November 15, 2023
With 'Shoulder Dance,' Rick Cosnett Finds Confidence in Queer Roles
Frank J. Avella READ TIME: 14 MIN.
Best known for his roles in "The Vampire Diaries," "Quantico" and, especially, as Eddie Thawne on The CW's "The Flash," hottie Rick Cosnett is co-starring in the new queer-themed film, "Shoulder Dance," written and directed by Jay Arnold.
The film's plot centers on the rekindling of an estranged friendship/crush. Ira (Matt Dallas) is informed that after 24 years, his high school BFF and major crush, Roger (Cosnett), will be visiting him in his Hampton's home. Ira's beau of 10 years (and 10 years his junior) Josh (Taylor Frey) isn't too keen on the idea. But before there is time to debate it, Roger arrives (without warning) with his glam girlfriend, Lilly (Maggie Geha). Josh and Lilly hit it off immediately. Ira is more wary of Roger, who he last saw when they were both 16.
The weekend is filled with anxiety, jealousy and seduction. Oh, and karaoke and molly, which brings out some repressed but honest feelings.
Arnold has a great ear for dialogue and his use of the close-up, particularly in the scenes with Dallas and Cosnett, is penetrating and adds to the authenticity of this sexually-charged situation. Cosnett runs the gamut of nuanced emotions, and it's a stand-out performance that showcases his tremendous talents.
Cosnett publicly announced he was gay on Instagram in 2020. The Zimbabwean-Australian actor's previous credits include roles in Paul Schrader's "Master Gardener" and Rodrigo Bellott's arresting, queer-themed "Tu me manques (I Miss You)," Bolivia''s 2019 International Feature Oscar submission.
He will soon be seen in the AppleTV+ period comedy series, "Palm Royale," based on the novel "Mr. & Mrs. American Pie," by Jules McDaniel. In addition, he'll star opposite his "Shoulder Dance" co-star Frey in the LGBTQ romance, "The Holiday Exchange."
"Shoulder Dance" is currently available on Digital Platforms, via October Coast.
EDGE has a blast Zoom chatting with the sexy thesp about the current film and his career.
EDGE: The film is quite good, and you are amazing in it.
Rick Cosnett: Thank you, Frank, I really appreciate that. It is wonderful. I've seen it a couple of times at festivals. And I find it riveting, not only because I'm seeing myself on screen, I hope, because it was a bit of a breakthrough for me in terms of my craft and in terms of a different character, for me, in terms of the confidence of the character I'm playing.
EDGE: I was saving this question for later. But maybe you can speak a little bit about the point where you decided to officially come out. It must be kind of cool to just let go and play a queer role.
Rick Cosnett: Absolutely, it is. And the landscape's changed so, it feels a bit safer, in terms of your career. I just did it because I felt a bit stuck in terms of my own craft, in terms of acting, which is something that I hold very sacred... I was feeling like I needed to just be able to be free. And it has allowed me to be more powerful, more masculine, more feminine, more myself... And this character, ironically, is a straight character who's somewhere on the Kinsey scale, as we all are... it's kind of wonderful, because you have this freedom. I sort of based him on Jason Momoa, whom I've met a couple of times, who I feel is just such a wonderful human being-- so in touch with his own sense of play, and sexuality. And, in everything he does, he brings his whole his whole self to that. I don't know him that well. But I just sort of took him as a bit of a blueprint for this character...
Roger (his character) is so delicious and needs to be tantalizing at every point. And needs to be so comfortable with himself and his sensuality, his sexuality... In my life, I never really got to do that, growing up from about six years old 'til probably about 19 there was a gap where I had to really compartmentalize and put a cap on that and try and be this and try and be that, which never really works, right? It can't work because you can only really be yourself for the authenticity and the energy to flow... This has been really great for me not only artistically, but also personally, because I was taught... the problems you have in your life are very often the problems you have in your acting, and vice versa. So you want to keep the boundaries healthy. I haven't always done that. But I'm learning to do that.
EDGE: Let's talk about Roger. I love how touchy-feely he is. He's somewhat abrasive. But then there's this loving, gentle quality that comes out. And he remains enigmatic right until the very end.
