We had the good fortune of connecting with Andrew Vass and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Andrew, how do you think about risk?
When I was 12 years old, I decided to get a bowl cut. This was my very first time taking a risk – and let’s just say this bowl cut changed the course of my life forever. I’m not sure what fueled this decision – maybe I was going for a ‘Demi Moore in Ghost’ kind of vibe, but when the barber turned the chair around and I saw Jim Carrey from Dumb and Dumber looking back at me, I knew it was too late. What had I done? Who was going to sit with me at lunch?! Does the witness protection program handle cases like this?! Life as I knew it was over. I was currently sporting glasses, braces and now a terrible bowl cut simultaneously, and for a little gay boy, this was not the ‘triple threat’ I was hoping for. I aggressively rejected the consolation lollipop offered by the barber and ran out of the shop sobbing.
Now, I wish I could tell you that the bowl cut started a new style trend among the other 6th graders at Lewisburg Elementary, or that a glamorous fairy godmother named Rupaul arrived in a carriage to say something sassy like “Ooooh, child,” and give me a fabulous makeover, but that was not the case. The haircut stayed terrible for quite some time, but you know what else happened – I lived to see another day. This was a valuable lesson for me at a young age. I took a risk, tried something different and even though it all went south, my lungs continued to fill with air and my heart kept beating.
I was born and raised in a small town in West Virginia (population 3,000) where Walmart is the hot spot and you can pretty much hear a cow mooing from anywhere you stand. Growing up gay in Appalachia definitely had its difficulties – like trying to bring your secret online boyfriend to Applebees for a date when three of your neighbors, your religious second cousin and high school biology teacher are seated in the booths next to you. I always dreamed of working in entertainment and spent the first 19 years of my life fantasizing about what else the world had to offer for someone like myself. Then, when I was 20 years old, after working to save up money, I decided to do something about it. I dropped out of college, packed my bags and drove to Los Angeles with a dream and $600 to my name – my biggest risk to date. I cried many times on the cross-country trek. I wasn’t just leaving my hometown; I was leaving the old me behind with it. I had no idea what was to come, but I knew that if I could survive a bowl cut, I could survive anything.
It was a big change for me, trading the mountains for skyscrapers and winding rivers for gridlocked freeways. I was completely out of my comfort zone, but in a way, I felt I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I could be whomever I wanted to be here; this little gay boy from West Virginia was free. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months and in the blink of an eye, 10 years had gone by. LA had become a second home; a place where I made lifelong friends, danced on rooftops, conquered my fears, worked with people from all over the world and most importantly, found my identity. Now, don’t get me wrong, not everything in LA is sunshine and rainbows. There were a lot of ups and a lot of downs – one day I was on top of the world and the next day I was underneath a pile of parking tickets and a bank account overdraft notice. You win some, you lose some. And the sooner we embrace the fact that we can’t control the outcome, the sooner we can let go and start living. If I would have let a bad haircut or a few hundred other failed attempts keep me from taking risks in the future, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I would probably be somewhere on a farm in West Virginia churning butter.
All the tough lessons I’ve learned along the way have truly shaped me and helped me open up to the world. I’ve been able to use the good and the bad as fuel for my screenwriting, songwriting and acting. I have put myself out there so much more and am finding strength in my vulnerability each and every day. So, when faced with your next risky decision, go with your gut and remember the wise words of Erica Jong, “If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.”
And also remember that if your barber ever comes out of the back room with a bowl in his hand – run!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a screenwriter, singer/songwriter and actor in no particular order. My love for the arts began at 8 years old when my mom enrolled me in our local theatre program. I’m assuming she got tired of me screaming “Memory” from Cats on the coffee table and decided to give me an outlet. It was there that my passion for creating, connecting and telling stories came alive.
For me, art is a form of therapy. It helps take me to a place of vulnerability and gives me a way to express certain feelings or emotions that would otherwise stay locked inside.
Growing up as a gay kid in rural West Virginia, I didn’t have access to a lot of things that one might have in a larger city. I was constantly looking for new LGBTQ+ films, TV, books, etc. to help me understand myself more and feel more connected. It was the lack of content that piqued my interest in screenwriting. I wanted to write the LGBTQ+ characters that I didn’t get to see onscreen growing up. I wanted to write fully developed, complicated human beings that just so happen to be gay or lesbian or trans. This opened up a whole new world of creativity for me. I am super grateful for the LGBTQ+ artists and storytellers that paved the way and am so happy to see the industry starting to recognize these talents and stories, although there is still a long way to go.
The project I am most excited about right now is a narrative comedy podcast series called Ruralites that I co-created, co-wrote and co-star in with my best friend, Laura Holliday. The podcast is a wacky comedy about two bombastic best friends trying to bring about change to their small, Appalachian town. The project is loosely based on our lives in West Virginia, so i’m super excited for the world to meet these characters. The podcast is being produced by Maude Standish and Russell Sanzgiri of Odd Media out of LA and is currently in post-production. The release is set for later this summer.
I also released my debut EP titled “Until Somebody Gets Hurt” available on all major streaming platforms. https://open.spotify.com/album/20R1qRD2QCxwVfcbVEOXsA?si=uSKt4FDtSaWZx46gxuSbQw
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in Silver Lake, so we would probably head over the hill to Pine and Crane off of Sunset. They have the most amazing Taiwanese food. I highly recommend the Dan Dan Noodles, Three Cup Jidori Chicken and if you drink, the passionfruit shandy is the best.
We would then probably walk around Silver Lake to help digest the massive amount of amazing Taiwanese food we just ate. Silver Lake has so many cute shops, restaurants, bakeries and super cool street art. Every time I walk through the neighborhood, I see something new. It’s a great place for arts and entertainment.
I would then suggest driving over to Pacific Palisades to hike Los Liones Trail. It’s always so refreshing to be near the ocean and the views are amazing.
I definitely recommend getting some amazing Mediterranean Food from Z Garden in Santa Monica. Another Mediterranean favorite of mine is Jeje Chicken in Granada Hills.
Griffith Park is a great place to relax during the day and the observatory at night is a great view of the city.
I also love outdoor movies like Cinespia, Silver Lake Picture Show and Rooftop Cinema Club.
Another favorite is visiting my friend Dr. Michele Bosten at Bosten Chiropractic for a massage and chiropractic adjustment.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
First and foremost, I would like give a shoutout to Greenbrier Valley Theatre. I grew up in this theatre from age 8 to 18 and not only did it provide a place for me to express myself creatively, but being located in rural West Virginia, it created a safe space for many young queer kids, including myself, to feel accepted and valued. I learned how to act, sing, dance and let go of my inhibitions within those four walls and I am eternally grateful for having that experience as a kid.
I would also like to give a shoutout to my life partner, Jaret Martino, for being my biggest inspiration and biggest supporter. Jaret and I have been together for 10 years and throughout the years we have worked on various projects together including his feature film, Donna, now available on all major streaming platforms and our newest project World’s Apart, a scripted-improv drama surrounding the black trans and non-binary community in Los Angeles, directed by the talented Pat Branch. I’m so happy to be a part of the wonderful Love Wins Productions team that focuses on bringing awareness to subjects deserving attention.
And shoutout to my wonderful family and friends for always supporting, loving, and keeping me sane.