It’s generally conceded that certain movies comprise Gay Culture 101, including “The Wizard of Oz,” “All About Eve,” and, of course, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” It’s ironic, then, that out reality star and actor Frankie Grande is married to a man who has never seen “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” — or even “The Wizard of Oz.”
“Yeah,” conceded Grande. “I’m married to a gay straight man.”
Fortunately, Grande’s husband’s gay education will be expanded somewhat when, in October, he travels out from their home in Los Angeles to Bucks County to see Grande in Bucks County Playhouse’s revival of “The Rocky Horror Show,” the original stage musical on which the iconic movie is based.
“I was born to play Frank-N-Furter,” says Grande, referring to “the sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania” memorably played by Tim Curry in the film. “But,” he adds, “I’m still going to have to make the husband sit down and watch Oz at some point.”
Grande first gained national recognition a few years ago for his memorable appearance on the popular reality show “Big Brother.” He made an impact on the show’s viewing audience by essentially playing himself — an out and proud gay man with a forceful and bubbling personality. His tenure on the series catapulted Grande to a subsequent successful career as both a TV personality and as an actor.
Grande views his appearance on “Big Brother” and subsequent reality shows as a form of ambassadorship for the LGBTQ+ community, providing visibility and a positive role model for young people struggling to come out. He recounts a story he heard about a fearful, closeted kid who watched “Big Brother” with his father.
“When the kid saw how his father rooted for me on the show, he realized that it would be OK to come out to his dad,” Grande said. “I’ll always remember this story. It made me realize what an impact I could have on people’s lives.”
Grande takes his role as a community ambassador seriously. In addition to his many other responsibilities, he sits on the board of GLAAD, the national advocacy organization that works with media to increase positive LGBTQ+ visibility in movies and TV.
One of the things Grande has had to deal with because of “Big Brother” is the assumption that he is primarily a reality show personality. “And I’m much more than that,” he says. People may be surprised that Grande also has an active career as an actor, having appeared in several stage productions, even on Broadway.
“I’ve got to say, if you can make it on Broadway, you can make it anywhere, because New York audiences can be very unforgiving,” he said.
However, he admits that if they like you, New York audiences are the most supportive in the world. Recently, Grande was seen in New York in “Titanique The Musical” and onscreen in the horror comedy “Summoning Sylvia,” co-starring Michael Urie.
Because of the nature of his work, Grande and his husband are bi-coastal, maintaining residences in both Los Angeles and New York. When PGN spoke to him, he was still in L.A., but he is looking forward to spending some time in NYC before rehearsals for “Rocky Horror” start.
How Grande came to be cast in “Rocky Horror” was a bit roundabout. He originally auditioned for director Hunter Foster four years ago, when Bucks County Playhouse was originally planning to restage a new production of the show. But the pandemic happened, and that production never materialized. However, apparently Grande’s audition had resonated with Foster, and he kept Grande in mind, so when plans for the revival rematerialized, they gave him a call and offered him the part.
Foster and choreographer Shannon Lewis plan to mount an all-new, gothic and glam production intended to appeal to a younger audience, with new sets, lighting, costumes and choreography.
“They’re really keen, as am I, that I bring my own spin to Frank-N-Furter,” says Grande. “I mean, really, it would be foolish to try to recreate Tim Curry’s performance. That’s been done.”
“The Rocky Horror Show” plays October 13-28 at the Bucks County Playhouse, 70 South Main St., New Hope. For ticket information, visit buckscountyplayhouse.org or call 215-862-2121.