Crushing Stereotypes

From Hawai’i Five-O to Monsters Of Man. An interview with Conrad K. Pratt on gay Hollywood, the stigma surrounding masculinity and how Ricky Martin changed everything

BY MARK ARIEL  |  PHOYO BY DUSTI CUNNINGHAM

Mark Toia’s Monsters of Man has been crushing the online streaming service game, sitting on AppleTV’s Top Movies, Top Rentals, Highlights, and currently ranking in the top 200 movies on IMDb having just debuted last month.

Hawaiian/Korean-American gay actor Conrad K. Pratt (Hawai’i Five-O, The Wolverine, GLEE, The Real O’Neals) was approached by production initially to play Bao, one of the medical students the film centers around. After learning that he had an extensive background in dance, motion capture and stunts, he was quickly offered the roles of the four killer robots as well. Pratt’s physicality was highlighted several times throughout the film, mostly in his cat and mouse chase through the Cambodian jungle and several of the robot-on-robot fight sequences.

“My dance and theatre background really helped me in creating these characters. I was incredibly honored that Mark has trusted me with the movements of our antagonists, as any sort of robot movement can go cheesy unbelievably quick. Working on Monsters of Man, we actually shot in the Cambodian jungle so I was lucky to have the surroundings right there for me. On a normal Mo-Cap shoot, you’re on a blue screen stage and it’s up to you to create that masterpiece around you. A project like Avatar would be such a wild experience and challenge, one that I would love to take on one day.”

The stigma surrounding masculinity in both the Asian-American and LGBTQ+ communities seem to not deter Pratt from forging on in his career. Given that he’s competing in Caucasian and heterosexually dominant avenues of Hollywood, it actually seems to be doing the exact opposite.

“My personal experiences… make me feel like I have a huge responsibility to give back to my community, especially to those that have not been given the same privileges that I have had throughout my journey.”

“I think the words ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ are so unbelievably dated. Who gives a flying ‘you know what.’ It’s an opinion, there’s no right answer. I do, however, believe that both the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities are being better represented and more visible across the entertainment spectrum. To represent both of my communities on a project of this scale was an absolute privilege and I look forward to crushing these ‘masculine/feminine’ stereotypes by just being unapologetically me.”

Pratt, a former professional dancer most notable for touring with Ricky Martin, says he relied heavily on his background in dance and movement to bring the killer robots in Monsters of Man to life.

“Dance made me fall in love with performing which was brand new to me,” reveals Pratt in an interview with THE FIGHT.

“I had been a child actor/model when I was a literal infant; I’m not sure how much I’m aging myself here but I modeled for OshKosh when I was 2 for several years. I never really understood what I was doing though. I went somewhere, I was told what to do, I did it, and that was it. Dance allowed me the space to perform in front of an audience, to own my presence on stage and hone my story telling niche. That grueling work thru my high school years lead me to perform in front of, at times, 100,000+ people both in the US and internationally. And let me just tell you, there is nothing like it. It’s every emotion wrapped into one moment in time. Anxiety. Excitement. Fear. Indescribable happiness. Nervousness. And while that sounds like a lot of emotion for someone to handle, it was what I lived for and thrived in.”

When asked if he ever felt that being part of the LGBTQ community hindered his career Pratt says that “at some points in my life, yes, because no doubt there are, and there will always be, people out there that dislike you simply because of who you love. But one of the biggest gifts I had ever been given was the opportunity to tell my coming out story and journey to thousands, if not millions, of people and that was when I was touring with Ricky Martin. Ricky had asked me to tell my story as an interlude between the show’s three acts, my own words set to music and myself dancing solo. It was liberating. It was freeing. It was self-assuring. There was a point in my solo that I said ‘I’m gay’ to a sea of people every night and the cheers were deafening, it was wild. But like I said before, it was an absolute privilege to be given that opportunity. 

My personal experiences in a way make me feel like I have a huge responsibility to give back to my community, especially to those that have not been given the same privileges that I have had throughout my journey.”