'Mean Girls' Star Daniel Franzese Says Breakout Gay Role Felt 'Cathartic'

Playing Damian in Tina Fey's teen classic, which turns 15 this week, holds personal significance for the actor-comedian.

Mean Girls” may be one of those rare films that seem ageless, but the beloved teen comedy that helped put Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams on the Hollywood map was, in fact, released 15 years ago this week. 

To celebrate, actor-comedian Daniel Franzese ― who scored a breakout with his portrayal of the unapologetically gay teen Damian ― reflected on his experiences shooting the 2004 smash with HuffPost in a Build Series interview Tuesday. 

“All the gay roles that I had read had just been, like, the standard Hollywood sissy role or something that was making fun of gay people ― they were the butt of the joke,” Franzese said. 

The movie, which marked Tina Fey’s screenwriting debut, “was so significant to me because Damian was able to breathe,” Franzese added. “He could walk through the hallways with his head held high.” 

The actor, who is gay, said the character held personal significance, too. 

“This was an opportunity for me as an artist to take some of the pain I had experienced in high school and wash it way,” he said. “It gave a lot of hope for people who saw that for survival and acceptance at a time when it wasn’t as prevalent as it is today.” 

Franzese, of course, would go on to additional success in television and film. Notably, he appeared on HBO’s “Looking,” starring Jonathan Groff, as Eddie, an HIV-positive character in a serodiscordant relationship. 

The actor-comedian, who performed this week in New York as part of his “Yass! You’re Amazing!” stand-up tour, is grateful for the impact “Mean Girls” and, more specifically, Damian has had on portrayals of LGBTQ characters.

Still, he said, there’s for improvement. 

“A lot of our gay icons are being played by straight people, and a lot of our big romantic stories are being played by straight people,” he said. “We haven’t had a gay leading actor win an Oscar and be out of the closet at the same time.”

He continued, “There [are] a lot of things on the LGBTQ bucket list in entertainment that we deserve, that we’ve been fighting for, that we’ve been working towards for so many years that really need to happen.”