Former Teen Idol Says He Had to "Go Back Into the Closet" to Get Roles

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Like a lot of actors, 33-year-old Colton Haynes started out as a teen model. By the time he began booking work for major brands—and several years before he scored his breakout role as Jackson on the supernatural MTV drama Teen Wolf—Haynes was out as gay in his personal life. But, as he writes about in his new memoir, Miss Memory Lane, he was not nearly as open when he began trying to make it in Hollywood. In fact, the Arrow actor says that he was encouraged to keep his sexual orientation a secret by others in the industry if he wanted to land work. Read on to find out why Haynes says he bowed to pressure to "go back into the closet" after coming out as a teenager, about the impact that had on his mental health, and about some of the other painful experiences he shares in his book.

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Haynes hadn't been in Los Angeles long before he was told to change his mannerisms.

In a 2021 essay for Vulture, the actor remembers the first meeting he got with a possible manager—a man he calls "Brad."

"'Why are you using your hands so much when you talk? And your posture is too … loose,' [Brad] said. 'We're definitely going to have to change your mannerisms. They're a little too … theater,'" Haynes writes, adding his own translation: "Code for gay."

He goes on to say that Brad eventually cut him loose, but only after asking him to take part in a sexually explicit acting class and to try to catch the eye of a possible agent by showing up to his office in an open shirt. The reason the manager ultimately gave for dumping the aspiring actor was that his "voice" and "mannerisms" were "too gay."

His new team was terrified by a photoshoot he'd done as a teen.

Haynes eventually booked actual representation, but he writes in the same Vulture piece that his team thought of a photoshoot from his past "so radioactive it had lawyers send cease-and-desist letters to anyone who posted the images online." It was a spread for the gay men's magazine XY, featuring a 17-year-old Haynes and his then-boyfriend.

"I understood because it was explained to me repeatedly—by managers, agents, publicists, executives, producers—that the only thing standing between me and the career I wanted was that I was gay," the actor writes, adding that his sexuality was of particular concern because the roles he was considered to be good for were in media targeting young adults. "It's not just straight people who are the gatekeepers—the call often comes from inside the house."

"Basically having to go back into the closet for my career was really damaging for me," Haynes said in a recent interview with Dateline. "You know, having to take 'movement for the actor' classes to fix my mannerisms, and having to put Post-It Notes and things under my tongue to fix my lisp, and having to talk an octave lower. Trying to just be seen but also hiding that part of ourselves, it can be really detrimental to your mental health."

He came out publicly in 2016.

Of course, since the internet exists, Haynes' then-team were not able to completely bury his old modeling photos. There was speculation about his sexuality among Teen Wolf and Arrow fans before he decided to come out publicly in 2016. In response to a fan on the social media site Tumblr touting his "secret gay past," Haynes replied from his own account, as reported by Out, "Was it a secret? Let's all just enjoy life&have no regrets :)."

Magazine interviews followed, including an Out cover story, in which Haynes said he "feel really bad that [he] had to lie for so long" and again explained that he thought he was doing what he had to do to have a career.

"When you're young in this industry, people take advantage of you, and they literally tell you that your dreams are going to come true," he told the magazine. "If you believe that, you'll do anything. And you do believe it, especially if you're from Kansas."

In his Vulture essay, Haynes writes that closeting himself led to issues with his mental health, as well as abuse of alcohol and drugs. "When a doctor suggested my secret was making me sick, I knew he was right," he says. Those health issues are part of what prompted him to come out.

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He opens up about some other deeply personal issues in his book.

In Miss Memory Lane, Haynes also shares details about his childhood, family life, and addiction struggles. He writes about abuse he endured from his father and an uncle, as well as the grooming relationship he was in with a middle-aged police officer when he was 14, as reported by Buzzfeed. He also opens up about forgiving and becoming close with his mother, who suffered from alcoholism, only a few months before she died of cirrhosis in 2018. Speaking to Dateline, Haynes said that he had a wakeup call when he realized he was repeating some of her behaviors. "I had a water bottle filled up with tequila in the left side of the recliner and then I had one of vodka," the actor explained. "And I would drink from the second I woke up to the second I went to bed."

Haynes has now been sober for four years and told the news magazine that he's "grateful" he was able to seek help.

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