Entertainment Weekly

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Article

Positive Roles

When actor Michael Kearns revealed in 1991 that he was HIV-positive, Hollywood was initially terrified of hiring him, he says.

Posted on

These days Kearns, a 25-year industry veteran, is working again, but he’s suffering from a different problem: being typecast. In such television programs as “Life Goes On,” “A Mother?s Prayer” and “Beverly Hills 90210,” the 47-year-old actor has been limited to playing characters who are — what else — HIV-positive.

The irony, to Kearns, is that in real life he shows no outward signs of the disease. “To play one of these parts, I have to spend two hours in make-up becoming sick looking,” he says. Hollywood’s make-up experts have used gray/brown shadow to sink his eyes, grease to make his hair look stringy and oversized clothing to render him gaunt-looking.

Still, Hollywood is Hollywood. On “90210,” Kearns reacted to the overly-snazzy wardrobe he was given to wear. “I said, ‘Aren’t these clothes awfully glamorous for an AIDS patient living in a hospice?” Kearns laughs. “I was told, ‘It’s an Aaron Spelling production, darling.’ Even if I was dying, I was going to have glamorous clothes.”

Not every on-set moment has been as humorous.. “The first time they made me up to look sick, I got frightened,” says Kearns, who hasn’t developed any symptoms of AIDS. “It made me think that’s how I was going to look one day.”

The veteran actor chastises the industry for being unable to see beyond his HIV-positive status. “It?s just so typical of Hollywood to further typecast me,” Kearns says. “After I came out as openly gay, all I could play were gay roles. After I came out as HIV-positive, all I could play were HIV-positive roles.” Kearns’ basic request for Hollywood producers and casting directors: “Do something revolutionary — cast me as just a regular guy.”

Comments