There are few teenagers who can say that they’ve shaken up the system on a national level before they can drive a car without adult supervision.
Gavin MacIntosh is an outstanding exception to this framework among the other rising stars of his generation. If you haven’t already fallen in love with his boyish charm in his role as Connor Stevens on Jennifer Lopez‘s The Fosters, we can ensure you that you’re about to.
In March of 2015, he and his co-star Hayden Byerly broke records by engaging in the youngest same-sex kiss in television history between their characters, Connor and Jude. Viewers went crazy over the moment, applauding their bravery at such a young age in the face of LGBT adversity, which happened to precede the SCOTUS decision on marriage equality.
Then, he expressed his discontent when YouTube placed an age restriction on the clip featuring “Jonnor’s” kiss, citing homophobia as a motivation behind the ban. His fans jumped to voice their support, and quickly, the restriction was lifted.
Celebuzz spoke exclusively with MacIntosh in anticipation of The Fosters‘ return at the end of January to discuss his impact on LGBT issues and bullying in youth culture, plus tips on expert selfie-taking.
CELEBUZZ: I want to talk about the “Jonnor” kiss heard around the world. You said that you had a meeting with the show runners, Hayden Byerly, and your parents to discuss the scene ahead of time. What was that meeting like for you?
Gavin MacIntosh: It wasn’t really too dramatic for me. It was just making sure that everyone was comfortable with the kiss. And everyone really was. At first it was little like, “Oh this is my friend.” But then we both thought about the impact it would have on the LGBT community and that definitely took priority.
CB: It sounds like your trepidation in the kiss was more of one for your character as opposed to one for your actual persona.
GM: Exactly. And in that instance I put the character in front of my personal niche.
CB: Outside of its impact on the LGBT community, how did this kiss impact the heterosexual community?
GM: I think it’s raised awareness. I mean, I’d say that most important thing that I can do with my role is bring positive light to this cause. A lot of kids have no idea as to what kind of struggles that LGBT kids go through everyday, just going through normal tasks in life. Being able to play a character and showing them that it’s hard—it’s hard just living sometimes. If I can help with that, that’s great.
CB: I can imagine that the feedback from your all of your fans, even outside of the LGBT community, has been very personally rewarding given that such outreach is meaningful to you.
GM: It is. Hopefully as my career takes off, so will my impact on other positive changes. There’s been a lot of good change this year but there’s enormous amount of work to do. All people deserve respect and love, and they shouldn’t fear being themselves.
CB: Your young Fosters fans are probably very active on Twitter and other social media, but have you received any direct response from their parents and the older generations?
GM: Definitely. There’s been an unexpectedly large amount of response from the older generation also. Mature LGBT people, older guys, older women—they’ve never seen someone of my age stand up and speak for the cause. It’s nice having a wide range of groups supporting me.
CB: There was a controversy last year when YouTube set an age restriction on the video of your character’s kiss on The Fosters. Do you think that early exposure to these kinds of scenes would help in removing the taboo from homosexuality in society?
GM: Definitely. That age restriction on there was pretty ridiculous and it being taken down just shows that we can change things like that. I didn’t strongly believe that they would take it down. I just wanted to say, “This is ridiculous. I can’t believe that they would put that up.”
Having an impact on YouTube is huge. For more kids being able to see that and know that it’s not wrong, that’s the kind of angle of the whole thing.
CB: You said before that LGBT issues are just one of the many cause that you want to bring awareness to. What are some other causes that mean something to you personally that you want to shine a light on?
GM: Another big one is definitely bullying. That’s a huge issue and I hear stories about it daily on Instagram and Twitter. People tell me about their experiences, and that’s definitely a very big one. This combined with being gay or transgender or whatever you are is very tough for some kids.
Recently I joined an organization called Straight But Not Narrow that targets that issue specifically. That program takes used electronics like phones, laptops and tablets and donates them to LGBT teens and disadvantaged kids in need of an online community of support to overcome personal struggle.
CB: It’s so refreshing that you and other celebrities who is bringing light to these situations as well. Outside of the LGBT community’s latest role model Caitlyn Jenner, there’s Kylie Jenner and Lady Gaga who are coming out as allies for anti-bullying movements. This feels like a big step forward.
