My Fake Boyfriend’s Marcus Rosner spoke with Subjectify Media about his turn as Keiynan Lonsdale’s comically bad boyfriend in the new semi-screwball queer romcom from Amazon Prime Video.
Canadian actor Marcus Rosner has been seen in The CW’s Arrow and Hulu’s UnREAL as well as a slew of Hallmark romantic comedies, often playing the clean-cut, likeable leading man. His latest project is a pretty big departure from that world — Rosner stars as Nico in My Fake Boyfriend, a new queer romantic comedy from Lionsgate and Buzzfeed Studios that debuted on Prime Video earlier this month.
Directed by Rose Troche (Go Fish, The L Word) with a script from Luke Albright, Greg Boaldin and Joe Wanjai Ross, My Fake Boyfriend centers around the love life of Andrew, played by Keiynan Lonsdale (The Flash, Love, Simon.) Andrew is a New York-based stuntman who’s been dating Rosner’s Nico, the narcissistic leading actor of the TV show he works on, for nearly a year.
The desire is there, but the relationship is somewhat toxic as the pair are ill-matched: Andrew wants more of a monogamous commitment, Nico lies about seeing other people, Andrew keeps going back, Nico keeps relying on the fact that he always will. After break-up number nine, Andrew’s self-worth is on the line, and his best friends Jake (Dylan Sprouse) and Kelly (Sarah Hyland) stage an intervention, encouraging Andrew to stay away from Nico once and for all.
In order to keep Nico at a distance, Jake, who’s an unemployed graphic designer, invents a fictional boyfriend for Andrew to post about on social media. But Cristiano Maradona (yes, really) ends up drawing the focus of more than just a jealous Nico when he goes viral as an influencer. Andrew finds himself in the spotlight as one half of the internet’s new favorite celebrity couple right in time for him to meet Rafi (Samer Salem), a kind and sexy up-and-coming chef who might really be someone special.
As the business of maintaining Cristiano’s online identity — philanthropy and activism, brand sponsorships, virtual conferences via a mocap suit — becomes a full-time job, it’s Jake’s self-worth that gets thrown into the blender when it starts to consume his life. His own romance also suffers, so when Jake’s partner Kelly makes a drastic decision, both Andrew and Jake must navigate the tricky task of getting rid of Cristiano without revealing their lie — Jake for the sake of his career, and Andrew in order to have a chance with Rafi.
In the meantime, Nico has been driven out of his mind by the concept of Cristiano, and becomes increasingly possessive about Andrew and suspicious of his friends, and things come to a head in the most bizarre of settings when he’s the one to figure out the truth about Andrew’s fake boyfriend.
We spoke with Marcus Rosner, who plays Nico, about his role as the “villain” of the piece (who he describes as “completely off-the-wall batshit crazy,”) doing in-character couples’ counselling with Keiynan Lonsdale, and the progressive freedom of irresponsibility when it comes to making queer cinema.
This interview contains mild spoilers for My Fake Boyfriend.
I’ve been looking forward to My Fake Boyfriend since the trailer came out, mainly because it looked like it was really fun and just crazy, in a really awesome way, but what about this project in particular interested you when you auditioned, or when you eventually got to read the script? What was the most unusual or interesting thing about it for you?
First of all, it’s so crazy and over the top and ridiculous—that was super appealing to me because I’ve worked primarily in a lot of straight-laced rom-com material, which I love doing but I’ve done so much of it and so it was so exciting to do something so zany and arguably be the zaniest part of the whole endeavor, so that was great.
Getting to do an LGBTQ themed rom-com was something I was super excited about. I love the way that it dealt with with our characters just as matter-of-fact, that they are gay. They didn’t dive into the troubles of the societal struggle within that. It just, to me, spoke to an evolution that we don’t even have to get into those elements, we can just have a plain LGBTQ themed rom-com, with characters that are fallible or infallible and I loved that aspect of it so much too.
That was actually my first takeaway from the trailer. Because I think that “issues” movies are important for us—and I am queer myself—I think that stories that deal with the struggles of having that issue as a minority, or as a group that’s been in some way oppressed is important, but also as soon as I saw the trailer I was like “This movie could be about any couple.” It could it could be a girl with a fake boyfriend, or a boy with a fake girlfriend, or any pairing, and it was very matter-of-fact that it happened to be about jealousy within a relationship of a gay couple. And then when I watched the movie, all of that was really normalized, and most minor characters were incidentally queer in some way as well. Once you started working with the director Rose Troche, did you learn more about her approach as to why she wanted to make the film that way, or was that more down to the screenwriter?
