In Name Only
Chapter 69: Interview
It has been over a year since the highly publicized and lamented break-up of the Backstreet Boys. It has been a long and arduous road for these five talented men. Since their emergence on the music scene they have endured financial fights with their management, life-threatening surgeries, deaths of family and close friends, very public family tensions, and unending attacks on their privacy. Through it all they held together, gaining strength from one another. But even that was not enough.
In the time since the breakup each "Boy" has gone on to prove that the group was not just a fluke. Throughout their career they were plagued by criticism that they were just a Ďmanfacturedí group. Be that as it may, they are talented men who have each forged a place for themselves in their right. Brian Littrell has brought his angelic voice, and understanding of the pop scene, to the gospel music genre. His cousin Kevin Richardson has gone behind the scenes, producing albums and directing videos. There is even talk that he may join the ranks of those directors who have made the jump from music video to the big screen. Nick Carter is indulging his two loves; music by managing several new rock groups, and basketball by becoming part owner of the NBAís Orlando Heat. AJ McLean, or should I say Johnny No-Name, is currently touring in Europe in support of his top ten album, Freak Without A Leash.
It is the fifth member of the group that we turn our eyes too. Howard Dorough, the soft-spoken "Sweet D" of the group, while often the spokesperson for the group was often overlooked by teenaged fans all hankering for the blond, blue-eyed surfer boy looks of Nick, or the naughty bad-boy tattoos of AJ. Since the breakup he is the one member who has turned his attention totally to the one are he has always been interested in: acting. While the others were turning their hands to something they knew intimately, Howie was trying to break into an area that he knew somewhat; heíd had an assortment of blink-and-you-might-miss-him roles in several movies in the past year, and been an ocassional guest on several TV shows, but certainly not as well as he knew the music scene. In this live interview, Barbara Walters will find out more about the man whose role in Another Sunrise has so many people talking.
Welcome Howie. Thank you for being here.
Thank you for inviting me, Barbara.
Letís start with this question: Why? Why did you turn away from music so entirely after the breakup of the Backstreet Boys?
I didnít. I am still working on several projects, mainly in the Latin scene. Primarily my sister Pollyannaís management, though I admit I am just one of the team. Since her explosion up the charts she needs full-time management, something I canít give her, so I am taking more of a silent partner role. I do keep my hand in; writing songs for several artists. But acting is something that I have always wanted to do, ever since I was an extra in Parenthood and Cop and a Half, and I felt that it should be my primary focus.
And it has certainly paid off.
I was extremely lucky. Most of what I had been offered were roles I wasnít that interested in. Even the lead roles I saw were not great. (Laughs) A number of them were for jaded music group members trying to move into film. I am many things, but certainly not jaded. And I wanted something to stretch me. So I took on roles that were so totally NOT the me that people had seen up until that point that it gave me a chance to showcase what I could do.
A calcluated risk.
Very much so. You should have seen my agent: "You want to do what?!Are you crazy? No one will ever hire you after that!" But I needed to take risks. I knew that I was an unknown entity. I needed to be seen.
And so you were.Were you surprised when Tom Hanks offered you the role in Another Sunrise?
Very. Tom and I had met several times before; I have a lot of respect for him as an actor and director, and his children were fans of Backstreet. But to have an actor of his calibre come up to you and say: "look I wrote this script that has been greenlighted, and I am going to direct it. There is this role in it that I think you would be perfect for..." well, that really is the Hollywood dream, isnít it?
Letís talk a little about the dreams you had before this one. The Backstreet Boys. Was it hard for that to end?
Yes. We had been together for over ten years. Through good times and bad. It is hard to walk away from all that. And I don't mean the success either. We had an album or two that were real clunkers. But we managed to learn from that and work together to make the next ones even better. We were an incredible team.
Do you miss the others?
Every day. It is hard to break the habit of turning around and going "AJ, what do you think about..." or "Brian, did that note sound flat?" We were such a tight family for so long that it is hard not to feel bereft. However, we also needed time to breathe. We each had other things that we did during down time, things that we felt were very important. Now we have an opportunity to concentrate on them.
What do you say to the accusation that you were the one to break up the group? That the very public fights that you and Kevin were having was what destroyed the Backstreet Boys?
First off, I don't think that BSB is destroyed. Second, there was more going on behind the scenes than anyone will ever, or should ever, know. My situation with Kevin was a symptom of that. We were all under a great deal of strain at the time and perhaps our argument was the straw that broke the camelís back.
So you admit that may have caused the breakup?
As I said, many things contributed.
You were just coming off the breakup of your marriage at the time.
Yes, and that caused a lot of tension. I admit to not being myself. Losing Kat was one of the hardest things I have ever been through. And I still pray every day that she will come home.
That is something that you have said often, that you want her to come home. Have the two of you spoken since the divorce?
No. I still... She... No.
And your son?
I havenít spoken to CJ either.
That must be a continuing strain for you.
Very much so. And I admit it freely: I am the reason that the marriage broke up. I was selfish and I didnít listen to her needs. I put Kat in an uncomfortable position, and it was my behaviour that forced her to make the decision to leave. I feel a great amount of guilt and remorse for that. And I admit to taking it out somewhat on the others.
And that is what your fight with Kevin was about?
Yes and no. As I said there were many things at work at the time. Between Kevin and myself; I had caused someone he loved deeply a great deal of pain through my actions. He was NOT happy with that, and he had every reason to be angry. But we are working that out now. We are talking and may even work together on a project soon. It is still tense, but then over the years we had all had tensions erupt between the five of us. Times when we wouldnít even speak to one another. We may have been a group, but we are also five men with fairly strong personalities. Deciding to spend time on our separate projects just happened at around that time, so Kevin and I have been blamed.
