I recently had the pleasure of chatting with actors Terry Ray and T.J. Hoban, who are currently starring in Here TV's first-ever original sitcom, From Here on OUT. Written and created by Mr. Ray, this new comedy goes behind the scenes at the LGBT cable network as writer Jimmy Randall (Ray) hires an openly gay leading man - sexy Sam Decker (Hoban) - in order for his dream project, Guy Dubai: International Gay Spy, to become a series. But after Jimmy learns that Sam is secretly straight, they conspire to convince the network that they are a gay couple to keep their show on the air. Having watched the first two episodes, I can tell you that From Here on OUT is silly fun with some hot and hunky eye candy as well as the fabulous Juliet Mills (Nanny and the Professor, Passions), who is once again playing a nanny (and a receptionist).
Terry Ray previously co-wrote, produced and starred in the short films, Gaydar (2002) and Cost of Living (2009). T.J. Hoban is considered one of the top fitness models in the industry, and his acting resume includes appearances on Suddenly Susan, The Bold and the Beautiful, Mike & Molly and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
I am delighted to have both of these talented guys here on the Dish to discuss From Here on OUT and answer a few pop culture questions.
What inspired you to create From Here on OUT?
Terry: I've been dying to do a sitcom for my entire life. When I first heard about Here TV - that there was going to be a gay network right here in Los Angeles - I was like "Oh my gosh, fantastic!" I actually know David Millbern, who is now in charge of development at Here TV - and he's always supported my stuff. I did a film called Gaydar, and he loved it and has read everything I've written. But Here TV was always interested in the drama stuff and never the comedy until finally they decided to have a meeting with me - and they actually said, "Why don't you do something where you can spoof us." And I'm like "Seriously? I can spoof you? And spoof this world?" And they're like "Yeah" so they bravely let me do that, which is what inspired me to go, "Okay, let's just get crazy, let me spoof my own world, let me spoof the world of gay television, let's just do it all."
What attracted you to the role of Sam in From Here on OUT?
T.J.: I loved the way that it kind of swept the typical in-the-closet gay scenario on its head. I'd never seen a script where a character was playing an in-the-closet straight guy. To me, that was really intriguing. I thought, "This guy is so desperate he's willing to literally do anything within reason to get this part." Also, the script itself was so well-written and very funny, which really made the whole thing that much more appealing to me.
How did you get cast? Was it like the casting session in the first episode?
T.J.: Well, they've got a really great casting couch over at Here TV, and it's all vinyl and waterproof - no, I'm just kidding! I went in through the normal channels just like everybody else. I got the audition through my agent, I went in and read for the part, and it all worked out.
Terry: I was really excited about the audition process because I'm an actor. So to get to see it from the other side of the table was really interesting and enlightening. I brought several friends in to audition, but the only one who got a role was a guest star, Sam Pancake, who is fantastic. Whoever just knocked it out of the ballpark were the ones who got cast, which was exciting and unpredictable, and we wound up with a cast of people who I didn't know before, but I absolutely love them. I think they're all so fantastic.
How was it working with each other?
T.J.: Horrible - Terry's a jerk. He's so demanding, what a diva. No, I'm just kidding. He's really sweet and smart and very quick-witted and a wonderful actor. Having written and produced things in the past on my own, I understand how important everything is to you when you have a project that is your baby. So I really wanted to do a great job - not just for myself and everybody else - but also for Terry because he just radiates how important the project is to him. When I first did the audition, I was reading opposite him, but I didn't know that he was the writer as well as the guy who was going to play the character opposite me in the show. I just thought he was an assistant to the casting director. And when I left, I thought, "Wow, whoever that was reading opposite me was really good. We had great chemistry, and his timing was great. What a wonderful read." Usually you don't get reads of that caliber when you're auditioning. Instead you get almost a robotic blank slate and you're left acting with yourself. But in the audition, Terry gave me so much that it made my job very easy. All I had to do was just be myself and respond naturally and it worked well. And that carried through with the rest of production.
