Ruby raps with Adam Fried

Photo by David Muller Photography

Mr. Fried and I have crossed paths more than once. (Straight away I’ll impart to you: his surname is pronounced as in, “I freed the people,” and has German roots.)

Adam, thirty-four, and I were both raised in Ohio; he’s from Dayton, I’m from Columbus. Of course yours truly is slightly older, but not much! His father was in the Air Force so he visited Wright-Patterson Air Force base and their museum many times. (“The best aircraft curation in the country,” he delights.) My father was smitten with the base too, as there was talk that alien beings are being stored there. Yes, it’s true. Also, Adam and I have attended same performances of Broadway Cares in New York, and participated in several AIDS Walks as well.

Happiness Adjacent was one of my favorite films of this actor, who’s also a writer, producer,

Illustration by Davidd Batalon

dancer, and singer. The 2017 movie centers on two guys who meet on a seven-day cruise and then carry on a steamy love affair, all while one of them is on the DL, who’s in tow with his wife. The entire film was shot entirely on an iPhone! You could have fooled me. Watch Adam’s stirring performance in this delightul rom-com airing now on Amazon Prime.
Adam’s professional training began by attending a summer pre-college intense conservatory theater program, Theatre Cherub, at Northwestern University. Some of his classmates were Kate McKinnon and America Ferrera. He then went to earn a BA in Musical Theatre from Ball State University, then graduated from UCLA in the Professional Program for Acting for the Camera. The thespian has performed on stage regionally and in national tours, working several years in N.Y.C. before moving to L.A. to work in film and television. His one-man show, Misunderstood: An Unrequited Love Story has been performed at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, The Duplex, and New York’s famed Don’t Tell Mama.

Adam is founding producer and co-director of Chrysalis Pictures, a nonprofit, which seeks to produce underrepresented voices, offering stories that make the world a better place. They often participate in arts education and other programs that give back to their community. His current project through Chrysalis is creator and head writer on the series Dirty Laundry. Adam is also co-director of the Moving Parts Film Festival (Hollywood’s International Social Justice Film Festival). Currently he’s shooting the upcoming espionage television series, In The Shadows.

On the intimate side, Adam’s all-time beloved film is The Wizard of Oz, and his first teen crush? Ethan Embry!

Since Mr. Fried lives beachside in scenic Santa Monica, I haul myself out there in “Mother Lincoln,” my 1969 burgundy colored Mark III Continental. This classic “boat” is luscious, even if I say so myself. I meet Adam under a shady palm tree near the Santa Monica pier, sans mask, thank god!

Ruby Comer: Adam! Wow, so nice to see you again. It’s been a while! [I utter passionately…] Rent…! [He beams.] Thankfully it continues to entertain, educate, and inspire! Has there been any other production that has knocked your socks off?
Adam Fried: The most recent Russell T Davies’ series, It’s a Sin, truly hit me like a truck. A group of lovable friends is unaware of what was about to hit them in the U.K. in the eighties.

Oh I just got chills, Adam! How has the AIDS epidemic affected you?
Growing up as a young gay man, I had a lot of fear about it. At seventeen, when I came out to my parents [he pauses then loudly enunciates] before they even told me they loved me unconditionally——like our dog!——was their fear surrounding AIDS.

Hmmm… [I chuckle.]
To quote more accurately, my Dad said, “Look at Rascal [our dog]. Do you think he even knows or cares that you are gay? NO! He loves you no matter what—and so do we.”

That’s priceless, Adam. How did…[He politely interrupts].
I have to say Ruby that I consider myself lucky that I haven’t personally had any friends or people in my life who’ve been diagnosed with AIDS, and the few friends I have that are HIV-positive are undetectable and able to manage a healthy and normal life.

HAPPINESS ADJACENT, starring Ian Dick and Adam Fried. Photo courtesy Guest House Films

That’s good news. How did you confront your parents understandable concern?
I assured them that it’s a risk for everyone, not just gay people, and it’s not a concern for me as I plan to be safe! They quickly moved to embracing me, but if I’m honest, it took them some time to truly accept me. It was only when I was in college for several years that they inquired if I was dating anyone and started to take an interest. Now…they are Jewish parents who want to be grandparents, so they like to know all the details of my love life! [Adam grins.]

