Noah Galvin: The Most Real O’Neal

Noah Galvin doesn’t fit in, he stands out. He was raised in New York and it shows. His personality is a refreshing mix of New York candor and gay boy sass that has a cutting sense of humor underneath it all, if you’re sharp enough to catch it.

Galvin, who also dabbles in theater and audio books, currently stars as the young lead, Kenny O’Neal, in ABC’s comedy The Real O’Neals. The show revolves around the O’Neal family, a seemingly perfect all-American Irish-Catholic family. When the youngest son, Kenny (Galvin), comes out of the closet in season one, the other family members follow suit in one way or another: everyone’s surprising truths are revealed. Instead of ruining their family, the honesty triggers a new, messier chapter where everyone stops pretending to be perfect and actually starts being themselves.

The Real O’Neals is now wrapping up it’s second season. How do you feel the show has evolved since making its debut?

It has evolved in a beautiful, natural way. A story I love to tell is what happened with the last moment of our pilot episode. Initially, our pilot ended with Kenny coming out to his girlfriend Mimi and his entire family being there in rainbow sweaters cheering him on. Dan Savage stepped in and said, “Kids get kicked out of their homes everyday,” referring to LGBTQ kids who don’t have it easy. If we ended the first episode with the entire family completely on board with Kenny’s homosexuality, there would be nowhere to go or grow, no reason for anybody to tune in next week.

So, we changed the scene on the fly to just include Kenny and his siblings on the couch. This opened the door for Kenny and Eileen to have a classic protagonist/antagonist relationship that has and will evolve over time. That evolution is the most interesting to me and the one I’m most proud of telling.

Where do you see the Kenny’s relationship with Brett going next season? 

Unfortunately, Kenny and Brett do not last. Love is fleeting and young love even more so. I think Kenny started dating Brett because he was, for lack of a better word, thirsty. Kenny was very lonely and wanting a boyfriend, the opportunity arose and, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t fall for Sean Grandillo?

Brett and Kenny are very different people and Kenny sacrificed a lot of himself to please Brett. It was doomed from the get-go, but having this first unsuccessful relationship out of the way has opened the door for something greater.

Since Kenny is going to be single, who would you cast as Kenny’s dream man in the show? 

Kenny has talked about his love for Anderson Cooper before. Not very age appropriate, but I would love him to be in a fantasy sequence.

Love interests aside, it seems like you also have a great relationship with your Real O’Neals co-stars on and off screen.

We’re on a comedy. A jovial atmosphere supports good comedy. If we all hated each other, I don’t think our show would be half as funny.

And you all give your time very generously to LGBT causes. 

I work closely with It Gets Better and The Trevor Project. Many reach out to me looking for advice and want to share their stories. I cannot respond to everyone, so I send many in the direction of The Trevor Project. They are a wonderful organization that offers help and support to any in need. They have been a fantastic resource.

A lot of schools are cutting arts and music programs too. Can you sound off on the importance of having these in school? 

I think even if these kids aren’t going to grow up and become actors or painters or musicians, the arts feed something in your soul that cannot be found elsewhere. The arts for many are simply a safe space, a place of refuge and inspiration. We need to support all arts education. Now, more than ever.

Before landing your role on The Real O’Neals, you did a lot of stage work. What’s your dream role on Broadway? 

I will one day be in a revival of Cabaret and play the Emcee. I just have to wait for Alan Cumming — someone I very much look up to — to die.

When did you know you wanted to be a professional entertainer? 

I don’t recall one specific “aha” moment. I grew up watching my siblings in school plays and rock concerts. I used to go to the rehearsals for the school musicals and just sit in the back and watch for hours.

Growing up Catholic and gay, how has that shaped how you play Kenny? 

It took my Dad some time to come around to the idea of me being gay. Religion was so much a part of his life from such a young age. You grow up with these beliefs pounded into you, and then something or someone comes along and sort of rocks your world. There is going to be some sort of adjustment period.

This is similar to Kenny and Eileen. Kenny knows his mom loves him and also knows how staunch she is. He knows that she will eventually come around, but getting there will be a process. I’d say my relationship with my father has very much informed my portrayal of Kenny.

How do you play a gay character and stay true to that without over-stereotyping the role? 

Honestly, I don’t think about those things when playing the role. If I were trying to force Kenny to be something that wasn’t in the writing, he would come off stilted. I try to play Kenny with as much humanity as possible. I know what it’s like to grow up gay and find yourself.

Kenny, like all gay men, has moments where he queens the fuck out, and moments where he (pardon my reductive-ness) is “straight acting.” Like any human, he has layers and many notes to him.

How about his age? You’re 22, but you play a high school student. Do you think it’s easier to play someone younger with those teenage years being “hindsight?” 

Just like writing, it’s easier to play what you know. I know what it’s like to be a teenager. Playing someone younger certainly comes easier than playing someone older than me. For I know not what it means to be old.

I love that Kenny has so many dimensions. It’s relatable to non-LGBT audience members.

I think what makes Kenny relatable is that we’re not telling the story of Kenny’s inner struggle in coming out. The story starts with him coming out, so we simply get to follow him on his journey through adolescence. Everybody has been a teenager at some point. First loves, fighting with siblings or parents, disappointing friends — everyone can relate to that. V

by Jimmy No Show

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James Lesch

James Lesch, aka 'Jimmy No Show', is the Publisher of Vital VOICE Magazine. He oversees business affairs, events, editorial content, cover features and creative direction. Known best for his quirky obsessions, including but not limited to Spice Girls, Power Rangers, Starbucks, Taco Bell, Bull Dogs & traveling.

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