GM: Yes. It definitely is. People who have impact on society like them, that shows people that other people should be positive influences.
CB: How do you tell your fans who don’t have your social influence or that of Kylie Jenner to take steps everyday to spread awareness to be kind to other people and embrace acceptance?
GM: First off, social media can be an influence even if you don’t have a big following. Posting things and just telling people to be kind to other people and not judge, and not hate on other people. Also, if you see something going down at school or if you see someone being discriminated against for being gay or whatever reason that they’re being bullied for, just take a stand.
Having any sort of voice in a situation like that, other people will see that and respect you for that. They’ll follow in that and it’ll be like a domino effect. Eventually the end goal is to not let it be an issue anymore.”
CB: Are The Fosters fans in for emotional turmoil upon the series’ return on Jan. 25?
GM: Definitely. A lot of drama going on. I can’t really reveal what’s going on, but stay tuned because it’s gonna be pretty dramatic!
CB: I understand that you’re in a heterosexual relationship in real life with actress Brooke Sorenson, but what have you learned about love from your fictional character’s relationship with a male?
GM: My role on The Fosters has taught me that it’s okay love anyone that you love. To love someone, you don’t let anyone tell you, “You shouldn’t love that person.”
“Love is not a pick and choose thing—you just kinda love someone for who they are.”
I didn’t really have any opinion on that before, but now, that’s a big thing.
CB: You and Kylie Jenner have something else in common, in that you’re both being recognized for your selfie-taking abilities. (Gavin was awarded WhoSay’s title of Selfie King in 2015.) Do you have any photography tips for those who are aspiring to get on your level?
GM: Well first, I never even expected to be nominated for Selfie King of the Year. My mom had actually told me, and I was like, “Are you sure they have the right guy and aren’t looking at somebody else’s page?” I wasn’t under the impression that I was taking great selfies, but I guess somebody is!
Hm. I don’t know. I guess don’t make too much of a face or anything. I don’t do duck faces! Sometimes if you take too many, you find yourself maybe looking a little unnatural. So maybe take a break and then come back and try again.
CB: Selfie-taking can be very tiring.
GM: [Laughs]. Yeah. Sometimes I look back and I’m like, “What am I doing here in this photo?”
CB: A big star of your Instagram is also your adorable grandma. How has she influenced you in your life and career?
GM: She’s always been extremely supportive of me all along. Even when I was 10-years-old, I would have an audition and she would talk to me about it. She actually is staying with us right now while my parents are away, and she’s taking care of me and my brothers. She is the star of my Instagram!
CB: You guys were cooking asparagus together last night. Does she have a good recipe ?
GM: Yeah, her secret is that she uses a lot of butter for everything. It just makes everything taste amazing.
CB: Speaking on your family, what do you want to instill on your brothers as an older role model?
GM: That’s a really good point. My second youngest brother goes to public school and sometimes he’ll come home and say, “This kid said some gay slur” and I’m not really used to hearing that anymore since I’m not in public school anymore. That made me thing, “Wait a minute. I don’t want him to start saying things like that.”
He’s watched the show. He’ watched the ‘Jonnor’ scenes, and the show has changed him too. He’ll watch it and realize that it’s not cool to bully people, or call people names and make judgments on someone by how they look or how they talk. Those are things that really help.
CB: Does he ask you questions?
GM: Sometimes he does, yes. Him and my younger brother Grant do ask some questions about my roles, or will ask, “Hey—is your character gay?” And I’m like, “Yeah, but who cares if they’re gay. It doesn’t matter that he’s gay. It’s no big deal.”
CB: Do you have any resolutions for the new year?
GM: I’m pretty pumped! I’m just really eager to get out there and make this year really great. I can’t wait to start new things and see what’s in store. My main focus lately has been playing characters who are older and have more sophisticated storylines. I’ve been playing a kid for the past few years, and now I’m moving in to more adult roles. There are so many opportunities out there and I’m really excited for 2016.
Launch the gallery at the top of the page to view photos of MacIntosh and his co-star showing their support at the LA Gay Pride Festival.