How Daniel Franzese, Damian from 'Mean Girls,' helped two of his other co-stars to come out
"She doesn't even go here" and "You go Glen Coco" are just some of the iconic quotes that made Daniel Franzese a star.
His role as Damian Leigh in Tina Fey's 2004 "Mean Girls," starring Lindsay Lohan, became culturally iconic and not just because of it's instantly recognizable one-liners: Franzese's character also inspired and opened the doors for fans of the film to be their truest selves.
The 41-year-old actor came out as gay five years ago and, in an interview exclusively with AOL in honor of Pride Month, Franzese opened up about his journey to coming out during a pre-party in Vienna for the 2019 Life Ball.
"I came out around the tenth anniversary [of 'Mean Girls']. I get a lot of fan mail, but around the tenth anniversary of 'Mean Girls,' I got a letter from a fan who was grown up that said, 'When I was in 8th grade, I was beat up for being chubby and tortured for being a sissy, but then your movie came out and, in 9th grade, on the first day of school, the popular senior girls walked up to me and said, 'You're like Damian, come sit with us!'" Franzese recalled. "And he was like, 'Thank you so much, I don't know if you're gay or not...' but then I realized it's so important that I come out."
"And then I did come out, and I made two of my other co-stars come out -- Kevin G and Aaron Samuels -- we're all gay!" he added
Kevin G and Aaron Samuels, played by Rajiv Surendra and Jonathan Bennett, respectively, were both crucial roles in the film, as well. Bennett was living in the closet during the height of the movie's popularity, while playing the popular high school jock.
"I'm also proud of 'Mean Girls' because it was -- for this generation -- one of the first movies to have a predominantly gay character that was one of the leads. Damien was such an important part to a lot of high school kids for this generation," Bennet said in another interview earlier this week.
Now, 15 years since the release of "Mean Girls," Franzese is using his voice as an activist for gay rights and the LGBTQ community. The actor is even working on his first feature film, which he says will highlight "queer excellence."
"We're going to cast the whole queer cast and I am super excited," he said during our chat.
Franzese also revealed that he was supposed to play the role of Turtle in HBO's hit show "Entourage," which ultimately went to Jerry Ferrara.
"I always audition for Italian, like tough guys. I have a lot of genres. I'm the Italian guy, the chubby guy and now I'm the gay guy, but when I started out it was Italian and chubby guys -- I wasn't auditioning for gay guys -- and then I did 'Mean Girls,' and everything else stopped," he explained. "I was only allowed to audition for gay people and all of the roles that were coming out in 2004 were making fun of gay people, so I didn't work for many years and I held back because, after playing such a forward-moving character, I didn't want to go backwards."
"It really just goes to show you that we are in a different age in time where it's almost hip to be queer and I think that people need to not forget how hard it was. There are a lot of people that don't know what Stonewall is or that don't know about the AIDS crisis or don't know that 50 years ago -- just 50 years ago! -- it was illegal to be gay. We still have rights that can be taken away from us," he said.
"In Burbank, California it's illegal for someone to wear clothes and perform in them that are not of their same gender or for two people of the same gender to dance on stage because there are antiquated laws that nobody digs up because they're [the government] is like 'we don't use them' -- but, trust me, if they needed to use them against us, they would," he went on. "We need to dig up these laws and we need to make it universally legal to be who you want to be."