I don’t know ultimately whose choice it was to make it sort of a matter-of-fact approach like that, but it was definitely one of the things that I found incredibly refreshing, because in a lot of my conversations with my friends in the LGBTQ community, we sort of dissected the importance of both of these things, and I think what we’ve sort of boiled it down to in our summation is that it’s really important to dissect that struggle for the people, the elder statesmen in the community who have gone through that and we really need to reflect on that.
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But what I am really excited about is just making completely normalized versions of these things for the next generation who won’t even think twice about the fact that they’re gay, and I think that movies like this that are just fun, crazy, and our gay characters are also crazy and do bad things… It just normalizes it in such a defining way. But in terms of whose choice it was ultimately, I don’t know, I just know that they put a lot of the best people together. Keiynan Lonsdale is obviously a fantastic representative of the community, Rose, our director, a long-standing great representative of the community, and so I think the right people were at the helm.
I heard that you got involved in My Fake Boyfriend, or got the role, quite quickly. You got thrown in the deep end when you were in the process of getting offered the part, with a pretty fast introduction into the cast, is that right? What was that like?
Yeah, as the story goes, basically, I was in Guatemala with my wife to be, and we were scouting locations for our eventual wedding, and this came into my inbox and I threw it on tape really quickly one morning, and we ran out the door to go look at a volcano or a ruin or something that we were incorporating and then I kind of forgot about it for a couple weeks, and I got a call from my agent at about 11am on a Friday morning, and she said “Hey, they’re doing a table read for this movie you auditioned for, and they want to offer you the role of Nico, but they want you to jump on the table read in 10 minutes.”
And I said, like, “Well, have you closed a deal?” And she said no, and so immediately my thought process is: I could go into this thing, I don’t know anything about it, I didn’t even know it was a comedy, I literally knew nothing about it, I barely remembered the audition that I did quickly—and so I thought “I could go into this, it seems like a huge opportunity, and I could blow it in the table read because I’m completely unprepared, or I could neglect to do the table read and look like a jerk and then they could be like ‘I don’t want to work with this guy.’” So I just rolled the dice, I went in, and luckily I did a good enough job that we sealed the deal later that afternoon, and I guess the rest is history.
So you were discovering the story for the first time as you were doing the table read, is that right?
Completely, yeah. And I talked to Samer, who plays Rafi — he was in the same boat, but he was reading his character and I guess initially, before I started speaking in one of the early scene, he actually thought he was reading my character, and once I started talking he texted his agent and asked for clarification.
Oh my god!
She was like, “Oh no, oh no you’re reading this other character.” So we were comparing notes at the premiere, it was hilarious.
That feels very like theater-y or like very improv-y, I mean, that’s quite unusual. I suppose that kind of thing’s not that common, but that’s really fun.
It makes for a great story.
You mentioned that My Fake Boyfriend was quite interesting to you because it wasn’t as sanitized or conventional as some of the other roles that you’ve done, with romantic comedies and with network TV. Not only was the content a bit more wild and a bit more adult, but you are the villian. What is the percentage of you playing a bad guy versus playing a romantic hero, or a supportive friend? Because that’s also quite an extreme shift.
Early on in my career I got to play a lot of bad guys, because those guys are often smaller roles, and so I had the opportunity to be the bad guy many times years ago. And then I’ve done these Lifetime thriller type movies where I am the lead of the film, but I’m deranged and crazy and killing people and stuff, so honestly that was probably the closest thing to this experience.
But certainly over the last couple of years, because naturally as an actor I want the biggest role I can get my hands on, and I’m fortunate enough to be in the position I am to get these these leading man parts, the leading man needs to be a very likable guy, and while that is very fulfilling in the sense that I get to be a major part of these productions, it’s not always the most exciting or challenging thing to do. So yeah, I loved every bit of being a supporting character in this, and being completely off-the-wall batshit crazy.
I mean you say that, but you mentioned the kind of deranged-killer-level bad guy, so let’s talk about Nico with a little more empathy, because obviously that’s not his level of bad, it’s more just a personal dynamic problem. That’s another thing I liked about My Fake Boyfriend — I don’t know if this is something that was discussed when you were making it or with the director, but some of the language that was used in general and regarding the problems between Nico and Andrew, it stood out to me that it’s not quite an issue of cheating, it’s an issue of different people being on different pages about monogamy or non-monogamy. Because more people are practicing ethical non-monogamy these days as a choice, but as the movie says, you know, that’s not what Andrew as an individual wants, which is fine, he’s allowed to not want that.
But it’s not so much “I’m cheating on you,” it’s like, “I don’t want a monogamous relationship,” “Well I do,” and they can’t find common ground, though obviously Nico is quite hypocritical and unfair about it. But I was curious about that element of My Fake Boyfriend not really being a cheating drama, and not really condemning the concept of non-monogamy on principle, but, you know, still with someone being quite irrational and unfair about it. Was the idea of that kind of non-monogamy as a potentially functional relationship new to you? If Nico had really loved Andrew, how might he have better approached making that kind of ethical non-monogamy work, if that’s what he wanted?
