It’s been 25 years since the ABC soap opera One Life to Live introduced the first-ever out gay teen on TV. The groundbreaking role of Billy Douglas was played from 1992-1993 by Ryan Phillippe in his first professional acting gig. He spoke to TooFab about his memories of the role and how it it took some time to fully realize just how important the OLTL part was.
“I realize it now, certainly. At the time I was 17,” Phillippe told TooFab. “There had never been a gay teenager portrayed on television at that point. It was before ‘Will & Grace,’ before Ellen came out, it’s before any of that stuff.”
“I remember the fan mail that we would get, my mother and I would get, from gay teenagers or from parents of gay teenagers who found a way in to relate to or talk to their child through the show,” he continued.
Phillippe then pointed to the power of pop culture.
“Entertainment media can do those things, it can make people think differently or see a different side of something and I do remember and appreciating that — even back then when I was only a teenager myself,” Phillippe said.
“But in terms of like the larger view, I didn’t have a full understanding of how important it could have been,” he added, “but I’m proud to have done it, I’m proud that that’s something I can say was a part of my career.”
OMG, Billy Douglas meant EVERYTHING to me. And I’m glad he embraces the role and realizes how seminal it was. Without Billy there wouldn’t have been Rickie from My So-Called Life, there wouldn’t have been Jack on Dawson’s Creek, or Willow on Buffy, the list goes on and on…
Watch two scenes with Ryan-as-Billy from 1992, below, as well as the TooFaB interview.