EXCLUSIVE: Nico Tortorella Just Wants to Love and Be Loved

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Photo: Getty Images

In a new era of sexual frankness, celebrities are coming out publicly, whether it be as pansexual (Miley Cyrus), sexually fluid (model and reality star Nyle DiMarco) or in Nico Tortorella’s case, demisexual, meaning love before sex.

The Younger star made headlines earlier this year when Page Six reported that he is sexually “fluid,” which he revealed to a reporter at a Pride event in June. “I’ve never been in any sort of closet,” he said.

“You know, I was speaking to Page Six about this bigger idea of us as a society, all moving toward one gender, a sexually fluid and emotionally fluid world. And that turned into ‘Nico Tortorella comes out as sexually fluid,’” Tortorella tells ET during a lengthy chat in the lobby of the Smyth Hotel in New York between promotional stops that have seen him spend a large amount of his time opening up about his sexuality and clarifying what it means to be sexually fluid.

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While Tortorella’s OK with being the temporary poster boy for sexual fluidity -- or at least the most popular celebrity to open up about it -- he doesn’t want to be defined by his sexuality. “I am so much more than that,” he says. “I do not define myself by my sexuality. I never have. I’ve talked about that. Have you listened to all the episodes of the podcast?”

The podcast he’s referring to is The Love Bomb, a weekly audio show he launched in late August meant to have real conversations about labels. On it, he hosts guests -- often former lovers -- to discuss dating, relationships, intimacy and gender. “I’m interested in those grey areas,” Tortorella explains.

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In one episode, Tortorella invites hairstylist Kyle Krieger on to talk about their six-month relationship. “It was pretty much game on from the beginning,” Tortorella revealed on the podcast. (Though the two are no longer dating -- the actor was most recently living with girlfriend Olesya Rulin in Brooklyn -- they have remained friends.)

In another episode, he chats with friend Dan Donigan -- drag queen contestant Milk of RuPaul’s Drag Race fame -- about doing drag. And later in the series, Ryan Muirhead, a 35-year-old photographer, opens up about growing up Mormon and not knowing what masturbation was until he was 26. “He has this crippling fear of anything to do with sexuality,” Tortorella says. In another conversation with Younger co-star Molly Bernard, the actor talks about his first time hooking up with a boy in high school.

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“The first time is always so nerve-wracking because of the weight that comes with it,” Tortorella says. “I looked at him and said, ‘I don’t define myself by my sexuality and neither should you. This is just a byproduct of love.’ Even then, at that point, I was saying the same things that I’m saying now.”

“I’m a human being that loves love before anything else,” he continues.

Whether he’s labeled bisexual, demisexual or sexually fluid, Tortorella does consider himself a member of the LGBTQ community. “One hundred percent,” he says, adding that he feels attached to it in the same way he feels attached to the straight community, the Hollywood community or even the hockey community. “I think labels have been set up for people to find homes.”

But he’s quick to say he’s not trying to change the world. Tortorella doesn’t want a label-less society. “I’m trying to be the thing somebody is looking for,” he says.

Photo: Getty Images

While he’s confident in who he is, Tortorella has danced around his sexuality in public, sometimes playing with it with suggestive photos on Instagram. “I just like having my clothes off,” he offers. But it wasn’t until recently he felt he owed it to his community -- the sexually fluid or “spectrum surfers,” as he also refers to it -- to start having this conversation. “I know it sounds super cheesy, but if one kid’s listening to it and can relate, then I’m doing something right,” he says.

In contrast to certain celebrities like James Franco, who play with ambiguity as a way to draw attention, it’s refreshing that Tortorella is being as frank as he can. “[James] doesn’t talk about everything that he does,” he says. “There’s a vulnerability that I feel is lacking that was important for me to get into.”

MORE: James Franco Talks Sexuality, Says He's 'a Little Gay'

Being more open and honest about who he is also means also opening up about his sobriety. “I abused alcohol. I don’t have a good relationship with it,” Tortorella says. Putting an end to drinking was a turning point in a lot of ways for the actor, especially when it came to relationships and work.

During filming of the first season of Younger, Tortorella hit a low point. “Shit got real dark,” he says. “For so long, alcohol was this outlet for me to explore myself and it felt good for a really long time, but there was a switch that happened where it brought me away from people.” After waking up covered in sweat and crying, the actor knew things had to change. “Otherwise, I was going to die.”

Sober for two years -- though he does clarify that he still smokes marijuana -- Tortorella has newfound respect and appreciation for himself. “Loving yourself is the most important thing in the world,” he says. “I’m going to spend every day that I have on this planet in this body being happy. That’s really the most important thing for me: happiness.”