Windy City Times: Darwin Del Fabro ('They/Them') talks horror, love scenes and inner strength

WINDY CITY TIMES

Interview by Andrew Davis




Queer Brazilian singer/actor Darwin Del Fabro is one of the cast members of the horror movie They/Them (pronounced "they-SLASH-them")—a slasher movie (get it?) set in an LGBTQ+ conversion camp that stars Kevin Bacon, Theo Germaine, Anna Chlumsky and Carrie Preston.


Del Fabro recently took part in a wide-ranging conversation with Windy City Times that covered everything from performances to the LGBTQ+ scene in Brazil to his all-time favorite horror movies.


Windy City Times: I'm curious what the LGBTQ+ scene is like in Brazil. I know there's a very conservative president [Jair Bolsonaro] there right now.


Darwin Del Fabro: Yes. Brazil is so big, so it depends on where in Brazil we're talking about. Rio, where I'm from, is a little more open because we have a lot of artists around; also, we do a lot of soap operas, which are really popular there. Also, Rio and Sao Paolo have a lot of theaters, and there are more tourists and diversity.


I hate to say bad things about any place. I was recently in London and, depending on where you are there, it can be very scary. I'm very lucky to live in Manhattan because I'm in a bubble where I feel very protected. It's not the same when I travel to other places. It's getting better, but with long hair and the way I present myself, it's tricky sometimes.


WCT: Yes. It sounds like Brazil is just like the United States, where there are more liberal areas and more conservative spots.


DDF: Yes! And even in New York City, you have to be aware of [yourself] and others. And conversion therapy is in this country as well.


But that's why I love doing what I do. Art can educate and cinema can have such powerful images. With [They/Them], you have queer kids as the protagonists and they're being celebrated. That means a lot—and it gives hope to the world we're living in right now.


WCT: They/Them is a horror movie with a message.


DDF: Yes, yes. We have this guy in the cast named Kevin Bacon; he's not very well-known. [Both laugh.] He's kinda good.


It's unique and that's what I loved about it when I read the script. There's horror but, in slasher movies, you're always waiting for the next death. With this movie, though, you're actually caring about these characters and you want them to survive; consequently, the movie becomes scarier because there are real elements we're mixing with the genre.


WCT: And there is a group scene where you all sing a song by Pink. Did you know that song before filming?


DDF: Yes—I'm a big Pink fan. I love her! She's so talented, and I was very glad that we sang that. With me being a singer, and the identity and strength she has in her voice—I could listen to her sing "Happy Birthday"—it all really helps when we scream to the world that we're just perfect the way we are. I wish I could've seen things like that on screen when I was younger. I had a family who supported me, but not everyone is lucky that way. I think the movie will bring strength to those watching at home—especially the queer youth.


WCT: And you mentioned you're a singer. What was it like performing at [the NYC nightclub] Feinstein's/54 Below?


DDF: I always wanted to be in New York; my parents met here while they were modeling. And I had been to Feinstein's; it's always been one of my favorite spots. So when they invited me to play there, I was super-honored to perform. I saw my biggest idols there, like Patti LuPone. My show was half in English and half in Portuguese, so mixing those two worlds—samba and the American repertory musicals—was very special for me.


WCT: And you're a theater veteran. What are two or three of your favorite theatrical productions?


DDF: So, I'm a big fan of Red, which They/Them director John Logan wrote. [Red is about the artist Mark Rothko.] The way I met John is that I created a play in Brazil a few years ago. When I moved to New York, I wanted to do an adaptation of that play so I called John out of nowhere and said, "John, I'm a big fan. The play I created in Brazil was about two painters and it was very [much] in that world of Red. I'm going to do a workshop." John said, "Okay, I'm traveling to New York and I'll see your material." And we started to work together—and that's how I met John.


Now as for musicals, I love Kiss of the Spider Woman and Pippin but there are so many good ones. I watch everything. As for what's out now, there's not one I haven't seen.


WCT: I remember being in the school choir and singing "Corner of the Sky," from Pippin.


DDF: I love that song. It's about living in your strength. I've listened to that song so many times. Everything has its season and everything has its time.


WCT: Going back to the movie, I don't want to give too much away but there's an intimate scene involving you. What was filming that like, because I hear from some actors that it's very mechanical and not sexy at all?


DDF: I felt super-comfortable. We had Scott, who was our intimacy advisor. It's so interesting that we're in this industry now with people caring about those details and making sure actors feel comfortable in their skins. If I had any problem, I could go to Scott without talking with the director or anyone else.


This movie, for me, is in part about the beauty of a gay sex scene; that's why I decided to do it. I haven't often seen those scenes portrayed that celebrate the beauty of gay sex. It's been more about shame, fear or [something else]. This movie celebrates power and beauty.


Most of our cast and crew were queer, so there was that element of family where we were being very protected. I wish I had seen those kinds of scenes in Brazil.


WCT: A little birdie told me that one of your favorite horror films is When a Stranger Calls. Is that true?


DDF: Yes! Oh, Jesus!


WCT: I saw the 1979 version with Carol Kane and Charles Durning not too long ago. Also, the actor who portrayed the killer [Tony Beckley] was gay.


DDF: Wow—look at you! That birdie was very informed. [Interviewer laughs]


There was a protagonist that was so unique for that time. It's one of those films I like to rewatch, and I'm not a big fan of rewatching movies.


WCT: And speaking of slasher movies, what do you think of the original Halloween?


DDF: That's totally my type of horror movie, too! That, and Friday the 13th—that was the first summer-camp slasher movie. To be back in that environment is amazing. I'm very honored to do a Blumhouse movie; to me, that company does the best horror movies right now.


WCT: This last question is something I've asked a lot of people in the last few months: With everything that has happened since 2020, what have you learned about yourself?


DDF: Well, I'm a Brazilian actor who's starting to have an international career. I never saw a queer Brazilian actor do that, so I knew it'd be a challenge. And I've discovered my uniqueness is my strength. I'm not trying to fit in. I'll be myself and I'll be surrounded by people who can see and appreciate that.


They/Them will debut on Peacock on Friday, Aug. 5.