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David W. Ross interview

We chat to the writer and star of new film I Do.

I Do

David W. Ross may have a boyband past but he’s becoming a formidable force in the movie industry.

After dipping his toe into the world of acting in recent years, David has been hard at work on his debut feature as a writer I Do. The film takes a look at the inequality that gay and bi-national couples face with a specific focus on the current US climate. David not only wrote and produced the movie, he also stars in the lead role as Jack.

We caught up with David to talk all things I Do, discuss the film’s incredible cast and talk about the obstacles that having a boyband past can present. There are some minor spoilers so if you haven’t seen the film yet proceed with caution!

I Do came out on DVD here in the UK this week. Where did the idea for the movie come from?

Originally it was from a relationship I had with somebody in England. He was living over here (the US) and couldn’t get his paperwork figured out and we couldn’t keep him in the country through marriage. He went back to the UK and we tried to do a long distance thing but financially and career-wise neither of us could really pull it off. There was a couple of years there where I was pretty tortured.

That progressed from a comedy to a more political drama when I started shooting pictures and I started shooting all the Prop 8 rallies in California. That’s when I saw families with kids and it was an image that really burned and hurt to see that these people were suffering because of marriage inequality.

I wanted the film out before the presidential election in 2012 and we were definitely out and people were talking about the film. My main intention was to show how the LGBT community had stuttered in this community because of marriage inequality. We’re still fighting that fight. It definitely started off as a personal story and ended up me wanting to tell a broader, deeper, more family political drama.

When you were writing I Do did you know that you would be the main star of the film?

No not at the beginning. I was quite happy to write the story and hand it over but Quinceanera, it’s called Echo Park, LA in the UK, and that came out in 2007. It won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at Sundance in 2006. I really had a great time and people seemed to like my acting. I was working with my producer partner Steven on the more comedic version of the film at the time and I said, ‘do you think I could play Jack?’ and he said ‘yeah I think you could’.

Then it became more difficult to write some of the scenes because even though I know what I wanted to do with the story, myself as an actor I didn’t know if I could handle it. It became this interesting thing where I had to turn the actor off inside of me going ‘I don’t like that scene and you’re never going to pull that off’ and put the story first and see where it wanted to take itself.

You assembled a fantastic cast for the movie including Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Alicia Witt and Grant Bowler. How did they come to be involved?

My agent at the time gave it to Jamie and Alicia. They read the script and within about a week or two they came back and said they wanted to be on board. They really understood what we were trying to do in terms of the message and the timing. We saw a bunch of casting directors who brought in some great people and they gave us a video tape of Maurice Compte online. He wasn’t necessarily what I imagined Mano to be but there was something about him that I loved and I said, ‘that’s Mano’. Jessica, the little girl, came in during the casting and we were on the edge of our seat. We hd no idea what she was going to say next and she was incredible in the room. We bonded very quickly. It was an interesting experience being on the other side of casting and being the writer and having these characters in my head then seeing them come to life, and then saying my own words with these people who are amazing actresses and actors.

I Do

Credit: Peccadillo Pictures

Did starring opposite such great actors and actresses put more pressure on you to really pull it out of the bag as Jack?

I felt that way anyway because of the story I was telling and why I was telling it. I was very clear with everybody that this was not a gay film and it was a very dramatic piece that wasn’t funny. Me and the director (Glenn Gaylord) had quite a few conversations and he has a humour that’s very different to my humour. He wanted to make the film a little funnier and I wasn’t having any of it. This is not a funny situation and this is not a funny film. I put a bit of humour back in there but I think it’s British humour. Audiences seem to love it and there’s a few moments were people seem to laugh a lot. I just knew very clearly I was making this film for people who were really suffering under the Defence of Marriage Act and that kept me on track whilst everything else fell into place if that makes sense?

The director Glenn Gaylord more recently was a producer on Leave It On The Floor which is a very different film to I Do. How did he come to be on board?

Steven and Glenn had wanted to work together for quite some time. Glenn’s sister lives in Israel because she couldn’t get her paperwork for her partner who is from Israel. He had some kind of idea about the issue and was very interested in the script for quite a few years. When he finally read it he loved it. Steven said, ‘we need to get shots done, he’s very organised and he also understands the issue’. We definitely had some loggerheads with the humour as Glenn’s humour is so different and I had a very strong vision. He was very accommodating and he’d just been through having his film as a writer directed by somebody else. I definitely had a very clear vision from the beginning of what I wanted. It was an interesting way to work.

When we watched the film we thought that the character of Ali (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) was going to fall in love with Jack. Was that in an earlier version of the script or was it just temporary confusion for her?

In an earlier version yes she kind of felt for him but I didn’t want to write a sexual political drama. I wasn’t interested in telling that story. I think we’ve seen it done a million times before and that’s not what the point of the story is. What that scene where she’s looking at me in the shower is meant to be more ‘oh my god there’s a naked man in the shower that is so bizarre!’ and a lot of people get confused about that. It was shot at the very last minute and we were packing up the gear so we didn’t have much time with me in the shower. It wasn’t meant to be that she was falling in love, it was that she’s a gold-star lesbian and she’s never seen a naked man.