Terry: Oh my god, if you haven't seen what T.J. looks like, Google him immediately - he's gorgeous! He's been on the cover of over 100 men's fitness magazines, and he is just the nicest guy and so easy to work with. I don't know if he's ever done a gay show before, but he just dove in and did it and was a great sport about the whole thing. Poor guy even had to kiss me!
Since you both appeared on the daytime soap, Passions, did either of you work with Juliet Mills at that time?
Terry: No, I didn't have a scene with her. She was cast because her husband, Max Caulfield, worked with our director, Sam Irvin. Sam had become friends with Juliet through Maxwell, and when we were looking for that role - which is half-receptionist/half-nanny - I didn't even dare hope that it would go to the Nanny. It's a really fun role, but it's kind of racy material - and it's gotta be a brave actress to jump in this swimming pool with us. Sam had her read the material, and she really liked it and said, "As long as I don't have to be naked, I'm good." We're so thrilled she was willing to play with us. I didn't meet her until we were on the set, so I had never heard my words being said by her. And I kept having to remind myself, "Terry, remember to act", because every line I was like "Oh my god, I love how she's saying that." I just wanted to listen to her.
T.J.: Even though I didn't work with Juliet on Passions, that was the first time I really noticed her as an actress. I hadn't seen her earlier work, so when I watched the episodes I was in, I was like "Who is this woman? She's incredible." Then full circle, here we are working with her on From Here on OUT. And she's such a joy to work with. It really is one of the highlights of doing the show.
Did you always want to be an actor?
Terry: I was always an actor. This is dating myself a little bit, but the first movie I can remember seeing was Mary Poppins when I was three years old. And when I came out of that movie, I was so mesmerized - and I think I said to my mom, "They were pretending, right?" And she said, "Yes." And I said, "That's what I want to do. I want to pretend - like that." Writing came along about 15 years ago out of necessity because I wanted a job so I decided to create my own. I've always been interested in writing, but my first passion was acting - and now I'm passionate about both.
T.J.: My mother put me in drama when I was six. She insisted that I go to drama with my sisters, and I wanted to go play baseball. So we had a little stand-off and I ran away for a few hours. She coaxed me back home, and we talked it out and reached a happy medium - I got to play baseball but I still had to go to drama. So I did that for a few years while growing up in Chicago. We traveled around during the summer with this theatrical group putting on shows for Shriners Hospital and a bunch of other day camps. I really loved performing. I just didn't like rehearsing - I just wanted the payoff without putting in all the hard work. Ultimately I left that behind and got into sports. But when I was a finance major in college and studying for my LSAT and really overloaded with work, I was watching General Hospital and Antonio Sabàto was on and we have a similar look. And I said to myself, "I could do that. It looks like a helluva a lot more fun than what I'm doing right now." There was something inside of me that still kind of craved that, and I think it was because my mom put me in it when I was young. So after college and a year of law school, I decided I was going to move out to California and give it a shot. And that's what I did. I started studying with Howard Fine and worked my way up to his master class, and I did Groundlings Theatre for a couple of years and got my comedy improv chops. And when I felt really strong, I got an agent and a manager and started going out on auditions. My first acting role was in a sci-fi TV movie called Babylon 5: The River of Souls, in which I played a male hologram by the name of Durfal. It was a small part, only a couple of lines, but I still get notices from blog posts of rabid fans of Babylon 5. There's even a page dedicated to my character!
How many game shows have you been a contestant on, Terry? And is there one you wish you could've appeared on?
Terry: Let's see - Scrabble, Boggle, 1 vs. 100 and one that just plays on this movable set, which was in the back of a truck. I would've loved to have done Pyramid or Password - I love the word ones. And I think it would've been fun to work with a celebrity like that.
How do you stay in such great shape, T.J.?
