Michael J. Willett Talks MTV’s ‘Faking It,’ Playing Gay Characters And His Own Coming Out

by | April 28, 2014 at 11:08 AM | LGBT, MTV

Michael J. Willett (photo: Kate Romero)

Last week the new MTV comedy “Faking It” premiered and audiences were introduced to the students of Hester High where Karma (Katie Stevens) and Amy (Rita Volk) decide to fake being a lesbian couple to boost their popularity. But what happens when Amy realizes maybe she has feelings for her BFF and isn’t going to be faking being gay after all?

Sounds like Amy needs someone to show her the ropes and that person just might be Shane, who is gay and proud and could probably help anyone who might be confused about their sexuality.

Played by Michael J. Willett, Shane is part of the new breed of gay teens on TV (as I profiled last week in my Gay Teen Revolution feature) who aren’t as worried about their sexuality as is usually the case in portrayals in television and film. In fact, “Faking It” presents a world where being gay isn’t a big deal and, as we’ll see in tonight’s episode with Shane and his straight best friend Liam (Gregg Sulkin), even two guys dancing together is a pretty normal thing.

I grabbed some time with Willett to chat about the character and what we’ll see throughout the show’s first season.

Now that the show is airing, how are you feeling?

Michael J. Willett: I’m so excited! I feel like I’m ready for the world to see it and fall in love with it. I think it’s something that people will enjoy weekly and they’ll want to go to our school!

The subtle message of the show is so great and there’s even mention of LGBT-centric organizations like The Trevor Project and PFLAG. You get educated without feeling like you’re being educated.

MJW: I feel like it’s important for young people, practically young gay people, to know what to do and how to handle bigotry and opposition and where to go to have those resources of help and guidance. I think it’s important.

MTV shows are usually for a younger audience but is there something in the show for older viewers, like myself?

MJW: [laughs] I think that high school themes are replayed over and over throughout your life and you try to pretend that it’s a phase and that once you’re out of high school it’s over but I don’t think that’s true. These issues are constantly coming up in your life, who are we, what are our insecurities and how does that affect other people? I think there’s something for everyone.

Shane’s family is mentioned in the show so will we get an idea what his home life is like or did you have your own ideas?

MJW: I kind of pictured that he is an only child because he seems to be very much an individual. He seems like he’s taken a lot of time to harvest who he is and what he likes and believes in and I think that probably comes from parents who are more open minded and have allowed him to explore various things. I imagine that he comes from a supportive home. I don’t know if his parents are together or not but that’s what I kind of thought.

Shane and Amy connect pretty quickly. What do you think the connection is about?

MJW: I think initially it starts out as superficial because Shane has always wanted lesbian friends but as he befriends her he realizes that she’s much deeper and that she might have some issues regarding her sexuality. Shane, being more confident and sure of himself, has a lot to say and a lot of advice for her.

The Shane/Liam friendship is great being the gay and straight guy but I love that in one episode you guys have a talk while dancing together and it’s not a big story point.

MJW: I think it’s a really cool, unique relationship and I think not addressing it almost makes it more progressive in a lot of ways. It’s not a plot line. It’s just a part of who they are. They happen to be friends and it’s normal.

Liam is allowed to be the archetypal teen horn dog but do we get to see Shane have any action? He mentions some college guys…

MJW: Yes, you find out later that Shane also has some commitment issues. He likes to play the field and he’s sort of an opportunist when it comes to guys.

How is Shane ‘faking it’ in high school? Carter [Covington, Executive Producer] has said that in some ways everyone on the show is faking something. Do you think that fits for Shane?

MJW: Absolutely! You’ll see on multiple occasions where Shane is faking it. There are multiple costume changes and, yes, fortunately, Shane is able to flow between situations so on many occasions he’s asked to fake it for other people or other scenarios.

Shane (Willett) and Liam (Gregg Sulkin) in the 'Faking It' premiere. (MTV)

I first talked to you about the film “GBF” where you played a gay character and now you’re playing another gay character. What do you think about how Hollywood can label you by the roles you play?

MJW: I think partially that I can play lots of different characters but I also feel like it’s not about gay or straight. It’s about the characters and although I have played multiple gay characters, they’re all very different. I believe that that is the future and it’s not really something I probably want to continue doing – the high school gay lead roles – but I would like to get into science fiction and action

Do you have actor role models?

MJW: I like Joseph Gordon Levitt. He’s been able to do more edgy indie work as well as the mainstream roles. I like that he’s able to do some heavier emotional work and then some lighter comedic stuff.

The show is so much about coming out. What is your own story?

MJW: I came out when I was 13 and started to become more open about liking boys and I still ended up dating girls and boys. It seems to be the natural progression from where I was but it wasn’t a shock to anyone that I was close with. I was always a very creative kid, very sensitive and it was always just a part of who I was. I guess I sort of got bullied in high school but no more than anyone else. I felt like everyone was weird or different.

What’s going on in your own dating life? Do you want to talk about that?

MJW: No, not yet. [laughs] I think I want to keep it a mystery for now.

“Faking It” airs Tuesdays at 10:30pm on MTV.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.