His Shock To The System
Chad Allen Lazzari isn’t a thirty-something celebrity who decided to ‘come out of the closet’ to garner publicity for a slowing career.
While many may only know Allen from his work as an adult – in a number of independent films and as a special guest star in an array of Top 10 prime time television shows, including "Cold Case," "NYPD Blue" and "Charmed" – Allen has been working in show business for most of his thirty-two years.
"My twin sister and I started acting when we were five," says Allen, who calls me from the set of his upcoming movie, "Save Me," that is shooting in the mid-west.
"We didn’t grow up in a showbiz family," continues, Allen, "but my sister and I fell in love with acting. My mother would enter us in ‘twin contests’ at county fairs starting from the age of five and that led to getting work on [television] commercials."
While the acting bug never fully infected Chad’s sister Charity, he couldn’t get rid of it.
Beginning at age nine, Allen starred as Tommy Westphal, the autistic son of "St. Elsewhere’s" Dr. Donald Westphal (Ed Flanders).
"And the rest is history," laughs Allen, who went on to star as a regular in another Top 10 prime time drama, "Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman."
Allen played Matthew Cooper, the adopted son of "Dr. Quinn" (Jane Seymour).
However, while growing up, literally on camera, Allen struggled with the issue – and secret – of being gay.
"I spent a lot of my teen years bitching to myself about how hard it was to be gay. But after a while I realized I couldn’t bitch about it if I kept the fact that I was gay a secret, as if it were something to be ashamed of."
There were a number of reasons why Allen decided to go public with his sexual orientation.
"I got a lot of letters from young gay people who heard rumors that I was gay; telling me they didn’t know what to do with their lives and many felt the only solution to their pain was suicide."
Allen doesn’t think of his coming out as a message, rather, "an example. I don’t have a message," he says. "Anyone who is gay should be able to make the decision whether or not they want to come out on their own. They shouldn’t be forced to. I am not an advocate of outing anyone. But, by example, one at a time," Allen says, referring to gay celebrities who may be in the closet, "we can make a difference. I mean, look at what just one television show did?" he asks, commenting on "Will & Grace," that in eight years pretty much did for gays what "The Jeffersons" did for blacks – made being a minority a non-issue with the majority.
"The great thing we are all born with," says Allen, "is that we have the freedom to be whatever we choose. If someone chooses to live his life in denial, that is his choice. You have to love yourself, though. And surround yourself with people who love you. The gay community faces fear by walking together."
This year alone, Allen has challenged convention and the right, by starring in a right-wing religious film – that was released in theaters and is now on DVD – "The End of the Spear."
"The End of the Spear" is the true story of a group of Christian missionaries in Ecuador who set out to reach the Wadani tribe (a violent Ecuadorian tribe defined by revenge killing). When the 5 men from this group are speared to death by Mincayani and others in the tribe (who believe all foreigners are cannibals), the wives and children of those men move into the Wadani tribe to teach them about God.
"Yes, the filmmakers and the message of the movie are different than what I may believe but it brought us together. And I was respected on the set of the film every day I was there. I am still friends with the filmmakers. We are very fond of each other and respect each other’s beliefs. I don’t know what all the controversy in the media was when the movie came out in theaters. ‘An openly gay actor in a Christian movie.’ If anything, it opened a lot of people’s eyes – in the Bible belt – to the fact that devout Christians and gays can coexist peacefully and respect each other, even when their beliefs may clash."
Allen, whose full name is Chad Allen Lazzari, hasn’t used his last name while acting, for nearly thirty years, as it was pointed out to his parents, quickly, that the name Lazzari didn’t sound like a little blonde, blue-eyed boy, rather a dark haired, dark-eyed Italian.
Allen is, at the moment, in a relationship that is just passing its one year mark. "We are very happy," says Allen.
In his spare time, Allen says he loves "to surf, snowboard, go to the movies, hike, cycle, a lot. I like to chill. I am not really into partying."
Currently Allen can be seen on the big screen in "A Shock To The System," as gay detective Donald Strachey.
"This is the second in a planned trilogy of ‘Donald Strachey’ stories for the big screen," reveals Allen, who also points out that "Donald Strachey beat that other gay detective, Val Kilmer, in ‘Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang’ to the big screen by a full year."