I love spilling my guts,” remarked Brian Jordan Alvarez, character actor and impressionist, when we met at an AIDS fundraiser last year. Well, c’mon now. That’s mother’s milk for this drama queen!
I’m intrigued that Brian revealed at that time he was seeing an HIV-positive person—and that he was on PrEP. Born in Manhattan and raised in the “sticks of Tennessee,” his father named him Brian. Jordan is his father’s last name and Alvarez is his mother’s last name. Brian is proud that he’s of Colombian descent (he frequently travels to the country) and he speaks fluent Spanish.
The acting bug stung Brian when he was a teen performing in community theatre. He also shot movies on his iMac Handicam. Graduating from North Carolina School of the Arts high school drama program, he headed West and attended USC (University of Southern California) where he received his BFA in Acting. He established a fan base on the Internet with his video sketches and currently has an acclaimed show, The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo, which screened at Tribeca last year to glowing reviews. Logo channel made him a series regular on Gay Skit Happens and he’s appeared on Jane the Virgin and Hot in Cleveland. He has two features in postproduction.
On a chilly Spring day here in La La Land, Brian and I assemble at an empty Hollywood Bowl for a picnic. It’s a bit eerie to be here without an audience—it seats over 17,000—but in another way it’s quite majestic and peaceful to be at an iconic landmark.
Ruby Comer: Thank you KFC! [I let out several chuckles as we place our food on
the built in tables in the seating area.] May not be the healthiest food, but in a pinch, every once in a while, it works. [Brian grins.] I’m curious, what was your first acting gig?
Brian Jordan Alvarez: Playing the lead in my sixth grade production of Charlotte’s Web.
Well for corn’s sake. Outstanding. When did you first hear about the epidemic?
At school. Well, maybe it was before that. I think it was in the movie Kids, which I saw when I was quite young. [He blurts]—“But I only had sex with Telly!” I remember that line. [Brian chuckles.]
Gee, I never saw that film. What impact has the epidemic had on you?
Fortunately, very little. I grew up hearing stories from older men and women. I feel that my generation has just been taught to be very, very afraid, and to wear condoms and get tested almost obsessively. I was in group therapy with this gorgeous guy who after a while told us he was HIV positive. I asked him what regimen he was on and he said he just stays healthy with diet and exercise. That was a moment I realized that HIV didn’t have to be a death sentence. [He pauses and takes a sip of bottled water.] Unfortunately, AIDS stigma is still strong. I would still feel panic, Ruby, if a doctor told me I had contracted HIV.
I understand. Hmmmm, this guy in your group was on no medication. Interesting. So what comes to mind when you think of the epidemic?
Ever the comic. Tell me about the first time you were tested.
I believe it was in high school. My boyfriend and I went together. I remember being nervous.
Nice you had the support from someone. Have you always played safe?
Nope. But I’ve been lucky enough to stay negative.
So tell me about this “super hot guy” who was HIV-positive….
Well, we did use a condom. [He nods with buoyancy.]
Super. You’re currently taking PrEP….
I am! I think it’s great.
Several months ago, the Los Angeles LGBT Center announced a bold campaign, “F*ck W/out Fear.” I assume you support this….
Yes, indeed. Did I tell you I’ve been dating Ian, a guy I met several months ago?
No. Good for you. When you and Ian met, how did you bring up the topic of STIs?
Well we started talking about PrEP pretty early on. I got on PrEP soon after we started dating, just to play it safe, since we weren’t sure if we wanted to be fully monogamous.
What is your secret to having a healthy relationship?
We are very communicative with each other, especially about what we’re feeling! He’s in a lot of therapy too, like me. [He pauses as a thunderous plane passes by.] We like to talk and share love together.
That is a beautiful thing. What do you do in your downtime?
I jog and meditate almost every day.
Kudos to you. Anyone in particular you look up to in the epidemic?
Michael Kearns [A&U, September 2013] is a hero to me.
Michael is a doll. Final thoughts?
I’m glad I was born when I was born. I feel lucky that I didn’t grow up having my friends die suddenly. It can be shitty enough growing up gay. I can’t imagine what that time was like for the community….
And you don’t want to know, Brian. [His eyes are watery.] What is your advice to others about HIV?
Have a laugh or two on Brian at youtube.com/brianjordanalvarez.
Ruby Comer is an independent journalist from the Midwest who is happy to call Hollywood her home away from home. Reach her by e-mail at [email protected].