Keiynan Lonsdale is ready to celebrate himself.
The 26-year-old Australian actor plays Abraham "Bram" Greenfeld in the new high school rom-com Love, Simon -- about a teenage boy, Simon Spier, who is struggling to come out to his friends and family -- and for Lonsdale, it was a pivotal role in more ways than one.
“There's so many beautiful LGBT stories that have been made, and we've heard a lot about the heartbreak and the suffering, because it's very, very real,” the actor recently told ET’s Denny Directo and Ash Crossan. “But life can be really incredible, and when you are yourself, you don't have to waste all that time trying to be something else. Like, that’s something worth celebrating.”
“The movie isn't just bubbly and happy because everything's great and groovy, it's a celebration because you've been through that journey,” he added. “You've been through those hardships, you've been through all that stuff. You can smile now. You can breathe.”
Lonsdale had his own moment to exhale last May, when he penned a moving, personal Instagram post that served as his public coming out moment.
“I like to change my hair, I like to take risks with how I dress, I like girls, & I like guys (yes), I like growing, I like learning, I like who I am and I really like who I'm becoming,” he wrote. But, as the actor’s post noted, coming out was just the first step toward self acceptance and “embracing who I am.”
“It wasn't until, like, my friends and my publicist called me and they were like, 'This is awesome... just letting you know, people are going to ask you about it,’” he recalled. “And I was like, 'Oh, I don't want anyone to ask me about it.'”
“That's when I realized I had to also come to terms that it was going to be a topic of discussion, and now I'm so comfortable talking about it.”
Lonsdale still wasn’t out publicly during the filming of Love, Simon, which put the actor -- previously known for starring turns in Dance Academy and The Divergent Series and his ongoing role as Wally West on The CW’s The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow -- in a precarious position when it came to connecting with his fellow cast members.
“I wasn't actually out to my cast the whole of filming, until the wrap party,” he admitted. “I’d been out to friends and I was out to the cast of Flash and everything, but I just, I always had this thing wherever I met new people. I was like, suddenly went back into the closet.”
“It always felt like such a big deal to have to reveal this thing, and I realized I didn't say it on the first day that I met them and I'd made such good friends with them. I felt like I was like lying to them,” he recalled. “I was just so disappointed in myself.”
Lonsdale said he spoke to a friend about his struggles, who helped him understand why he “felt like a bit of a fraud,” even on an LGBT-friendly set with an openly gay director, Greg Berlanti -- who also executive produces The Flash. Part of his insecurity, Lonsdale realized, stemmed from keeping his private life under wraps while wholeheartedly inhabiting different personas as a performer.
“I would get pretty frustrated cause, like, you spend so much time on these other characters and after a while you're like, 'I don't spend any time on me. I don't know how I dress. I don't know how I talk’… I don't even speak in my normal accent in general for work,” noted the actor, who was born in Sydney, Australia. “After a while I started to really, I guess, almost force myself to be myself. Which then resulted in starting to really like that guy that I was, and then I just felt, like, really excited and open about the idea of just being me for good.”
Ultimately, Lonsdale came out to the Love, Simon cast on wrap night and “it was awesome.”
“It was chill, it was no big deal, of course,” he recalled. “It was sort of a final push. It made me realize that I was the only one in control of how I saw myself and the fear that I took with me when I walked into a new situation or a new job.”
Now, the actor is living his life free of some of his heaviest insecurities and “wearing a lot of colors” in celebration of his own personal expression. And he couldn’t be more proud to play a part in Love, Simon, the type of teen romance he never got to see as a closeted kid.
“It's a love story about a guy for another guy, and it really hits home in a place that is really unexpected,” he marveled. “That's why they say representation matters, but it really does… It didn't hit me as much until I actually saw the film -- it feels like they're talking to me.”
Love, Simon is in theaters this Friday.
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