Anthony Wilkinson is an amazing, animated and sexy character, possessing a “larger than life” personality. He is an award-winning playwright and actor, who currently has two extremely successful plays, “my Big Gay Italian Wedding” and “My Big Gay italian Funeral,” currently running off Broadway. He is also known for his role of ASSOCIATE director on the long-running soap opera “One Life to Live.”
I’ve had the extreme privilege of being friends with him for the past 14 years and have greatly enjoyed his awesome creativity, his unique sense of humor and his epic talent. I feel more than honored after seeing his accomplishments throughout the years to be able to interview him.
Hey, Eileen. What’s going on?
I miss you guys.
Miss you, too. So Anthony, you sent me this fabulous picture of yourself adorned in a cowboy outfit, looking quiet sexy.
There’s a story behind that. I opened “My Big Gay Italian Wedding” while I lived in Texas, and I spent 60 weeks in a row, that’s 60 weeks commuting from Texas to New York, back and forth, every Friday and every Monday.
I did it, but you know when you love something that’s what you do. I had to do what I had to do. So they called me “The Guido Cowboy.”
Love the picture, it’s hot.
Anthony, when I first met you, you were associate director for soap opera “One Life to Live.” Apparently there was a huge afterlife for you after “One Life to Live.” What came next?
I left “One Life to Live” before the show got canceled. I kinda had a gut feeling. Soaps were dying, and they were all starting to get canceled one by one. When I saw that the medium I originally sought out to be long term was never gonna be long term, I knew I had to look into other mediums, and I always did theater on the side. I started doing Fire Island in 2000 and other local theaters, but I always knew I wanted to do them off Broadway. So, I pursued that. I went to the next level and started to raise the capital and get approval from Actors’ Equity to do “My Big Gay Italian Wedding” as a full off-Broadway show. It took me a couple of years, but once I finally got it, I gave my notice to “One Life to Live.” The show was canceled a year later.
Probably because you left.
If someone were to do a move about your life, who would you want to do the lead?
That’s funny…me! Because I don’t think anyone could play me. I just wanna be me. I would get Edie Falco to play my mother and Marissa Tomei to play my aunt.
Do you have a large family? Brothers? Sisters?
Yep. I have two younger brothers. Thomas is 29 and Frankie is 27.
And an adorable little nephew.
And my nephew’s gorgeous. He’s nine months old, the love of my life.
You’re originally from Staten Island. What was it like growing up there?
Growing up in Staten Island was not the easiest, especially early because there was such a homophobia. Now it’s nothing like it used to be. But growing up was very difficult. The word “gay” wasn’t ever said out loud. I was bullied in school for the fact that I was different. I’m very happy Staten Island is more open-minded now, but in my opinion I feel there is more progress to be made.
Who proved to be the most influential in your career?
Oh, absolutely my father. My father because he was so outgoing, he was a great person and he was so well liked and respected by the community. He had that perseverance to really go out and get what he wanted. I admired that about him so much when I was growing up. He also took risks – when he believed in something he did it. I would say he was my strongest support and he encouraged me to go out and get what I wanted. He never held me back while other people might have, especially being gay. Some parents might not have been so open-minded.
You are very lucky to have such open-minded parents.
Yes – I don’t know if you remember him, but he was on Fire Island when I opened “Gay Grease.”
Actually, I do remember him, he loved you to death.
I remember he brought a sweatshirt from the store. He stayed at the house for the week and stood there in the first row in the Ice Palace. It was a packed house. I had over 500 people there, and he stood there cheering and applauding. Yeah, it was nice.
“Gay Grease” was amazing.
I loved that show. I’m glad you got to see it.
Me too! So, tell us about “My Big Gay Italian Wedding” and “My Big Gay Italian Funeral.” Where is it? When is it?
The wedding was opened in 2008 in the Village and then it re-opened in NYC in 2009. It still plays every Saturday night at St. Luke’s theater on 46th Street at 8 p.m., and then the sequel to it, “My Big Gay Italian Funeral,” is every Sunday.
I understand the reviews are fabulous. I read some of them. Hilarious, etc.
They are both doing very well, and they keep getting extended. They will be running through the summer.
And you’re in it?
Yep – I play myself. [laughs] They are both fun shows and will be there every weekend through this whole summer.
You just finished a meet and greet in Barnes and Noble in the city. What was that for?
It was, well, the wedding was published in 2010 and the funeral just got published last week. It is now available in drama bookstores across the globe, and it’s also available for licensing. The wedding has played in over 50 major cities across the globe, and now the funeral is available. So people from different cities can call Samuel French to get those productions in their towns.
You have a reputation for keeping the gay community laughing. What’s next?
Well, I’m working on my next project. My goal is to keep the wedding and the funeral running for as long as possible, and next year I want to open the next chapter, “My Big Gay Mid-Life Crisis.”
And you could say I’ve already started working on it, cause I’m living it.
Any love life on the horizon?
I recently separated from my partner in September. We were together for eight years. It was nothing dramatic, just the geography was too much. He’s going to stay in Texas and I’m back in New York. So I’m single.
Let’s put that out there. Pay attention guys! Anything upcoming that you would like people to know about?
If anything, I’d like to promote the funeral. I feel like everyone in the gay community knows about the wedding, but the funeral is still catching on. It takes a while. The funeral only opened last June. June 1 is going to be the one-year anniversary of the funeral off Broadway, so I’m planning a big event. It’s gonna be fun. I’m gonna have some surprise guests.
That sounds like a good time!
Please everyone, if you have not seen either of these plays – “My Big Gay Italian Wedding” and “My Big Gay Italian Funeral,” please do so. At St. Luke’s Theater, 308 W. 46th St. in NYC. Call (212) 239-6200. The reviews were tremendous.