There were some other things that were left out of the film that showed them living together. When you’re living with someone you start peeing in front of each other and you become like married. I had that happen with a lesbian before where we were living together and she was with a woman. I brought a guy over and she got jealous. I was like, ‘dude what the fuck are you getting jealous for you’re gay?’ I thought that was interesting but this wasn’t the film for that and there wasn’t enough time to explore all of that.

The way the audience feels about Jack is very interesting. We expected to be rooting for him but actually we felt very conflicted by the end of the film and felt some of his actions were incredibly selfish. What was your intention with him?

I don’t like tying things up in a neat bow. Characters that I love and am inspired by in film are those that are complicated and you don’t necessarily know why you want to follow their journey but you do because they do things that frustrate you. My favourite line from a film that inspired me was Notes on a Scandal where the main character has an affair with a young boy and the husband says to her, ‘why’ and in any other film she could have explained herself in some long boring scene about the fact that she wanted to relive her youth but all she says is, ‘I don’t know’. I just love that kind of stuff where you’re showing a character and all their flaws.

The pressure we’re under can sometimes make us do stupid things or make selfish decisions. I think all of the characters are making selfish decisions in the film.

I Do

Credit: Peccadillo Pictures

We sympathised the most with Ali by the end of the film because we felt she’d been used to serve a purpose.

For me I wanted the law to be the baddy. I wanted everyone to be affected in whatever way they are because of the law. What I found interesting when I was talking to a lot of bi-national couples is that they feel that because at any moment they could be taken away and aren’t able to live their life fully they make very strange decisions because they never feel stable. I think that’s just a horrible place to live. It’s still going on in America. Just because DOMA has gone away it doesn’t mean that every state has equality. I think 36 out of the 50 states still don’t have gay marriage. We’re still fighting the fight. Definitely psychologically it really affects people.

What reaction have you had from people about the film?

Comments on YouTube and iTunes are pretty much 100% positive. Audiences love the film. A lot of people that are affected by this issue are very grateful and say thank you for highlighting the emotional ramifications of a law like DOMA. It’s just really heartening to hear that and to hear that people are affected. That’s the reason I fought so hard to get this film made and I did Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and spent the last 3 years of my life really trying to get this film seen by as many people as possible so we do realise the emotional impact of laws that stop people having the same rights. Everyone seems to really love the film which is great.

I Do is a huge achievement for you especially considering you have a boyband past. As we all know it can be much harder to be taken seriously when you’ve had a career in a different industry. Has that hindered or helped you?

I don’t really think about it because it doesn’t seem like part of my life. It’s always funny to be reminded of that and of course I’m on Twitter all the time so I know a lot of people on there used to love Bad Boys Inc. It isn’t really in my psyche that much anymore. Did I want on some level to prove a point and prove I could do something that I wrote, produced and made happen? Of course but I think any artist wants that any way. I’ve always taken myself seriously even when I was in Bad Boys Inc (laughs) and I had a mission even when I was in the boyband. I forget that that might taint people’s view of me, of the film or my intentions. I just hope that people go in with an open heart and open mind and don’t bring that into it. It was let’s face it, over 20 years ago!

Gosh has it been that long?

Yes! It was literally 20 years ago our first single entered the charts. It’s funny how you can be judged on something you did when you were 19 years old. Some people are going to view me through that framework which is just absurd but we do that as human beings. If you haven’t seen a friend for 15 years you might expect them to be the same person but they’re not.

There’s a lot of people on Twitter hoping Bad Boys Inc will be part of The Big Reunion. Is music in your past for good now?

I don’t think it’s (The Big Reunion) going to happen. I really don’t. I’ve always tinkered with doing some music and I’ve always wanted to maybe do a live show again. Never say never because I really enjoy performing but we haven’t heard from The Big Reunion. If the money was right, because I’d have to commit to it for a year, and if the deal was right and we weren’t being screwed over then I would consider it. I’m an actor and a writer now; those are the two things that are at the forefront of me as an artist. Definitely as a writer I’m always looking for new experiences. Never say never! It just has to be the right thing as it would be a year of more life or more.

What other projects are in the pipeline for you at the moment?

I’ve got a couple of things that I’ve been looking at in terms of being an actor. I have a Brit movie that I’m working on and developing right now that I’m going to see if I can do next year. I’m really more interested in acting right now and having fun. Taking on another movie is a lot of work. Even though I’m credited as a producer – a lot of people are credited as a producer just to be credited – but I am an actual producer and I work every single day on I Do. I’m ready to just do somebody else’s project so I can turn up, have some fun and leave. That’s what I’m looking at right now.

I Do is available on DVD now through TLA Releasing. Watch the trailer for the movie below:

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