So how did you first hear about the epidemic?
I first learned about the epidemic while growing up in Dayton. Being a young artist and wanting to pursue acting, many scripts and screenplays at that time touched on characters afflicted with AIDS. I was in middle school when we really dove into the history about it, and later, in sex education class we covered prevention.

[Thunderbolt! Boom! Bam! Swish! A heavy deafening wave crashes onto the beach.]

Wow, where did that come from?! [Adam shoots a stunned glance then continues.]
Then of course when I was twelve I saw the national tour of Rent. I remember hearing about AZT as well. While watching the musical, here I was, witnessing a group of New Yorkers all dealing with this very scary and very real disease.

It was an iconic moment for me, Ruby. Afterwards, I looked up more about AIDS. The musical also inspired me to pursue an acting career in N.Y.C. I wanted to be like them, but not sick. I moved to New York when I was twenty-four, after having performed in two national musical tours and working in regional theater. It was an exciting time. I was living my dream and performing in the Big Apple! [Adam takes a moment and his dreamy coffee-brown peeps dart upward.] Dating in the Big Apple was also exciting. [A satisfying devilish smile washes over him.] As a Pisces I fall pretty hard, pretty fast. I’m just not wired to be a one-night-stand man. Oh, Ruby, I feel very lucky for my life.

That’s so nice to hear. Really. By the time you came of age the cocktails had just been established. Even so, sex still came with risks. How did all this play out for you, Adam?
I think sex in general is a wild experience to discover and explore for the first time. I, of course, like any other teenager had raging hormones. I finally fell in love during my freshman year of college where I became sexually active. I wasn’t scared at the time [of acquiring HIV]. I was excited! But it wasn’t with a casual stranger; it was a monogamous boyfriend. I think I’ve always been a little more careful about it all. I find it more enjoyable having a connection, as there’s more of a sense of trust there. For me, it’s very intimate and intense pleasure.

Photo courtesy A. Fried

I like this, Adam. I don’t hear this all that often. It’s almost like a fairytale, but it’s real.

You’ve revealed to me before that you first got tested for HIV at twenty-two. Tell me about that.

Well, it was in Spanish Harlem. A good friend from college was going to get tested after her wild sexual escapades, and I realized I hadn’t had it done yet, so I went with her. At first it was terrifying. I remember it being even more dramatic because the building we were in waiting for our results, the fire alarm went off. We rushed to the curb of the street and waited for twenty minutes before going back in. It felt like twenty long hours! Fortunately I was safe then, and am happy to report I’m safe now too.

Kudos. When you date, Adam, how do you broach the topic of STIs?
It’s always brutally awkward to bring up on the first date, but it doesn’t make it any less important. Before our first date, while we’re chatting, I try to make a joke about it getting it out of the way, like a Band-Aid. Honesty is the best, and hopefully the guy I’m interested in is as careful and safe as I am. It’s all an important component in establishing compatibility.

Returning to fear, how do you tackle this anxiety?
I’ve learned to go for a long hike. When I return, things completely change. Also breathing and meditation help a lot to clear the mind and silence that inner voice. Sometimes it gets out of control and we allow it to boss us around.

Oh boy, can I relate to that one! Sometimes my thoughts go a million miles a second, especially while I’m trying sleep. Ugh. What motivates you to give back?
I was taught to give back to those who are less fortunate by my amazing parents. [I nod energetically.] I have also learned that the actors and artists I most respect have been generous with their time, giving back to peers and mentoring those that want to follow in their footsteps.

I hope in turn I can inspire others to do the same. [He breaks.] Giving to others just feels good, Ruby, and it’s important to do so, now more than ever, especially after this COVID pandemic.

Uh, huh…COVID. What did you learn from this prison sentence?
Well, this has certainly been a crazy time in our history! [He shakes his head non-stop, quietly releasing a heavy sigh.] I learned to treasure my friends and family, and the people that matter most in my life. Also…to not sweat the small stuff, and to not take anything for granted. [I nod uproariously in agreement.]

Time is our most valuable commodity. I want to accomplish my dreams and not waste a minute of it! [Adam peacefully peers out at the Pacific Ocean then turns to me in urgency.] Mental health is a very important factor, Ruby, and I saw many personal friendships and people crippled by fear and depression from the lockdowns. I’m grateful that I maintained my positive attitude…and my health.

Free yourself up and be entertained at Fried’s Instagram @adamfriedla.

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].