Trick Actor Sets the Record Straight

An Interview with J.P. Pitoc

(U-WIRE) AUSTIN, Texas -- I was first introduced to newcomer J.P. Pitoc on the screen, so all I had to go on for an interview was the character I'd seen him play, the smoldering likes of which you'd expect to find on the cover or a romance novel.

Pitoc stars in the new gay date movie
Trick, where he plays fantasy hunk Mark Miranda, a go-go boy who picks up an uninspired young musician  on the subway ride home but can't seem to find a place where the two boys can get together.

Sitting by the phone all Saturday afternoon waiting for his call, I suddenly understand how all the characters in
Trick felt about Mark: meeting the man of their dreams, giving him their phone number and never hearing from him again.

When Pitoc called a few days later to set the record straight, he explained that he's been busy shooting his second feature, In the Weeds, another New York-based independent film.  Running on only two hours of sleep but coming across as jocular and intelligent, as if I'd caught up with him under better circumstance, J.P. explained just how different he is from his character.

"Mark's a go-go boy, I'm an actor.  I've never done anything of that sort.  God knows I've never worn a G-string, and I don't think I ever will again.  Famous last words, right?" he begins, pausing for a moment to consider the other differences.

"Well, Mark's gay, I'm straight. Mark's 15 pounds heavier than I am now -- I was beefed up for the role.  Mark had short hair, in that silly cut that Jim Fall made me wear.  He's much more assertive in social situations... sometimes.  he goes ahead and says to Gabriel, 'Do you live around here?'  whereas I would never have had the balls to say that to someone I had just met.  I think we all wish we could just be that forward sometimes."

Of course, there are certain characteristics J.P. is rather proud to say aren't just part of his onscreen persona.  For instance, Mark carries around the nickname "Beer Can," referring to the size of the only anatomical detail he keeps covered during his dance routine.

"Yes, we all have our crosses to bear," he says with a mock sigh.  "Terrible to be portrayed on the 40-foot screen in front of thousands of people, it's the worst reputation one could have ... That's what God give me."  He laughs.  "I even had a girl say to me, 'It's not a beer can, but it's not bad.'"


Penis size actually plays a surprisingly minor part in the film when you compare it to recent "straight" comedies (go figure), and concerned parties should be pleased (or perhaps disappointed) to learn that Trick features no revealing Boogie Nights-style disclosure shot.  In fact, the entire film is remarkably tame, all things considered, though Pitoc always seems to be the one stuck in an embarrassing situation if the story calls for it.

"My attitude was always, if you've got it, flaunt it.  I'm 25, and I could care less," he says.  "
Trick is my first feature film.  You think I would have gottn up there in a G-string if I had other work?  No, I'd never made a movie before, and I was offered a job acting in a lead in a film, a well-written film, being made by some terrific people, and working with terrific actors, so I jumped at it.  I've never done a film before, just student films in college, but I've been working in the non-paying schlock theater world of downtown New York."


A "born and bred New Yorker," Pitoc went to high school in Manhattan and studied drama at NYU.

"I studied acting, I didn't study necessarily theater or film acting," he says.  "I was doing tons of Shakespeare, tons of movement improvisational theater, you name it, which made me ready to do anything, to jump into whatever the medium was. working on a film for me was the difference of just working on a differently arranged set."

The risk of taking on a character as memorable as Mark Miranda in his first role is getting typecast for roles too similar to the one he plays in
Trick.  Pitoc has enjoyed the film's success, but regrets that he sometimes receives offers to play gay supporting characters when other roles that would allow him to try out a different kind of part are also available.

"It would be like playing two quarterbacks in a row, two cops in a row, two firefighters in a row," Pitoc says.  "It's just not what an actor sets out to do.  It's about a body of work.  My character in
In the Weeds is married with a pregnant wife.  it's a lot of fun for me as an actor.  That's why I do it, to go do something different."

"None of us really run away from roles where you're playing an athletic guy or the football player.  It wasn't like 'How many roles are they writing on TV and motion pictures for strippers?'  There's really not that many.  The beefcake thing wasn't something that we were pigeonholed as.  if anything, it led to people seeing me as 'the athletic type' of the leading-man type, which is cool.  That's something you definitely want, if 'pigeonholed' is the word, you definitely want to get pigeonholed as." 

Using the basic outline of a lonely songwriter seeking inspiration before he can perfect that pesky love song,
Trick begins on the familiar ground of an oldfashioned straight romance film, a Rock Hudson/Doris Day picture perhaps.  In a way, the "two guys just looking for a place to have sex" premise might mislead audiences, or even turn some skittish viewers away, from a more more sentimental film.

"Some people complained that it was a dick-tease because there was no blatant sex, and i say, 'Go watch a porno!'" Pitoc says with mock offense.  "Yeah, it's a sweet love story.  that's what it boils down to."

More than that,
Trick is a gay film with no overt political agenda, no HIV or tolerance issues.  yet the film makes its strongest statement in the casual way it approaches its gay material, making it clear that those involved consider the crucial difference between Trick and other romantic comedies to be a non-issue.

"I grew up in a tremendously cosmopolitan city," he says.  "New York has a bit of everything, so I grew up knowing gay friends my own age, knowing older same-sex couples, knowing older same-sex couples with children, so to me and to my generation in the urban environment, it's not a big deal.  It's life and it's a part of life.  But I don't know what the climate is in Middle America, and I'm sure there are a lot of places where Trick can't be shown."

I ask J.P. to imagine Grant Wood's American Gothic painting, the one with the weathered Midwestern couple standing in front of their barn.  The old farmer puts down his pitchfork, takes his wife by the arm and goes to the movies.  They haven't been to the movies in years, and
Trick is the first thing they see on their visit back.  How do they react?


"She goes, 'Dang Wilbur, I wish you were hung like that boy!'" He laughs, unable to resist a joke before getting serious again.  "Hopefully, they have the reaction that I hoped my parents would have when I knew that they were first going to see the film. I said that if they are somewhere through the course of the film cheering for these two guys to get together and just have this kiss then we know we've done our job, and that's hopefully what these two would experience."

You might not expect a gay date movie to be the most likely film to bring attention to an up-and-coming star, but Pitoc clearly has made an impression.  According to Pitoc, he is frequently recognized in public, often by people whome he is surprised have seen the film.

"I was in a store in L.A. a couple of weeks ago," he explains, giving his favorite example, "and I love it that this 13-year-old girl turned to me while I was in line, and said, 'Oh my God!  You were in
Trick!!'  And she said, 'Oh my God!  You were... AWESOME!'  And she jumps up and down and starts flailing her arms, and I saw her run to her three little friends and their mom, and they were jumping up and down, and I thought, 'Now my life is complete.'  I'm the new DiCaprio."  He laughs.  "It was a great feeling that I have hit not necessarily young girls as a market, but that I thought this film has crossed over.  If these girls had seen it, I thought, obviously this film is getting seen by more people than just a gay male audience."  

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