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Monday, December 03, 2012

Playmakers: Man in Motion - Thad Guerwitcz

This is the first in a series of videos from Playmakers the 2003 series on ESPN. They will feature scenes of Thad Guerwitcz, the gay character played by Canadian actor Daniel Petronijevic.

You can watch the videos in sequence by clicking the "Playmakers" tab at the top of the page.

The incredible hunk
Daniel Petronijevic stars as a pro football player coming out of the closet on ESPN’s Playmakers
The Advocate October 14, 2003

Daniel Petronijevic spent last summer surrounded by drag queens when he played a macho infantryman in Showtime's groundbreaking film Soldier's Girl, and this year he's surrounded by football players. The rugged 22-year-old actor will be breaking ground as about-to-be-outed gay football player Thad Guerwitcz on ESPN's first-ever dramatic series, Playmakers. The show bills itself as a gritty ensemble drama exploring the off-the-field lives and fortunes of players on a fictional football team, and now one of those players is about to tackle life on the opposite end of the Kinsey continuum.

During a break in shooting on the Toronto set, Petronijevic eases his sinewy frame into a swivel chair that seems almost too small to accommodate the bulk he packed on to play Thad. The actor notes that the evolution of his character into a closeted gay man initially came as a surprise: Thad was originally written as a devout Christian with no hint of a gay back story. "When [the producers] approached me on [Thad's gay storyline] I was skeptical," Petronijevic says candidly. "I didn't know if I had enough faith in my own abilities as an actor to do it justice." Honoring the integrity of Thad's character as it was originally conceived, Petronijevic elaborates, "I wanted to play a guy who wasn't stereotypical. I didn't want it to be, 'He's gay, and he plays football.' I wanted to play a guy who is a football player and who is gay."

According to executive producer Orly Adelson, there was never any thought that he couldn't handle it. "When we started casting, we didn't have this plot," she says. "As the series evolved, we slowly felt that this was the right direction, given the character. I came to him and told him, 'You're going to be changing a bit,' " she recalls, laughing, " 'and how do you feel about it?' He said, 'Great! I'm an actor.' It's a sensitive issue. With some actors you never know. But with Daniel, not a flinch. He said, 'This is great!' "

Knowing that football remains a temple of traditional machismo, Adelson is cautiously optimistic regarding the effect this gay storyline will have on the army of armchair tight ends—mainly straight, mainly male—who comprise ESPN's primary audience. "You do care," Adelson admits, "because at the end of the day, you want people to watch it. If they don't, you don't have a show next year. Knowing that, and knowing it could be a problem, the network opted to tackle the subject anyway. I give a lot of credit to [ESPN executive vice president of programming and production] Mark Shapiro, because he said 'Go ahead,' knowing that reactions could be mixed."

"In my father's time, this would be groundbreaking stuff," says Petronijevic, noting that attitudes among his 20-something peer group have changed significantly from generations past. "Nowadays, it's about time we started dealing with this." His gay friends have given him the thumbs up, but he admits he's flying nearly solo. "I don't have enough gay friends around me to get sufficient input," he says, laughing heartily, "but whatever. My gay friends are guys like any other guys. They like watching football and driving around in nice cars and shit like that. It's not like they're sitting around doing each other's nails. They're like, 'Yeah, do what you have to do! Go with it!' "

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