Rick Cosnett: Yeah, he really does, which I thought was so beautiful ... he remains true to his character ... And not only did it come to me, but it was in the writing and the writing is so good. The script is just so fantastic. I couldn't believe that it was offered to me ... it's obviously based on a real story, which is where all the good material comes from.
It was so wonderful to be able to come to set, just completely hot, ready to go ... to just be this kind of ferocious lion. And then see what happens. Be super prepared ... I love to be really prepared. Then you can have a lot more freedom and the magic starts to happen. It's thanks to my teachers at drama school. They were really into impulsivity... My craft is still growing. But those seeds were planted early.
EDGE:. Jay (the director) captures both you and Matt, in these extreme close ups. One second to the next, you're giving us so much on screen.
Rick Cosnett: I really felt that – what you're getting at – just watching the audience was so great, because it's very riveting, the emotional relationship's through line. You don't really quite know where it's going to go and, so, when the audience was silent, you're like, "Oh, my gosh." And then there would be this huge laugh of relief, so they're with you the whole time ... It's done so beautifully ... it's exactly what we experienced on set. And it's put together really seamlessly.
EDGE: You and Matt have great chemistry. Was that something that just manifested?
Rick Cosnett: It was really great ... I just came in hot, did a lot of substitution work from my own teenage years, which were very special to me. I have amazing friends from that period. I also moved away from Zimbabwe when I was 17. And my character moved away from LA when he was 16. So I could really relate to that part of it.
(Matt) is so open and such a wonderful actor; as are Taylor, Samuel (Larsen) and Maggie. So you start reacting to what's in front of you ... We were lucky enough to shoot mostly in a linear fashion thanks to Jay really respecting our creativity and wanting to create the best atmosphere. It was great atmosphere on set.
EDGE: The film really goes to that place where I think so many of us go to – that notion that there's that one person, possibly from high school, that you didn't get to be with and the what if?
Rick Cosnett: Right! I don't know if everyone has it, but I certainly do. Even if I didn't realize it at the time ... and as a teenager, it's just so magnified. It's so much more beautiful, and so much more special, and the feelings are so much more intense. God, being a teenager is just this incredible rush of a rollercoaster. And I really cherish my teenage years, which really helped me with this film because I was able to just tap into that.
EDGE: You were out as a teen, right? It wasn't until you came to Hollywood, that they kind of forced you back in.
Rick Cosnett: Yeah. My first year of drama school, thank goodness to my wonderful teachers I had there. They were all about the art of it. And whatever helps with that ... They didn't see it as an issue. And they used to encourage everyone to really just be authentic, be yourself. Don't act. Come from a real place ... so it was very supportive. I came out as gay when I was 19 at drama school, and then that very quickly bled into my family and friends. It was great. I was out. Then I graduated drama school. And it was great, too, because I mainly got gay roles, but I got straight roles as well.
But at the time, they were very much into casting very straight actors in gay roles. So we lost out on that, which I think is why the pendulum has swung the other way now. Then when I got to Hollywood in 2011 ... managers and agents were also trying to protect us so there was this weird thing where they were like, "What do you want to do?"
"I don't know, what should I do?"... also (they suggested), "You kind of want to remain mysterious, so that people can believe you in roles, because you want to disappear into a role ... So, it was all of that as well, just trying to protect the art, but underneath it all, was a sort of prejudice, in terms of marketability, and all of that. Thank goodness that's changed over the last few years. And thank goodness, I was able to sort of, right that wrong, by just coming out. But, at the same time, not wanting it to be a focus, but it is a focus, because that's just where we are right now.
I just did it. I didn't really think about it. But thinking back on it, I didn't want to be behind the wave either ... You just have to be brave and figure it out along the way. People really respect that. And so I feel like I've gotten more roles. Now. People trust me more. But it's also because I'm more confident in myself... The thing that was holding me back is just not holding me back anymore.
EDGE: Now that the strike has ended I can ask about "The Flash." But really I want to ask about your being involved with what I think are two of the most homoerotic TV shows, "The Vampire Diaries" and "The Flash."
Rick Cosnett: Fantastic. ... When I first started "The Flash" that was some fanfiction apparently written that we heard about, about me and Jesse L. Martin as detective partners in the cop car, and, I won't be too vulgar, but there was some goings on in the cop car between the two of us which we thought was hysterical ... I think it's so great. I love that it's homoerotic for you. I mean, why not? Everything is homoerotic.
