Who is that strikingly handsome guy making out with Ian?!, I think to myself, watching season seven of Shameless. Afterwards I scan the Internet to find out more about this actor. His name is Elliot Fletcher.

Further exploration finds that this heartthrob thespian is also involved with the HIV community and has strong feelings about the epidemic. “It has shaped my experience in very important ways.”

At twenty-three, Elliot already has established himself as “an actor to watch.” Starting at ten, Fletcher performed on stage, and even voiced the main character, “White,” in an animated film Tekkonkinkreet. As he got older he was cast in recurring roles, often playing the boyfriend, in MTV’s Faking It, The Fosters, Adam Ruins Everything, and (soon to premiere) Tell Me Your Secrets. In 2017, Elliott was on the Forbes list of 30 Under 30/Entertainment.

 

Participating in several AIDS Walks, Elliot has lost several close to him from this disease. He also has friends who are living with HIV. Every opportunity he gets, Elliot uses his new platform to urge his peers to educate themselves about this disease and to engage in safer sex.

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“When Fletcher was ten, he learned about the epidemic from watching the film Rent…”

When Fletcher was ten, he learned about the epidemic from watching the film Rent. The character of Angel wholly captivated him. (Angel is a cross dresser, possibly trans, brilliantly played by Wilson Jermaine Heredia, who won a Tony for his portrayal). When Angel dies of AIDS-related causes, Elliot was stricken with overwhelming emotion, not knowing how to process his feelings at such a young age. It was a kick in the head. The film aroused curiosity and jarred him to do research, ask questions, and find out more about the epidemic. Fortunately, his family openly discussed it.

Elliot’s life-altering epiphany spirited him to have Angel’s name tattooed on his leg.
Elliot is a champion for the LGBTQ communities. “I’m like a big dad,” he avers forcefully, with a radiant chuckle. “I want to take care of everybody!”

On the lighter side, Elliot considers his “super strong” eyebrows his most striking feature (though I might counter that with his sexy curly locks), and deems his mother a role model, aspiring to be authentic like her. For fun and adventure, Elliot, who lives in Los Angeles, hikes around Griffith Park with friends and/or his girlfriend, Danielle Addams. They’ve been together for nearly three years. Check out his Twitter, as you’ll see many posts of Elliot and Danielle beaming!

  

Elliot Fletcher as Trevor and Cameron Monaghan as Ian Gallagher in Shameless 
(Season 7, episode 4) Photo: Patrick Wymore/SHOWTIME

Dann Dulin: Tell me about your passion for Rent.
Elliot Fletcher: I felt so close to “Angel” and related to her so deeply! When she passes away from AIDS, I was upset, scared [he freezes in thought for a moment] …and confused. I didn’t fully understand why she had AIDS or what would have caused it——but it scared me. I couldn’t entirely grasp what HIV and AIDS was and why Angel had it. I was just too young. Seeing someone die who I identified with so much made me fear for my own life. Was I also going to pass away like that?

I can see where that would be frightening for a kid.
Even though she was just a fictional character, it was real to me as a young queer kid.
I think my lack of knowledge probably helped me deal with all those feelings. Since I couldn’t place what she was struggling with, I dealt with it like any other death in a movie. I convinced myself it was fiction.

That’s the best remedy! What comes to mind when I say “AIDS”?
I primarily think of the eighties and all of the groundbreaking work and love shown during that time. [Observing Elliot in repose, there are definite shades of a young Gregory Peck, the legendary actor, bundled in with a wee-bit of Paul Rudd.]

It is surprising how tragedy will bring people together. Were you taught HIV prevention in high school?
No, I was not. I learned most of what I know now about STIs and safer sex through the Internet, my friends, my family, and film and television. I’m a masculine queer person, I have several friends who identify the same, or they identify as gay men, and HIV is something you cannot not think about. Everyone, no matter their sexuality or gender, needs to critically think about this disease. [He sits erect; his coffee-brown eyes glazing as his velvety baritone voice resonates.] Do the work to educate yourself about this monster. Learn the effective ways of prevention!

You have friends who are living with HIV. How do you support them?
I support them just as I support all of my friends. I don’t treat them any differently than I would anyone else. Their being HIV-positive doesn’t affect me at all. Sure, I care about their health but I don’t feel it’s my place to be overly emotional about it. I’m here for them and they know that.

Depression comes in all shapes and sizes. But it comes! What do you do when you it strikes?
I try to surround myself with friends and family. Not only does that distract me, but it reminds me how loved and valued I am. I also try doing something creative because art has been my outlet and helps me process the emotional situation.

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Being creative does get one out of their head. You’ve played in both trans and non-transgender roles.
Yes I have. The non-transgender roles have been in a couple of short films, and my two most recent projects [TNT’s Tell Me Your Secrets and TruTv’s Adam Ruins Everything]. I just like acting. It doesn’t matter if the character is trans or not. I’m always looking forward to doing the work.

Briefly, what was the audition process like for the character of Trevor in Shameless?
It was actually a lot quicker than I expected. I went in for the audition, changed the lines up a little bit, and then left the room feeling like there was no way I was going to get it. Five or six days later, I got the call that I had been cast. It was unreal.

What male and female actors inspire you?
My mom and dad are both actors, so I would say the two of them. A couple of others would probably be Ewan McGregor and Amy Brenneman.

Elliot, share a “backstory” about being on the set of Shameless and The Fosters.
Both sets were fun. A special memory I have from Shameless is hiding from the Chicago rain with Cameron [Monaghan, who plays Ian Gallagher] in my “Trevor” car and flipping through the radio stations. We found Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” and just danced and sang with him while we waited for the rain to pass.

On the set of The Fosters, Maia [Mitchell, who plays Callie Adams Foster] and I had a scene that required a lot of technical directions, like blocking, camera moves, etc., and it was getting a little complicated, but we were always up for the challenge. After we cut during a take, Maia and I turned to each other and just smiled because the take had felt so good, like we had done everything perfectly. We high fived and said, “We nailed that!” The director came into the room with the same energy. [He pauses.] It’s always super satisfying as an actor to hear from a director that they like what you’re doing, especially after you’re really happy with your own performance.

Indeed. What’s your input about safe dating?
It’s not unsexy, rude, or inappropriate to ask your partner, or whoever you are engaging in sexual activity with, if they’ve been tested! It takes five seconds and can save you so much fear, heartache, and confusion. In our current climate and for my generation, the Internet holds a lot of power.

Sometimes kids feel alone plus they feel snowed under by all this. What do you say?
I think influencers in the community could do a lot more by talking about it. Rarely do we see people with large followings or who have the platform talk about STIs. It’s like it’s a secret or viewed as taboo. Having someone who people look up to open up the conversation can give people a feeling of security, let them know that they aren’t alone, that they are still loved and valued——and that there’s nothing to be ashamed of. [Elliot takes a sharp inhale then adds empathically] Nothing!


Dann Dulin is a Senior Editor at A&U.