Clovis West grad Michael Willett stars in 'G.B.F.' at Reel Pride festival

The Fresno BeeSeptember 16, 2013 

"G.B.F," starring Clovis West High alum Michael Willett, will screen at the Reel Pride Film Festival in Fresno

VERTICAL ENTERTAINMENT

Michael Willett is 24 years old, but he can't seem to get out of high school. He does have a diploma from Clovis West, but the actor keeps getting cast as a high school student.

First there was a recurring role on the cable series 'The United States of Tara."

Then he finished work on a new MTV series, "Faking It." And then there's his starring role in the feature film "G.B.F." where he plays Tanner, a nerdish high school student who gets forced out of the closet because three prom queen contenders have heard it's stylish to have a gay best friend.

You can see Willett in "G.B.F." at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The film kicks off "The 24th Fresno Reel Pride Film Festival," which runs through Sunday. It features 35 full-length and short films, receptions, parties and special appearances by filmmakers and stars in the Tower District.

Willett will be the special guest for Wednesday night's screening at Tower Theatre, 815 E. Olive Ave.

It was his work on "The United States of Tara" that put Willett in the running to star in "G.B.F."

The script for "Tara" called for the character to be "flamboyantly gay" but Willett decided to play the character as a teen who speaks his mind about gay rights.

That take caught the attention of "G.B.F." writer George Northy, who invited Willett to be part of the script readings of "G.B.F."

Despite the backing of the writer, it wasn't a sure thing that Willett would get the role. He had to fight for the part. It was shortly after landing the role that he realized what starring in a feature length movie meant.

"I'm on every page," Willett says. "But I have friends who have starred in movies, and I decided it was doable."

It helped that Willett had built up a résumé of TV and theater work.

He started acting while growing up in the Central Valley. He starred in high school productions of "The Wiz" and "Little Shop of Horrors," plus the Children's Musical Theaterworks productions of "Oliver," "Annie" and "Willy Wonka."

Willett's own days at Clovis West were a little different from the characters he has played.

"I thought I was popular but that was in my own mind. I thought I was cool. It seems I was completely unaware of who was popular. I was a little like Tanner in that I hung out with a lot of different social groups," Willett says.

Willett may play high school students for years. He was recently told he didn't look old enough to play a college student. For now he is taking advantage of his young looks.

He also will get to show a different side of his creative style through music. Willett is finishing the last two songs for an album he hopes will be available by the end of September. He is trying to raise money through the online site Indiegogo to film a music video.

His style is a little hard for him to describe.

"My parents grew up in the '70s so I was influenced by the music they listened to: the Bee Gees, David Bowie. Queen," he says.

"I guess you call my style Indie Pop Rock. I tell people it's Queen meets Green Day — Queen Day."

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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