The two of you will be working together soon?
I hope so. There is an opportunity with a film that I am going to be in later this year. They needed someone to organize the soundtrack and I suggested Kevin. Funnily enough they had already been talking to him about it, and heíd suggested me for the role I signed on for.
About Another Sunrise... you were handed a role that was what some would consider a throw-away role, but you made it your own.
I have heard it called that, and I really donít understand it. Simon was not a pivotal character, true, but he tells you a great deal about the major characters. In a way he was the catalyst for the whole plot.
In what way?
Well, he is the one who opens your eyes to Jenniferís behaviour. And with his insights you get an understanding of why Frank becomes what he does. That is what I think a true supporting character does. They are not some sort of "sidekick" but a real person. Someone who, if the story was changed to focus on them, could hold their own. That is what I wanted Simon to be. Not someone who overshadows the other characters, but who supports them without letting go of who he is.
And it worked. You have received accolades for your performance. There is even talk of an Oscar nod.
Iíll cross that bridge when I come to it. Right now I am just glad to have been a part of a movie that has touched so many.
Was it hard to play a character so different from yourself? I mean, Simon is a gay playwright, with a penchant for violence.
True, and I admit to having some difficulty with the violence, but all in all we are very similar.
In what ways?
Both struggling to find our way. Both fighting internal demons. Both striving to help the ones we love at whatever cost. We also have one significant similarity that few people know of.
And that is?
We are both gay.
Gay?! You are gay?
Yes. I have been for a long time now.
But you were married. Is that why it broke up?
Yes, I was married. And no, that is not why it broke up. Kat knew when she married me that I was only attracted to men. I asked her to marry me because she understood and loved me anyway. I admit that at the time part of it was to hide what I am, but she would never let me be ashamed of it. She always told me to "never change your spots for me." She loved me for who I was. In many ways we had the perfect marriage because of that.
But if you were gay...
I am gay. Kat is straight. We had a wonderful marriage, but sex, between the two of us, never really entered into it.
Are you saying that the two of you...
The marriage could have qualified as an anullment.
But you two have a son together.
CJ is not my son.
You must excuse me if I am more than a little stunned by these announcements.
Understandable. These have been Backstreet, if you will, secrets for a long time. Letís deal with it in a nutshell. I am gay. I married a wonderful woman who I love very much. She agreed to marry me despite my sexual preferences, and to actually help me continue to hide them if that is what I chose to do. We had a wonderful loving marriage. I saw several men during that time, and Kat had my permission to to see whomever she chose to. She didnít chose to. Not for a long time. And when she finally did, with a man I have a tremendous amount of respect for, CJ was created. At the time it was difficult for us to come forward with the truth. So everyone thought CJ was my son.
And you didnít do anything to stop that perception.
No. I was still too afraid to come out at the time. I hadnít told my family, and whatever else I am I am also Catholic. It has been hard coming to terms with my religious beliefs and my personal preferences. Kat was my anchor through all of that for so long. And when she came to me and said that she was pregnant, I begged her to keep the fiction going.
What about the father?
At the time he was out of the picture. If I had let Kat go, which is what she had asked me to do at the time, she would have been going it alone. I couldnít do that. Sheíd supported me through everything; I needed to do the same for her.
Does the father know?
Well (grin) he knows now doesnít he? Yes, actually he knows that CJ is his, and loves him very much.
Can I ask who the father is?
You can, but I wonít answer that question. Suffice to say he is a man I hold in high regard. He loves Kat and CJ as much as I do, even more. I know that they are apart now, and part of the reason I want Kat to come home is so that they can be together, the way they should have been.
So Simon really is very much who you are?
As I said, in many ways. Playing him was a chance to really play myself, openly and honestly. To be the man that my wife and my friends have always known, and few others have ever seen.
Are you seeing someone now?
Yes, actually. I have someone in my life who means a great deal to me. It is through his love that I have the strength to admit who I am. Kat got me through most of that journey, and he has helped me reach the rest.
Do you think he, and Kat, will be upset at your coming out like this?
Surprised, yes. Upset, no. I know that deep down, despite all the pain I caused her, Kat still loves me. She could have come forward with this long ago, at a time when I wasnít ready to come forward myself. She didnít. Instead she chose to continue to hide away. That is why I decided to do it this way, in this forum. To tell her she doesn;t need to do that anymore. Kat, please, it is all out in the open now. Please come home.
What about the others?
My friends, the other Backstreet Boys? They have known the truth for years. I warned them before coming on here that I might do this. And they have all been supportive of my decision. The same goes for my family. It will come as a shock to fans of the group, and perhaps even those critics who are giving me the rave reviews you mentioned earlier. But it is more important to me that the people I love support my decision.
This is certainly not how I expected this interview to go.
No, I am sure it isnít. And I certainly did not give you or your producers any indication that I might come out with these surprises. Thank you very much for going with the flow.
Clearly I may have to rethink the "live" interview idea.
(Laugh) I donít think that you will have quite the number of shocks that I have laid before you happen on a regular basis.
Well, Howie, you have successfully "hijacked" this interview. (Waves cards) None of these questions are of any use now. Do you have anything further to say?
Just to apologize to you for springing this on you. And also to ask again; Kat, please come home. The pictures and videos of CJ are great, but they donít show YOU. And I miss you so much. I am so sorry for all the pain I caused you. Please come home.