Younger heartthrob Nico Tortorella is no stranger to bearing it all (just jump on over to his Instagram account @nicotortorella and see for yourself). Here the actor speaks with FourTwoNine about his acting roots, shares his thoughts on love and relationships, opens up about his recent sobriety and discusses his growing visibility in the LGBT community
Joseph Akel: In Younger you play Josh, the handsome love interest of the show’s protagonist, Liza (played by Sutton Foster), a middle-aged divorceÌe who pretends to be younger in order to get a position with a big New York City publishing firm. At one point in the series, Josh learns of Liza’s real age, and this sets the stage for the ongoing story line of the season. In real life, if someone lied to you, as Liza did to Josh, would you break up with them?
Nico TorTorella: I mean, yeah, probably. My immediate response is yes. But if I have a second to think about it, I’m not so sure. I think it would depend on the person and on what the circumstances were. I don’t think life is just flat black and white, you know? I mean a lie is a big fucking deal, but I think that I would like to hear the entire argument and have my time to be able to think about what my response would be.
JA: In an interview with Cosmo, you are quoted as saying, “Relationships and people are my hobby of sorts.” What does that mean? Are you a serial dater? Is it that your attention sort of flits about quickly? Help me understand, because if I met somebody and knew they had said that, I’d be a little scared they’d break up with me.
NT: I think that line’s been taken out of context a little bit. It’s not like my sport is …
JA: Love. Like you’re the Deer Hunter of dating…
NT: Exactly. I’m not out there to break anybody’s heart. Look, as an actor, my job is to fall in love with people on-camera and get the audience to believe that that interaction is natural. I think that whether I’m doing it consciously or not, I have created a base of experience—and how I project it—that can be read in many different ways. In reality, I think I define myself through my ability to love and to fall in love with people, and to be honest, the number of people who I have fallen in love with is a handful.
JA: But aren’t you just a big flirt as well?
NT: No, not at all. For the most part, I reserve my attention for the people I’m emotionally invested in. I think I’ve had two one-night stands in my entire life. I’m not this crazy sex fiend either. It’s all about love.
JA: That being said, you do like to show off your body a whole lot. Your Instagram can get, well, pretty racy. You recently debuted a tattoo, positioned just above your crotch, with your name repeated three times in bold typeface—“NICO NICO NICO.” That’s a pretty—excuse the pun—ballsy statement. What was that about?
NT: Yeah, it’s the most ridiculous tattoo I have, absolutely. The whole thing happened really fast. I’m very impulsive. I had some time off this past summer, and my brother had some time off, and we started brainstorming about shooting this project. We agreed that it was going to be about my life, and the title of the project was going to be “Nico Nico Nico”— it’s how he said my name when we were little. The original idea was, I’m going to get this tattoo, we’re going to film it, and that’s going to be the opening credits for this reality-based documentary. While that project has since morphed into something else entirely, the tattoo has, in many ways, come to represent my spirit, my work and the way that I live my life.
JA: Would you say that you are a wild child?
NT: Look, I was always the kid who was on fire with a certain kind of passion and was kinda all over the map, but I was still guided by this deep belief that it was all going to work out. At one point, I was in business school in Los Angeles. Then I was in art school for a little bit in Chicago. Then I dropped out, went back to LA, worked at this raw-food restaurant, then began modeling, and it all sort of took off from there. But I always was, first and foremost, an actor. I mean, I grew up onstage in Chicago.
JA: You got one of your first big breaks on the ill-fated CW series The Beautiful Life, where you played an underwear model. Shortly after the pilot, the show was canceled, largely due to poor ratings. That must have been a blow. Here you are thinking you’re getting this big break, and the next thing you know, the rug has been pulled out from underneath you.
NT: It sucked. It really sucked. Being twenty-one, not working, and living in LA is a really fucking dangerous place to be, and if you don’t have a support system or the willpower to stay clear of it, it can chew you up and spit you out, and it did for a little bit. I was drinking way too much, and I was doing drugs. I didn’t work for a year. After that, around 2010, I got cast in Scream 4, but even then I wasn’t taking care of myself. Fast-forward to today, and I’ve been sober for the past year and a month.
JA: What caused you to hit rock bottom and choose to become sober?
NT: Honestly, it was the horrible hangovers. I was living in New York, filming the first season of Younger—two days a week filming. And the other days, I was just out partying, going on three-day benders and being hungover for two days after. I wasn’t a functioning human being. I was at work and did everything that I needed to do, but nobody ever knew that was the other side of my life.
JA: So on the one hand, you have this substance-abuse problem, and on the other, the influence of your uncle, who, among other things, is a raw-foods advocate.
NT: The dichotomy of everything that I came from is interesting, but that is really what made me who I am today—the ability to have that balance between being extremely healthy and really self-sabotaging.
JA: Since becoming sober, among other things, your profile in the LGBT community over the last year has definitely risen. You were recently a guest host for Logo at this year’s Aspen Gay Ski Week. What was that experience like?
NT: It was awesome. It’s funny, because publicly I guess I am a bigger part the community right now, but privately. I’ve always been part of it, and it’s not something that I am just stepping into now. I mean, I grew up onstage. I’ve always been in it, among it, a face of it, part of it, an ally—it’s just who I am.
JA: What does it mean for you to be an ally to the community?
NT: I think that we live in a time period where defining who you are and what you do is so important, and if you want to do one thing one day and another the next, go for it. You have my full support. I have tattooed on my chest “Not This, Not That,” with the symbols for male and female on opposite sides. I think the spectrum is a very large, beautiful place, and there needs to be a stronger voice for people who play back and forth on it.
JA: You, yourself, would not necessarily say that you play back and forth in the spectrum but that you advocate sort of a greater awareness for that?
NT: I don’t think that I’m shy about anything that I do. Have I fallen in love across the board? Yeah, absolutely, but it’s more about love for me than it is about sex.
But also, I’m a leading man, and whether we would like to believe it or not, there are still so many unwritten rules of what you can and can’t do in Hollywood. However, as a leading man, I refuse to be part of that archaic mind-set. I am going to do whatever the fuck I want to do, and I’m going to come at it from a really happy, beautiful place, because I am a really happy person. At the end of the day, you can’t fight happiness.
For an extended interview with Nico visit Orbitz’s site here.
Photography: Ryan Pfluger
Styling: Seth Howard