In continuation of Bisexual Visibility week, I interviewed national treasure and (Off-)Broadway’s best bicon, Natalie Walker!
What do we know about Natalie Walker?
If you could play any role that's currently on Broadway, what would it be and who would be your dream costars? If they were reviving a show, what would be your dream role and dream costars to make your Broadway debut in?
Any role currently on Broadway? Ugh, if I could sing Carlotta in Phantom, I would rip it the fuck up. My absolute dream is to play Dot/Marie in Sunday in the Park with George opposite my angel best friend and platonic husband Heath Saunders.
On an average day, how many pigeons do you think you could carry?
What's the largest land mammal you think you could take in a fight?
Any human ingenue
Out of all the roles you've played in your life so far, which is your favorite?
Sally Bowles. I will go anywhere to play Sally Bowles again. I will commit up to 8 murders to play Sally Bowles again.
Why is she being featured for queer corner?
What's your coming out/coming of age story? Like, how did you know you were bisexual?
I didn’t “know” I was bisexual as much as I gradually found out I was bisexual. My general love life M.O. has been either I am entirely committed to someone long-term or I am single and totally uninterested in romantic relationships — casual dating has never really interested me. So the summer after a five-year relationship ended, I was not dating/pursuing anyone but I was catching up with my dad and he asked “do you have a boyfriend?”, then casually added, “or a girlfriend?” And at first I laughed, but that started a sort of prolonged Sixth Sense ending moment where I combed through a bunch of moments I’d suppressed that I now realize were expressions and feelings of queer desire. The first time I remember feeling sexual feelings for a person I knew — i.e. not Tim Curry as Hexxus in FernGully — was my female best friend in 4th grade; staying up until 11:35pm every night so that Cinemax would turn into Skinemax and I could watch “Passion Cove” and “Hotel Erotica” and routinely become infuriated whenever the camera would spend too long on the men; the first - and only - time I have blacked out from drinking, it was the summer before college when I made out with a woman who I had been attracted to for months but felt like I only had “an excuse” to do it if I got wasted enough that I could blame it on booze and then continue to be 100% straight.
You came out earlier this year on Twitter. Why now? What, to you, is the significance of being publicly out?
I chose now because I finally felt comfortable saying it out loud after a year or so of working through it, of doing the aforementioned flashback-tracking, et cetera. And one of the things that kept me from figuring it out was the prevalence of this idea that “bi” is just the closet, and anyone who says they’re bi is just testing the waters for telling people they’re gay. This year, I’ve occupied comedy spaces more, and I’ve heard a lot of older comics perpetuate that “bi isn’t a thing, pick a side” stuff, which made me want to be more upfront about the reality of it.
There are very few people who are out as bisexual, so coming out as one makes you someone that a lot of bi people look up to you. How does that make you feel?
Oh, you’re giving me entirely too much credit as I still feel like a definite nobody, but if it means something or is helpful to anyone, then I am thrilled. I think part of the reason it took so long for me to piece together my sexual orientation is that I had no examples growing up. I was in all these queer-friendly theater spaces, but it felt like it was cool to be a gay man and less cool to be a girl who liked girls; you either “just wanted attention” (because our culture centers male desire as the default and the ultimate) or you were a butch lesbian. I experienced attraction to women with nary a man in sight early on in my life, but I am and always have been very femme-presenting, so I thought any queer desire I felt must be false or wrong or some sort of hormonal mistake. I’m 27, and during my childhood and teenage years, I was terrified that admitting my attraction to women would mean not being accepted because people would think I was “gross”; during adulthood, I’ve been terrified that admitting it would mean not being accepted because people would think I was fake. That self-doubt is paralyzing and it wastes so much time and energy; if I can help anyone avoid even a moment of that by being open, it’s gratifying to me.
How do you feel about LGBT+ themes being considered an "adult subject"? For instance, the pushback when you have LGBT+ characters in kid shows because it's not something we can talk about with our children because it's for mature audiences only?
It’s egregious bullshit, and it’s detrimental to children’s mental and emotional health. To tell kids who might be experiencing queer desire early on that their feelings are not okay? Come on.
On Tony day, you tweeted that Omar Sharif is the bi version of Ring of Keys. Can you walk me through what that tweet means?
Well one, there’s just the fact that I am very attracted to both Katrina Lenk and Tony Shalhoub, so in performance, it’s potent for me. But as far as the content of the song itself goes, even though I know the character is not canonically bi, the repeated title refrain of “Umm Kulthum and Omar Sharif” hit me because she’s talking about these overwhelmingly evocative and sensuous memories of not just seeing, in Omar Sharif, a man, but of hearing, in Umm Kulthum, a woman. The first time I actually remember being actively sexually attracted to another human being, it was because I was sitting in a closet with my friend Brenna telling scary stories and I was listening to her talk and something about her voice made me go “what? What? What? I have to pee in a weird way and this is my friend and that’s not the feeling I get with my friends, that’s the feeling I only get when Jafar in Aladdin says ‘pussycat.’”
Last words from Natalie?
What's something that you wish more people knew about you?
Until very recently, it was that I’m not straight! But I guess now, I would really love for people to know I am more than just an utterly perfect face and body.
(Photo credit, Natalie Walker’s website, www.natalieleerwalker.com)