EDGE: I wanted to discuss Rodrigo Bellott's amazing film, "Tu me manques (I Miss You)," which was Bolivia's Oscar entry a couple of years ago. I was curious how you got involved in that.
Rick Cosnett: I auditioned for it and just ended up getting a role in it. ... There was something about it that I just really connected with. He's such a passionate filmmaker and it's his story. And seeing the film at festivals and in front of the academy audience – a film can be so affecting – and having just watched the film, which is about the play. And the play sparked this kind of domino effect of people just coming out comfortably in their sexuality... The film is so powerful, that having seen it, and then going straight up on stage for Q&A, I just immediately had the impetus to – this was 2018 – to say, "Well, by the way, I'm gay"... because that was the total atmosphere after watching. I remember after I watched "Milk" with Sean Penn, just coming out of that and going, "Wow, we should be screaming from the rooftops." You know, you get that courage when you see something that moves you. And then you go back into the the fear – the fear which is just so dangerous, and not a fun place to be.
EDGE: I read that you're Hugh Grant's cousin.
Rick Cosnett: He's actually my third cousin, which is not that close. He has no idea who I am ... So, my whole goal in life is for someone to say Did you know that you're Rick Cosnett's cousin? to Hugh Grant? (laughs) ... Growing up, he had a tiny picture in Time magazine, before "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and we were telling everyone in Zimbabwe that we had a cousin that was in the magazine.
EDGE: I wanted to circle back to "Shoulder Dance" and ask about one of the love scenes and whether it went further while filming happened...
Rick Cosnett: (winking) I like that question, Frank. (laughs) We all fucked on the film. (more laughter) No, I'm joking.
EDGE: I didn't mean further that way!
Rick Cosnett: That's not what you were asking. I just went there. But that's not what happened, fortunately or unfortunately. I really like to have a separation of church and state when it comes to friends, lovers, workers, It has served me well. And it's mostly because I've never really had the opportunity. (laughs) It's so wonderful to keep those relationships so professional...
I can say that between action and cut, you're just really just using everything you can, and just absolutely bloody going for it... It was really like, erotic, the whole thing. But at the same time, that's you in a character and (his) imagination... People say this all the time, about the sex scenes... it's such a fabricated environment. Because you've turned up, you clocked in, you've done your prep. There's people standing around. And you're just sort of waiting around a lot of the time. Ready to be ready to be ready, which is why it's so tiring, because it takes so long to film such a short amount of time. It's quite hard for me to actually know when to conserve my energy and when not to... I'm sort of getting better at trusting myself, that I'll be able to just be ready.
EDGE: What is up next for you?
Rick Cosnett: This is amazing. I can talk about stuff.
Okay, so we finished filming Season One of "Palm Royale" on Apple TV last year, and I think-- I don't know--they've been waiting for the actor strike to end to hopefully release it in a more spectacular fashion. Because the cast is insane. It's led by Kristen Wiig, Laura Dern, Allison Janney, Carol Burnett, Ricky Martin, Josh Lucas. Some amazing supporting roles, including myself as a supporting character who has a lovely, lovely arc...So yeah, I'm super excited about that.
There's also a film I filmed earlier this year, which is ready to go, I believe, called "The Holiday Exchange," with Taylor Frey who's absolutely incredible. And Kyle Richards has a cameo in it. Because I'm a huge fan of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," I had to be held back the days I worked with her. It's a really cool holiday film coming out at Christmas, which I'm super proud of. I play an English person for the first time onscreen ever. I'm channeling my inner Hugh Grant.
For more on "Shoulder Dance," follow this link.
Watch the trailer:
Frank J. Avella is a proud EDGE and Awards Daily contributor. He serves as the GALECA Industry Liaison and is a Member of the New York Film Critics Online. His award-winning short film, FIG JAM, has shown in Festivals worldwide (figjamfilm.com). Frank's screenplays have won numerous awards in 17 countries. Recently produced plays include LURED & VATICAL FALLS, both O'Neill semifinalists. He is currently working on a highly personal project, FROCI, about the queer Italian/Italian-American experience. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild. https://filmfreeway.com/FrankAvella https://muckrack.com/fjaklute