Despite its veneer of political correctness, it's clear homophobia is alive and well in Hollywood, as indie writer/director Patrik-Ian Polk discovered while trying to cast Punks. He needed a strong, handsome boy-next-door type for his debut film about the lives of black and Hispanic gay men in Los Angeles, and almost every "semi-well-known" candidate turned down the offer — until he found tasty Rockmond Dunbar of Showtime's Soul Food.
"I kept running into this road block with actors who didn't want to do a gay kiss," says Polk, who declines to name the reluctant thesps. "It was really a big issue. Everybody loved the character, and they loved the script. I had meetings and went through a nice number of actors [who] did not want to do the kiss, and I wouldn't change it."
It wasn't until a week before filming that they turned to the relatively unknown Dunbar. He didn't think twice about taking the role of Darby, the "Is he or isn't he?" neighbor of a romantically challenged fashion photographer (Seth Gilliam) — kiss, short notice and all."To tell you the truth, the kiss at the end didn't even make a difference to me," Dunbar shrugs. "By reading the script, every question that I had was answered. Every problem that I might have had was answered through Darby's words. He was just living his life simply and trying to find out what love meant to him, and I haven't played a character like that before."