In the rising heat of the Parisian summer, I tucked myself away in the shadows awaiting the upcoming interview with Chris Baker, eying the phone being answered in LA. I have followed Chris through his career and the whirlwind that has been his life since his latest release, ‘The Estate’. Having written and starred in the film, alongside having it show on a major streaming platform, Chris appears to be the full package for the gay community in Hollywood. As a seemingly open, eccentric, and upbeat individual, I was curious to see how life has changed for him and his thoughts on the current industry’s approach to the queer narrative. Speaking, laughing, and pondering over the subjects, I was able to see the raw and genuine personality that has made him so loved both on and off our screens. Benjamin K. Johnson speaks with Chris Baker following his shoot with Emil Kosuge in the dawn of the LA Summer.

 Can you tell us about your most recent film? How do you believe it stands out in a very saturated industry?

Yes. My film, The Estate is a throwback to films of the nineties, which, I think, were nastier and screwed in a lot of ways. I think it is in your face, it is colourful, it’s beautiful, and it’s sexual. I think the dialogue, the characters, and the performances make it impossible to ignore, in my opinion… I am biased of course [laughing]. I mean, when you watch it, you’re either going to love it or you’re going to hate it, but you’re never going to forget it.”

The other films you mention, do you have some examples of this?

Wild Things and Cruel Intentions, alongside some films by John Waters. They are kind of campy, maximalist, either incredibly queer coded, or just straight up incredibly queer films. I think these have been gone for a while from the industry, for a lot of reasons, and they are currently just trying to survive.

How do you feel playing a gay character, who didn’t rely on his queerness within the role, and wasn’t pinned as ‘the gay supporting character’?

I saw that, for me, to be the lead in a film and to be gay, the only option was to write my own role. I think that says a lot about the industry and where people are in terms of taking risks and taking chances. But, throughout that entire experience, no one ever said “Oh, this is too gay” or, “Oh God, you know, this is only going to make sense to queer people.” I mean, everyone on set was laughing at the same jokes. So, there’s something really important there. I don’t know if it was necessarily the character or the situation, but it’s about a rich family who are killing each other for their inheritance. And to me, that’s not an exclusively gay thing. You know, every type of person does evil, horrible things. So, I wouldn’t want to show a gay character, more so to show a character who happens to be gay. But my intention also wasn’t to show that gay people are like every everyone else. I personally don’t feel that way. I think part of whatever artistry or absurdism that I notice about the world is all because I’m gay and having that vantage point. I think it is a gift.

How much further can this side of the industry still be pushed?

Well, I’ll start by saying this. It is really hard to make a movie. And I mean any movie, about any subject, no matter what it is. And I think going through the experience once, and I’m going through it again right now, I have so much more capacity for empathy for all filmmakers. Personally, I just really want to make great movies and I don’t know how to write something that’s not queer [laughs]. That is just something that will naturally come out of me whenever I’m writing. In terms of the industry, I do think people are pushing a queer narrative. I don’t know yet on how much of a scale it’s going, but I certainly feel like people are more receptive and open and see the money that can be mined. Frankly, it is what this is all about. I think people realize finally, in a capitalist way, how lucrative it can be to have projects that are more queer. But, when I look at the landscape, at least from the U.S., it does seem like people are getting more opportunities than ever before. But, I think that gayness is really about sex when you sort of distill it. So by pushing gayness, it’s also pushing sex and what I’ve learned being in this industry is that movies in particular are incredibly chaste and often critiqued more heavily. They are not like TV shows. And so, I don’t know, honestly, how far in films we can push queer sexuality if movies don’t want to be sexual.

Do you think we are existing in the development of a Golden Age for queer represention in Hollywood?

It’s hard for me to believe, and I am someone who makes films. I think if the output is really shi**y, then the culture will suffer. So, I think in terms of the dawn of the golden age of queer representation, again, it comes back to what we were talking about earlier, which is, the stuff has to be good. I do think that right now people are taking more risks, putting their money where their mouth is, and giving more queer creators opportunities. But those opportunities have to work, and this remains to be seen. If the stuff is not commercially successful, then the pocket which opens will just close again. The input has to warrant a good output.” Yes, often there are cases of rainbow washing? “Yes! But corporations are going to “corporate”, you know? [laughs]. I think that the audience has to show up. If that support is not there from our own community, it’s also going to hurt the money situation for everyone, and nothing will get made. A rising tide lifts all ships. So, if one of us [the queer community] does well, they should leave the door open for the rest of us to come in.

