was my emotional range. My interest in acting doesn't come from a commerce place, it comes from an art place, so the whole purpose of being an artist is expressing the truth people want to hear. So, I have to be a gay actor or else I'm just a tool. Then it was like, unless I play a hairdresser or a wedding planner there's just no roles. I would wear acrylic nails and I knew it would piss someone off, so I did it again and again and again. So I'm really just a big asshole. I knew growing out my hair and dying it blonde was going to piss someone off. I knew wearing high heels was going to piss someone off. This was my way of pissing someone off and expressing my art.
Then I actually felt like my gender is not specific; I am not a drag queen. That's a big part of Freckle and me. I am not a drag queen. A drag queen is someone who dresses as a woman and goes bigger because they're on stage. I had done some stage. I don't play women on stage, but there's gender-fluidity there. At that point trans became a conversation but people are still terrified of trans people. They think they're Jeffrey Dahmer. When you think of Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma — if they got a window into the shit I'm doing every day, they would think I'm Freddy Krueger.
I could care less about the cornfed fields of Nebraska but if you're asking me about acting then I gotta start thinking about what they think. How am I supposed to get an acting job as Freddy Krueger?
“I feel compelled to be, be, be, be.”
Having said that, are you surprised at the how far the memes from this show have spread and the show’s popularity?
Can you believe it? What the fuck is Tumblr. I need to buy them stock or send them a thank you letter. Because of Tumblr, I'm a famous meme. I think that just goes to show you the internet is so amazing. It can be amazingly bad or amazingly positive. It's just so powerful. In this instance it's extremely wonderful and it's exposing rich nuanced life that you're not going to see in mainstream media. I get letters from suicidal teens and the fact that they can tune out their redneck, Duck Dynasty family for a while. It's like a portal and they can just come to Silver Lake with me and live in Aunt Freckle's boudoir. That is incredible and that's more powerful than TV and film because you can get it in the palm of your hand.
What are your ultimate career goals?
The roles are showing up but maybe I'll just stay on the internet. Maybe I won't conform to TV and film. If this was how it was when I graduated high school, I would've been on a sitcom already, and [if] it was how it was three years ago, Caleb Gallo would've been on a major network. At this point it still can't though, because a network will not have gay characters. They're still too scared. In that sense things are changing but maybe in a vaudeville way I'll stay and just perform on Instagram.
My aspiration for fame are a lot different than Angelina Jolie's. As a non-cis person who is Mexican, my visibility is enough. Just being seen is enough to keep a kid from killing themselves. I feel compelled to be, be, be, be. Even in a Richard Simmons way — if I have to be the gayest, trans-est, loudest thing, I will until we are seen and heard.