Ben Aldridge came out as gay not even three years ago with a post on Instagram.
“The journey to pride was a long one for me,” he wrote alongside vintage photos of gay rights protests as well as a video of him playfully kissing another man on the cheek. “I love the LGBTQ+ community and am incredibly proud and thankful to be a part of it. So much won. So much more to fight for. #pride.”
During an appearance on this week’s “Just for Variety,” I asked the British actor what was going through his mind when he hit the post button.
“Oh, you’re going to make me cry,” he said. “It sounds dramatic, but I could just breathe easier. I underestimated how significant that was to me. I really did. I thought, it’s not that I’d played it down, but I didn’t know what it would do to me physically. And just for days afterwards I was like, ‘I needed that so badly.’
“I wasn’t aware of how much I needed to do that and how much I’d potentially hung onto, conveniently hidden behind,” Aldridge continued. “It just felt so — I felt so powerful. I felt so powerful to be able to stand alongside and be part of my community.”
Since then, Aldridge has played entertainment journalist Michael Ausiello’s late husband Kit Cowan in Focus Features’ “Spoiler Alert.” And now, he toplines M. Night Shyamalan’s “Knock at the Cabin.” Aldridge and Jonathan Groff star as husbands whose vacation in the woods with their young daughter goes awry when they’re taken hostage by a group of violent strangers.
Aldridge says he could never have imagined playing gay characters when he first got into the business. He remembers constantly worrying about not being able to play straight men convincingly. “It makes me emotional to think about it,” he says. “I left drama school closeted.”
Aldridge was well aware that coming out could impact his career. “If people didn’t want to work with me because I was gay or they wanted to stop casting me, then I wasn’t interested in working with those people either,” he says. “But what I didn’t predict, and what I was surprised by, is that then it seemed to coincide with more queer filmmaking, TV-making, more queer content being made.”
Now that he’s walked through the closet, his world has gotten much bigger and, well, gayer. “I suddenly realized that I had held myself from desires that I had,” Aldridge says. “I didn’t know that I loved ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race.’ I forgot or I’d denied to myself early on that I love musicals. I love divas.”
His favorite “Drag Race” star is Alaska Thunderfuck. And while Aldridge hasn’t done drag, he already has a drag name — Sue Blime! “I’m quite into the idea of just being called Sue,” he explains. “I think that’s quite a funny name for a drag queen.”
As for divas, Aldridge’s ultimate is Barbra Streisand. He recently watched “The Way We Were,” the classic 1973 drama starring Streisand and Robert Redford, for the first time. When I suggest Aldridge star in a queer remake of the Sydney Pollack-directed film, I ask him who should play the other leading man. “Jonathan Groff. He’s giving you Robert Redford,” he says. “Obviously, I’m Barbra.”
You can listen to the full interview with Aldridge above on “Just for Variety.” You can also find “Just for Variety” wherever you download your favorite podcasts.