Russell Tovey’s Documentary Life Is Excellent Fills In the Gaps on Queer Art History

[ Written on December 21 2023 by admin ]

When he was a teenager, Russell Tovey found himself terrified when he flipped on Queer as Folk and saw a scene involving what the Sex and The City girls might call “tushy lingus.” Now, as an adult, you’ll find few other actors as dedicated to exploring all aspects of the gay experience as Tovey. He’s co-starred in HBO’s Looking, the recent leather bar-themed iteration of American Horror Story, and next year he’ll play Truman Capote’s partner in the second season of Feud. On stage, he’s starred in The Laramie Project, the Royal National Theatre’s 2017 production of Angels in America, and, earlier this year, a live reinterpretation of Derek Jarman’s landmark film Blue. But Tovey knows his opportunities to take those roles as an openly gay actor can’t be taken for granted. “I feel such a responsibility to look back at who’s done the work so that I can stand here today and say that I’m gay,” he says. “I feel the utmost respect for the generations involved in activism and protests to earn our rights, get representation, and amplify and encourage more people to be free.”

Outside of his acting work, he’s taken up the cause by championing queer visual artists (mind you, he’s also a serious art collector and has co-hosted the podcast Talk Art with friend Robert Diament for the past five years) with a specific mission of highlighting artist we lost to AIDS. That’s all led to Life Is Excellent, the first full-length documentary produced by WeTransfer’s WePresent platform that follows Tovey as he retraces the life of British artist and poet David Robilliard who died at just 36 in 1988. Tovey talks to Robilliard’s surviving friends, lovers, and frenemies, visits his hangouts, and explores his work, while notables like Bimini Bon Boulash, Princess Julia, and Harry Trevaldwyn appear to recite Robilliard’s poetry.

The documentary is now streaming for free. Below, Tovey talks about why Robilliard’s story fascinated him, watching queer movies as a teen after his mother went to bed, and Andy Warhol’s nude photography.


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