In the darkest of dark comedies, it can be hard to tell the heroes from villains.
That might go double for the audacious Down Low, starring Zachary Quinto and Lukas Gage as an epically repressed, recently out gay man and the masseur he’s hired for his first homo happy ending who team up to hide the accidentally dead body of an internet hookup.
Gage — perhaps best known as the White Lotus bellhop who had his salad tossed by Murray Bartlett — co-wrote the script with writing partner Phoebe Fisher, and then encouraged producer FilmNation to pass it along to Rightor Doyle to direct.
“We had known each other for years,” says Doyle, also the creator, writer, and director of Netflix’s provocative comedy series Bonding, loosely based on Doyle’s experiences as a fresh-faced gay New Yorker working for his dominatrix best friend as her bodyguard. One can safely assume the actor-turned-director has seen his share of crazy worker-client situations, and even he was shocked reading the script for Down Low.
“I read the first ten pages and said, ‘I can’t believe someone is going to make this,'” Doyle recalls. “And then I thought, ‘Wait, maybe I should be the one to make it.’ And I think it’s something that, particularly with queer cinema, gay cinema — I love a good, uplifting story, I love a good coming out story — but my sense of humor and the things that I like to watch felt very aligned with this darker, sort of button-pushing version of what it is to be queer or what it is to explore queer identity. And I just jumped at it. I begged to do it.”
For his persistence, Doyle not only got the gig, but then assembled an enviable cast that also includes Simon Rex in a role not to be spoiled, and powerhouses Judith Light, in a drop-dead hilarious turn as a nosy neighbor, and Tony Awards queen Audra McDonald, in a brief but searing appearance as the ex-wife of Quinto’s former closet case.
“She’s incredible,” Doyle raves of McDonald, who shot her part in a day, much to Doyle’s eternal gratitude. “She has been my hero for my entire life. [As a kid,] I saved up all of my money and walked to the nearest CD store and bought Way Back to Paradise, you know? And I told her this, literally, as she’s getting her hair and makeup done.”
While Quinto’s and Gage’s characters try to get away with almost-murder, McDonald’s ex-wife shows up to ensure her former husband doesn’t get off scot-free for upending their marriage, or for living a lie for decades. On the other hand, his sexuality apparently was a revelation to him, too.
As Doyle notes, part of “the beautiful complexity around the movie, but also just around being a human” is that “you can be right and wrong all at the same time.” But these guys are still totally wrong for trying to hide a dead body, right? Even if they do have their reasons? “I’m not here to answer any of those questions,” Doyle offers slyly.
“Good storytelling for me, asks more questions than it answers,” he says. “I would like to leave more curious than when I came. And I hope that this movie does that, whether you love it or hate it. I think the movie wants you to love it or hate it. I think it’s asking you to have a big opinion about it. And I don’t think it’s afraid of you having an opinion. So you can have an opinion, either way. And I think the movie allows for that.”
Down Low is available to buy or rent on digital from Sony Pictures and other platforms. Visit www.sonypictures.com/movies/downlow.
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