It’s so funny that you bring that up because we did this — one of Rose’s ideas before we started shooting was to do sort of a faux therapy session between mine and Keiynan’s characters. She almost played our therapist, and we were in character, and I think it went on for like an hour and a half, in character, and she was discussing— she wanted to know how we met, and why Nico thought his behavior was okay, and hear Keiynan’s side as Andrew, and how it was affecting him, and we went really deep on that, and it was so fascinating. Definitely one of the funnest acting prep exercises that I’ve had the chance to be a part of.
I had developed some ideas about why Nico feels justified in his actions already, but it really helped me dive into just how differently he sees relationships, how differently he sees monogamy, sexuality, and all those things. So that was an exercise we did that helped explore that, and I think honestly that was enough to sort of tap into why Nico feels okay with what he’s doing, and allow me to play it in what hopefully came across as a rounded way and not just this flat, evil human being.
I definitely think it did. Obviously he’s not the healthiest about it, because he’s jealous, and he’s angry about Andrew having potential other people, but the movie in general certainly had a bit of a different approach to it being like a straight cheating scandal, which I really liked. Some of the scenes that you got to play were just some of the strangest, funniest things I’ve ever seen—a lot of the stuff with Dylan Sprouse and Sarah Hyland as the protective friends—but the all-white funeral is maybe one of the nuttiest scenes I’ve seen in a movie in years. What was that shoot like? That’s just— we were just watching it going like, what is going on? But not in a bad way. Just like, what is happening?!
I know. I think by the time you get to that scene you’re like, “Okay, this movie is not even pretending to be sane or level, it just wants to have fun,” and again I think that’s juxtaposed nicely with a very real, heartfelt love story between Keiynan and Samer. But yeah, at that point we’ve reached the full craziness. Again, it’s hilarious because I was reading the script for the first time in front of producers, director, other stars in a virtual table read, and I do the most insane things, and so as I was reading it I was like, “Are we being serious here? This is what I’m doing? Okay! I hope they don’t fire me, because I really want to do this.”
It was a two-day shoot—I think it was even a little more extensive than what made the final cut. I remember coming in very hot—I lost my voice after the first day, because we shot it over two days, and I had to start doing takes where I was just pretending to speak when the camera wasn’t facing me. And then there was the whole fire coordinating, and we also wanted to squeeze in that moment with Keiynan and Samer where the audience feels like, “oh no he’s getting away!” But then I’m in the background yelling like crazy.
There was a part of that scene that didn’t make the cut where Keiynan runs back and tackles me, and is like “you have been the worst part of my life” or something like that. It’s a very heartfelt thing that didn’t that didn’t make it. There’s a few things between Keiynan and I that didn’t make it in with good reason, because they needed to focus on the main story, but yeah. So that’s what I remember from that.
Something else that I really enjoyed about My Fake Boyfriend was that obviously it’s a film that hinges quite a lot on Internet culture, social media, influencers and stuff like that, and the fact that it was actually produced by Buzzfeed, it feels like it was allowed to kind of make fun of that culture within itself, because it is coming from inside the house, if you know what I mean.
It felt authentic in terms of that, and self-aware, compared to a lot of movies that kind of try to represent Internet culture and don’t do it that well. So I really enjoyed that element of the humor, that they were kind of making fun of themselves. And then another thing that I always find interesting when I’m watching films is obviously the main setting of Nico’s job and Andrew’s job—he’s working on this TV show. What is it like to film a show within a show? You know, how you’ve got stages within stages, and I’m never quite sure how that works, when there’s a set within a set on film. How does that function, exactly?
I’ve had the chance to do that a couple of times now. I did that on a show called UnREAL, which is sort of a scripted drama about the behind the scenes nature of a show like The Bachelor, and so I’ve seen it a couple times, and yeah, it’s so interesting. Like there’s a scene in this movie where I come out of my trailer and Keiynan’s getting fired, and that was just our trailers. Like that was just our base camp.
Yeah, that’s the kind of question I’m curious about. I know that you did an episode of Supernatural, and I used to cover that show — they had an episode like that a long time ago which was basically, they were filming on a TV show and they were very much just filming behind the scenes of their own stages. And I wasn’t sure how common that is, versus setting up something more specific for camera. So you used a lot of the real background of your stages?
Definitely in that particular scene, that was just our base camp. I got such a kick out of it. I think I’m coming out of Keiynan’s trailer during that scene, because it was the biggest. The blue planet stuff — I don’t think that was used for other stuff, but it was on a soundstage, and I mean, we’re shooting the movie on a soundstage, and so then I think you just bring the cameras a little wider, and you let things be in frame. If there’s a person that also needs to actually be doing their job, then you have to cast somebody to be the boom operator or somebody like that, but I think that it’s almost like anything goes. I think they aren’t afraid to let things— there’s one scene where Richard Alan Reid, the head of Buzzfeed Studios, was sitting behind the monitor on the show Hamptons Bay, and he would sit behind the monitor on our shoot, and so it’s just like little meta things like that.