Are you allowed to talk about the upcoming film?

Um, I can only say that it’s a far more commercial movie than this one. There’s no murder in it! [laughs]. It’s a romantic comedy!

Well, we’ll hold out hope for it when we see it on the screen. For young creatives making a space for themselves within the arts, what advice would you offer?

Well, the first thing I would say is that you can’t let your feelings dominate your life, okay? To be an artist, you have to be able to access your feelings. But to be able to do this as a job, you can’t have your emotions run over you because the amount of rejection that every single person faces is so overwhelming. So, I think if younger people are going to enter into this industry and not make short form content like they do on TikTok and Instagram, and actually step up to longer narrative storytelling, it takes a lot of work and it takes a lot of tries. Storytelling can be grunt work and you have to be fearless.

So do you think that failure may be one of the most important things?

“Yeah! It’s essential. And it’s not just failure. It’s like failing a lot! No one who did everything right ever learned anything. My dad used to say that to me all the time. Like, you say all the right things and everything goes well for you, who are you? You’re no one. Life is not fair. It’s easier for some people by virtue of luck or circumstance, but, to be an artist is to understand all of those things and accept them, but also use them. Use whatever you have.”

How has life been since the creation of ‘The Estate’?

Well, my wedding and the film were released within three weeks of each other. So my life just kind of drastically changed in a single month. I think I’ve been kind of riding that high since! In terms of opportunities that have come since, I would always love more, but I do think that writing and starring in a film that gets released in theatres, and on a major streaming service, really doesn’t happen often. I’m so proud that it happened. I really am. And I think that it’s even harder to do it twice. I really want to build a body of work because I have a lot of stories!

How has life changed for the married Chris Baker?

I feel more settled. I’ve been with my husband for eight years, but we’ve only been married for nine months. I think that a lot of people are like, “If you’re in a long-term relationship, and you get married, it’s the same” It’s not the same! [laughs] I feel like, as a couple, in terms of how we plan things, there’s more runway and we can settle in now. And that’s really, really special. I’m a creative person that does not thrive in chaos. My best work comes when everything is just smooth. Yes. So creatively, it’s been great for me [laughs].

Do you find pressure in thinking of the next move and your plans for the future?

Honestly, I think less about it than I used to. Pre-film release, I think I was overthinking everything. And now I just think it’s about getting stuff done. If one project doesn’t go, which happens 98% of the time, I have other projects lined up and ready. I think that it’s just about building a body of work… however long that takes. We live in a very volatile time. So, if I’m able to get anything done, in whatever order, that’s already a win.

With Emil, does it create a different atmosphere when working with other people who exist within the queer side of the industry?

Yes. I mean, I certainly felt more comfortable being in my underwear in front of another gay guy. I worked with straight male photographers before and sometimes they can’t understand what it is to sexualize a man. But I think that even if they appreciate it, it can be strange for them. Not for me! I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what went wrong in my life, but I’m okay with being naked in front of everyone! [laughs]. But Emil’s work is so incredible. And his work stands out so I was just so proud that he asked me and felt very lucky. And I’m so impressed with them!

What are the next plans that are emerging within your life? Will we see more of you on our screens?

So, I have a podcast that will be coming out in the fall. It’s about sex, and relationships, and advice. And it’s going to be really fun. Really funny! So, I’m very, very, very, excited about it. I haven’t been excited about a project like this in a long time. And I think it’s also because it’s a little bit like independent filmmaking, where you’re making stuff on your own terms.” It sounds like a time for your individualism, and how you want to approach your creativity. Will you have guests? “Yes, but it’s mostly a call-in show so everyone can interact with us. The director and producer of my film are shooting and producing it. And so it’ll exist on YouTube, TikTok and on all podcasts apps, so you can watch it or listen to it as you prefer.

Talent: Chris Baker (@bakerseebakerdo)


Photography: Emil Kosuge (@emil_kosuge)

Interview: Benjamin K. Johnson (@benjaminkjo)