Matt Rogers on Subverting Gay Tropes With 'I Love That for You' and Being Messy in 'Fire Island' (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
Perhaps most popular for co-hosting the hilarious pop culture podcast Las Culturistas with longtime friend Bowen Yang, Matt Rogers is having a much-deserved breakout moment onscreen, thanks to back-to-back roles in I Love That for You and Fire Island -- two projects that let the comedian shine as very funny, very different characters.
“I’m really proud of the fact that I was able to show versatility,” he tells ET about playing an ambitious employee at a home shopping channel named Darcy on the Showtime comedy and the messy, drunk friend Luke in the Hulu film.
In the former, co-created by and starring Vanessa Bayer, Rogers loves being able to subvert the archetype of the “gay assistant.” “I love that the character and the script we’re aware of the trope and how it’s played out,” he says, explaining that Darcy “comes in, wearing designer garments and is very concerned with the fact that you call him the senior associate and not the assistant. And I thought, ‘OK, we’re already off to a very self-aware start with the character.'"
While Darcy, who very much keeps SVN in working order for CEO Patricia Cochran (an Emmy-worthy Jenifer Lewis), brings the laughs, he’s not just there to be the butt of some laugh-out-loud moment. “Every single episode, I learned something new about him that surprises me. He ends up in a very different spot at the end of the season than he is in the beginning,” Rogers says, noting how good it feels to have an “actual arc and get to explore a character’s inner demons.”
“Episode to episode, I’m constantly surprised by the things he says and does, and the way that he gets himself into trouble is even specific to him,” he adds.
Over the course of season 1, fans see Darcy not only working hard to keep Patricia happy and dealing with the sudden arrival of Joanna (Bayer), who shakes up the dynamic with her quirky personality and unexpected cancer scare, but very much trying to propel his own career forward.
All that comes to a head in episode six, when he learns that his approved time off to go to a barn raising hosted by Graydon Carter has been revoked so he can help manage a cancer telethon in support of Joanna. That leads him to use Patricia’s credit card to buy himself a designer bag, the perfect accessory for any ambitious, networking gay.
“He takes a lot of grief from her and a lot of abuse from her. In episode one, she basically sexually harasses him in front of the entire office,” Rogers explains. “So, it’s a really interesting turn for him to say, ‘You know what, I’m actually going to step to you and have some respect for myself because I’m tired of my best friend not listening to me. I’m tired of not being respected at a place where I worked really hard.’”
Does that lead to Darcy committing theft? “Yes. But he’s standing up for himself,” Rogers says, explaining that “it’s less about owning a material object and more about wanting to be seen as someone who can carry that and have the dignity and respect that comes along with that.”
The arrival of the bag ultimately leads to one of Rogers’ best scenes as Darcy takes it into a backroom and starts posing in front of a mirror and repeating the line, “The discourse is toxic.” In this moment, Darcy’s looking at an image of himself that he aspires to be and lets himself get lost in the fantasy. And what Rogers really loves about it is that “you really get to see who he is when you strip it all away.”
“You know, I definitely am a person who, when I get in front of a mirror by myself, interesting things happen,” he says, relating to the moment at hand. “I think someone’s true self is revealed when they think they’re alone and are in front of a mirror.”
“That was probably the most fun thing I’ve ever done on camera, which is saying a lot because I’m in this movie called Fire Island,” Rogers says of spending 25 minutes filming that scene as the writers threw out various lines for him to say.
Though, as great as the scene is, it’s hard to imagine that experience topping Fire Island, which was filmed on location at the gay mecca on Long Island during the last few weeks of summer in 2021. The film, which is a queer, modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice written by and starring Joel Kim Booster, sees Rogers acting alongside his many friends, including Yang.
“There is a genuine love amongst the cast,” Rogers says, later revealing “by the end of shooting, I remember when everyone wrapped, we were crying.”
While Yang plays Howie, a version of Jane Bennet, Rogers brings the laughs as Luke, “who is thirsty, messy and the Lydia of Pride and Prejudice,” he says of the character who gets drunk and tries to take gourmet cheese into a hot tub at one point and falls into lust with Dex (Zane Phillips) during another. “Sometimes you got extra f**ked up at a party and you take cheese into the hot tub, am I right?”
Fire Island, which has already garnered a number of positive reviews, is being celebrated for being part of this new era of LGBTQ rom-coms that have ushered in a new kind of narrative not often seen onscreen -- and is a far cry the tragic stories often told about the queer experience. “This is a movie about friendship and finding love,” Rogers says.
And for the 32-year-old performer, this movie resonates more with his own experience than most other things he’s seen so far. “For me, the queer experience is one of joy and it wasn’t always like that. But when I finally feel like I found myself and found my chosen family, if you will -- when I found that and I found who I was and what my voice was, that’s when I started to be truly happy,” he says. “That was when I started to be able to really go out there and have fun and have an experience like the one that you see portrayed in the film.”
“It’s interesting that there are so many dark narratives when it comes to queer stories -- and I understand why those are important to be told -- but also the queer experience is a beautiful one. It’s a joyful one. It’s a happy one,” Rogers says. “And I’m really proud to be a part of something that shows us, you know, partying and f**king and going out there and doing all the messy sh*t that straight people do because we do it just as well -- or just as badly.”
When Rogers looks back on what he’s achieved with both roles, as well as lending his voice to the bitingly funny Q-Force animated series on Netflix, “I’m really proud of what I’ve been able to show,” he says. And while Rogers is immensely proud of the solo success achieved by Yang, whom he describes as the “Beyonce of the queer comedy generation,” these acting opportunities have also been a chance to showcase his own skills and talents. “Because it’s everything I care about,” he adds.
“And I really think all these projects I’ve actually been so lucky and I know I’m so fortunate and grateful to be a part of are things that I actually really stand by,” Rogers continues. “I think that ultimately all of these things are going to make people laugh and they’re going to make people happy and sometimes maybe they’ll even make people think.”