It’s actually Nico that figures out the secret, the plot of the fake boyfriend Cristiano. So that’s kind of a victory moment for him, to actually be the one to have identified the lies at play. What does that say about how obsessed he is with Andrew, to have been able to deconstruct it? I don’t know how to frame this in a nice way, but why does he care so much? Do you think that he loves Andrew, and would have liked Andrew to be on the same page with him about what they wanted, or do you think it’s just jealousy or ego? The fact that he’s so obsessed with it that he figures it out, I’m curious about what that says about where he’s at with all of this, if you know what I mean.
100%, yeah. This is a question that we got into with Rose and Keiynan and myself early on, because Rose obviously wants to instil a sense of genuine heart at the base of a movie like this, and so she posed that question to me, and through our therapy session that I was talking about, we sort of drilled down on that, and I think what we got to is that that Nico genuinely loves Andrew, but the only way that he knows how to hang on to people like that who he genuinely needs in his life so that he can stand on them and make himself feel elevated, is to control them, and so I think [to him] it was a real love, and as he was slipping away it drove Nico crazy.
And at the same time—I don’t know how much of it was it was clear, but it was the last season of the show Hamptons Bay, and so there was all these insecurities for Nico in terms of possibly ending the biggest job of his career, not knowing where that was going, and then having this boytoy that he thought he could control at all times find something better than him, and who has all the things that he actually wants, which is heightened fame, and the love of people and stuff and so yeah, I just think people like Nico need to have people like Andrew to feed their their insecurities.
Fair enough, that’s very interesting. I found it very funny when he was doing the murder board and all, but nothing could have prepared me for that funeral scene reveal.
I’m just trying to imagine you actually reading this and discovering things as you’re going, and not having had the chance to sit down with it in advance, and it just sounds so, so funny. Your director Rose Troche, she’s a pretty iconic LGBTQ director from Go Fish, so that’s a really awesome opportunity as well. What is your biggest takeaway from making My Fake Boyfriend, and for putting it out during Pride month? We’ve spoken a bit about the normalization of the LGBTQ element, but why should people watch this movie? What is the element that you would like people to take away from it, why should they take it seriously, or maybe why should they not take it seriously, and what is it offering to the world that is special and unique?
Personally, one of my favorite memories, now, from my career, is going down to the Castro two weeks ago for the premiere, and being in that historic neighborhood, and learning about the history of the theater. I had a passing knowledge, but I’d never been to San Francisco, and so just to dive into that a bit more and see the way that the LGBTQ community just embraces their own with such love, and props them up— I loved all of that.
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In terms of the film— where it sits in the history of this genre, I don’t know. I hope that there’s an appetite for, like we were talking about, films that aren’t afraid to be ridiculous, and be silly, and let the LGBTQ community be every bit a part of that as the straight community would be, you know? Because I don’t think anybody would hesitate to make a crazy trashy rom-com with straight folks, but there does seem to be some level of well-earned responsibility when you tell an LGBTQ story, and I just hope that we’re ready to take a bit of a step past that, and be like— there’s nothing that normalizes it more than allowing it to be insane and trashy and crazy like this.
Yeah, I agree with you because — and I need to clarify that I don’t think My Fake Boyfriend is actually bad, I think it’s very good — you’re not allowed to have a “bad” gay movie. Do you know what I mean? It’s rarely allowed to be trashy, as you said. You’re not allowed to have a “junk food” movie that is not taking things seriously, not being responsible, being just fun or light, and you know, it has to be perfect. And I actually think My Fake Boyfriend is fantastic. I think the acting and the writing is really naturalistic. It is a really, really good movie, but it is crazy, and it is silly, and it’s not trying to be particularly responsible, and it’s just insane. And yes, there is definitely a standard to which gay movies have been held as either an issues movie or morally perfect. There is disparity in what people have allowed to be greenlit. So I think I do understand what you mean by that.
Yes, I think you said it so much better than I possibly could have said it, but I think we’re basically trying to articulate the exact same thing. There is no greater freedom than the ability to just be irresponsible with it, because we feel secure in knowing that the right people are telling the story, and they have the best intentions.
That’s definitely a great way of putting it. I really appreciate you taking that approach, and also being responsible with the role, even though the material is not, as we said, “responsible,” but you as an actor being responsible with the role is also really awesome, so yeah. I really, really enjoyed the movie.
Yeah absolutely. I really appreciated this chat as well, so thank you.