Even in increasingly tolerant times, rare is a portrayal of a gay man on TV as well-rounded as Scotty Granger's was on Platinum Hit. The show's second runner-up openly presented exactly who he was inside (per the demands of a songwriting competition) without ever seeming like he was reducing himself to a stereotype or defining his entire existence by his sexuality. In fact, Scotty's sensitive, thorough portrayal may be the show's greatest contribution to pop culture (that is, until some of its talented contestants make good on their potential).
We talked to Scotty about the show's handling of his sexuality, why he uses the word "lifestyle" to describe it, how the show helped with his craft and why he was one of the only cast members to bond with Platinum Hit antagonist Nick.
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What did you think about your portrayal? Obviously, your sexual orientation was a big part of your story arc.
Scotty Granger: Yeah, it's a big part of who I am. It's not who I am, it's part of who I am. I think my portrayal was pretty much spot-on. I really strive to be myself. I could have put on for the TV, but I really wanted my true persona to come through. If you're cool with me, we're probably going to have a lot of fun together, and if we're great both great writers, we're probably going to write some great songs together. Oh, and by the way: I'm gay. That's what I wanted it to be. Not, "This is the gay kid," but, "This is the talented kid, who just happens to be gay, too."
You expressed surprise to see your father sitting by your boyfriend. Had they never met?
Granger: No, he had never met him before, none of my family had and I was going to keep it that way. I was raised really strictly, and, y'know, [taught that] being gay is the worst thing you could ever be in life so don't do it or we won't talk to you. My dad damn near tried to kill me when I was 15 when he found out I was gay. Seeing him completely reinvent himself, educate himself, learn and grow, seeing a man who's 50-something years old evolve and love me unconditionally is beautiful to look at. It was a huge moment for him and for me. He still doesn't agree with it, but our relationship is so much more eye to eye.
It's interesting that on the show you used the word "lifestyle" to describe being gay. A lot of people, particularly gay people, don't like that word because it suggests that being gay is a choice.
Granger: You gotta understand where that is coming from because I was in a religion and I know how people view it. To them, it is a lifestyle. And at the same time, it is a choice: It's a choice for us not to hate ourselves. If I'm choosing to be happy, call it a choice. I don't care. I made the choice not to let [others] run my life.
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You had one interview that was like the best It Gets Better Video that never was. You summed up the experience of learning to love yourself so succinctly.
Granger: As a writer, that's our job: To put the most succinct, terse and to-the-point responses in a way that people can digest so that it helps them immediately.
Did the show help you with that?
Granger: Absolutely. I kind of hate that I got deemed the melody guy. I'm not a writer who writes a hook in 30 minutes. None of those people on the show, not even the creators, can write a hit in 30 minutes. Maybe once in a blue moon. To consistently have to do that several times a week, as we did, is a lot to ask. I need inspiration as a writer, and we didn't have phones, we couldn't watch TV, we couldn't go on the Internet. We couldn't do anything. I wasn't hearing about social [happenings]. I didn't have any motivation besides what was in me. I'm just as sound lyrically as melodically, I just never got to show it. Lyrics don't come to me as quickly as melody does. I'm not the kind of writer for the format of the show.
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How long generally would it take you to write a hook?
Granger: The hit-makers of today will sit on them for two months, just making sure the melody is fine. I'm like that. I won't play anything for anyone until I know it's right. That could take a week, it could take an hour, it could take a month. It could take a year. It has to sit right perfectly.
A few times, it seemed like your advice to your contestants could have been sabotage. You encouraged Jackie to write the country song that led to her elimination, and you attempted to dissuade Sonyae from "My Religion," which is the song she won the show with.
Granger: Jackie sabotaged herself because she doesn't shut the f--- up. That's always bad in a teamwork environment where you have to listen to people. She just listens to herself. My goal was always to write the best song. This wasn't a game show. People were watching to see how we'd act in the real world when we were actually doing this stuff. I was never trying to sabotage anybody, because no one would want to work with a person who tries to sabotage people. My goal was just to write a solid song every time. I told Jackie to pick country because I love country music, and I thought everyone would be on board to write a bona fide country song. We get in the session, I told them that we had to focus on the story because that's what country is all about and Jackie said she wanted to do something more like Sugarland. I focused on the track. She sabotaged herself.
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You were one of the only people on the show to bond with Nick. Why was that?
Granger: He's not really that person on the show. I was his roommate so I got to see that. The guy has a tattoo of Jesus on his neck, and he really reveres Jesus. I didn't even bring a Bible, but he did and would read it every night. He got on his knees and prayed every night. I understand people who are talented and tortured.