T.J.: I started working out with weights when I was 12 years old. I was a little runt with glasses and braces and an Ishkabibble hairdo who could not talk to a girl, let alone get a date, and I used to get picked on and teased, that old Charles Atlas story. I needed to do something with my frustrations, and I wanted to try to change things. So that year for my birthday I asked my mom for a set of weights, turned our garage into a little gym and just worked out like I was Rocky fighting for my life. It really became a coping mechanism at a young age - and it has served me well ever since. It wasn't until college that I had an opportunity to start shooting fitness magazines. I was on spring break in San Diego, and a photographer stopped me on the beach and we actually did a photo shoot while I was on vacation right there. And I took the pictures and sent them to all the fitness mags and that launched my fitness career. It gave me a lot of motivation to stay in peak shape year-round because I started shooting a lot of covers, product endorsements and commercials for fitness products. Now it's just a way of life. If I don't work out five or six times a week for an hour a day, I just don't feel right.
Tell me about the fitness app that you're creating.
T.J.: I'm creating a fitness app for iPhone and Android that is built on a social platform so that trainers can upload their workouts and help service their clients from anywhere all over the world. For anyone who wants to get into shape, the app will customize fitness programs for you, tell you what supplements you should take and help with your diet - what you should be eating, what you should stay away from, your calorie intake, stuff like that - it kind of simplifies the whole fitness experience if you will. I also really wanted to develop a supplement line that would optimize my health and help me maintain my lean muscle mass with ingredients that were all natural. So I worked with a team of scientists and doctors, and we formulated our own line of supplements, which is phenomenal stuff. I've been taking it for about eight months. And I'm getting ready to launch that in about a month or two as well.
If you could go back and give your 19-year-old self a wise piece of advice, what would it be?
Terry: Enjoy your hair while you have it. I would've just combed it all the time and had groovy haircuts. I think in my case ignorance was bliss. If I had known what a long journey this was going to be - and how much poverty was involved - I don't know if I would've been brave enough to do it. So I think it's best that I keep my 19-year-old naive and let him bravely drive across country to California - a place where he didn't know anyone - and just let him do it.
T.J.: Don't major in finance, major in film. I could have got a great jump on my film career had I went in to it much earlier on. When it comes to making good moral judgments and being a good person, fortunately, I learned that at a young age. But I could have saved myself several years of studying finance in college and preparing for law school.
Fill in the blank - when I was growing up, I never missed a television episode of:
Terry: The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Carol Burnett.
T.J.: General Hospital.
Today I never miss a television episode of:
Terry: Downton Abbey.
T.J.: Game of Thrones.
Three of my favorite movies are:
Terry: The Wizard of Oz - because I'm that gay - It's a Wonderful Life and I'm going to stick with Mary Poppins.
T.J.: Scarface, True Romance and The Wolf of Wall Street.
If I could have anyone in the world – living or dead – be a guest at my dinner party, I would invite the following three people:
Terry: Katharine Hepburn, Abraham Lincoln and Jesus - I want to ask him questions.
T.J.: Gandhi, JFK and Warren Buffett.
What’s next for Terry Ray and T.J. Hoban?
Terry: We're going to film Season 2 of From Here on OUT, and I've also been hired to write a bunch of TV movies, which will be coming out in the next year or two. They're for Larry Levinson Productions, who do stuff for Hallmark and their own cable network, Pixel. It's the complete opposite of what I'm doing now - very G-rated family.
T.J.: I just signed on to do an incredible new film called Teleios. It's about five genetically perfect humans created by a lab who are turned into astronauts to facilitate these deep space missions - and one of these missions goes wrong. I play an engineer on board - a very heavy character so I can flex my brain muscle, which is awesome because I don't get an opportunity to do that very often being the Abs Guy. We start filming April 21, so I'm really excited about that - in addition to the next season of From Here on OUT, which we're slated to start filming over the summer.
Thank you, Terry and T.J., for getting Deeper with us here on the Dish.
The official launch date of From Here on OUT on Here TV is March 28, and you can subscribe to see the entire first season at www.heretv.com or on YouTube. You can also follow Terry on Facebook and Twitter and T.J. on Facebook and Twitter. And you can learn more about T.J. on his website at www.tjhoban.net.