Almost everything about the new gay sitcom From Here On Out is designed to make you laugh. From the clever title (Here TV + Out Magazine are owned by the same conglomerate = From Here On Out, get it?) to the kooky sexual situations in which the characters find themselves. When you’re not laughing, you can gaze dreamily at eight-packed straight (but not narrow), lead actor TJ Hoban. A flawless fitness model, Hoban’s graced the covers of countless muscle mags as well as the International Male and Undergear catalogs.
Not only is Hoban attractive enough to cause weakness in the knees, he’s also a genuinely nice guy. A Chicago-native, TJ (which stands for Thomas Joseph) is smart, funny and easy to talk to.
WiG spoke with him in late March, shortly before the premiere of From Here On Out. TJ wanted me to let you know that you can watch him (and the show, of course) by ordering it at www.heretv.com/order-now.
Gregg Shapiro: When did you first become interested in bodybuilding?
TJ Hoban: I got into fitness, actually, by accident. I started training with weights when I was 12. I was just a little runt with glasses and braces. All the way through high school I couldn’t even get a date, let alone talk to a girl. I needed to do something. I guess it’s the old Charles Atlas story (laughs). That’s when I originally started working out and it stuck with me. It became a part of my life and, actually, a coping mechanism for me ever since I was a kid. Now it’s something I do, five, six times a week, an hour a day. I started my professional career as a fitness model, shooting all the bodybuilding magazines, in, I think, my senior year. I happened to go to San Diego on spring break. A photographer stopped me on the beach and said, “I’d love to shoot you and submit you to some of these other people that I have connections with.”
From there I started working with International Male, a catalog back in the day. I took those pictures I took with the photographer and sent them to all the fitness mags. Next thing you know, they all started calling, and I started shooting all this fitness stuff. Then I’m doing endorsement deals for fitness products and workout programs for all kinds of things. From Bowflex to you name it. A lot of the infomercials you see on TV. That’s kind of what started my fitness career.
When did you become interested in acting?
I originally started when I was very young. My mother put me in drama when I was six. I didn’t love it at all. I wanted to go play baseball. She wanted me to go to drama with my sisters. After a few years of doing a few things around the city of Chicago, where I grew up, touring around and doing plays and musical stuff, I stopped. When I was studying for my LSATs for law school and majoring in finance, I would watch General Hospital. At the time, Antonio Sabato was on the show and I would think, “Man, I could do that! That looks a helluva lot easier than what I’m doing right now.” I decided after college I would actually come out to Los Angeles and give it a shot. I started studying with great acting coach Howard Fine, and I worked my way up to his master class. I studied at Groundlings for comedy and improv for a couple of years, and a few other coaches here and there. When I felt solid and ready, that’s when I got a manager and an agent and started going out.
What appeals to you about Sam?
Often times (there are stories about) someone gay who’s in the closet, but not (someone) straight (in the closet). To flip it on its head was really unique and interesting — and I welcomed the challenge. There’s a lot of stuff in the show that naturally, as a person, makes me kind of uncomfortable. But I’ve always been taught that when it comes to acting, those things that make you uncomfortable are the things that usually get the best out of you. Instead of shying away from them, tackle them. I also thought the script was amazing, which made it pretty easy.
In the second episode, we learn that while Sam isn’t gay, he doesn’t mind being perceived as being gay. How do you, as a straight actor, feel about that?
I’ve been shooting fitness and underwear campaigns for years. Some of those fitness mags are geared toward a gay demographic. You can always tell by the ads in the back of the magazine. A lot of the underwear campaigns, especially International Male and Undergear, they were how I got started, and they had a big gay following as well. I’m very comfortable in those situations and I’m very comfortable in my own skin. How other people perceive me? To me, it’s something that is mostly out of my hands. People are going to see what they want to see anyway. One person’s fantasy is different from another’s. With Sam, he was at the end of his rope as an actor. He’s not getting any younger. He’s talented, but he hasn’t hit it yet. He hasn’t had his shot. He’s willing to do whatever it takes, within reason, to have that shot. When this opportunity is presented to him, he jumps at the chance, even if he has to pretend like he’s gay. He’s got to come out of the closet to all of his friends and family and let everyone know so that everyone buys into it. That’s how desperate Sam is to have success as an actor.
From Here On Out employs self-deprecating humor, beginning with the way it pokes fun at some bodybuilders being portrayed as less intelligent. You mentioned studying for your LSATs, so how do you feel about that portrayal? Do bodybuilders you know have a sense of humor about that?
I worked with Arnold (Schwarzenegger) and one of the things that stuck with me the most after meeting him was his sense of humor. I really enjoy comedy, not just because I enjoy laughing, but because I enjoy making other people laugh at my own expense. I really enjoy the banter. If somebody gets the better of me, I love it. Bodybuilders are often times perceived as not the sharpest tools in the shed because they put so much emphasis on their bodies. It’s a stereotype. People like to compartmentalize on the whole. The better looking you are, typically, the stupider you must be. People don’t like to look at good-looking people as perfect and have all these wonderful attributes. They need something to laugh at about them. Usually intelligence is the lowest hanging fruit. It definitely humanizes people who put a lot of emphasis on their body or their looks, so it works for comedy. Everyone has got to have their flaws, otherwise it’s not funny. I get it and it serves its purpose.