By Kelsey Minor
Good Trouble follows the lives of adoptive sisters Callie and Mariana and their journey into adulthood in Los Angeles. On the show, a spinoff of Freeform’s beloved drama The Fosters, Callie and Mariana are initially caught off guard when they move into a cooperative living space with a group of young, hot strangers. One of those people is Gael (played by Tommy Martinez). It doesn’t take long for Mariana to have a huge crush him — but Callie and Gael soon develop an intimate relationship of their own, even if it goes against “girl code.” It sounds like a typical TV romance, right? Except for the fact that Gael is proudly bisexual, and he doesn’t hide it. In fact, while casually dating Callie, it’s revealed that Gael also has a boyfriend.
Martinez stars as Gael, an artist, on Freeform’s Good Trouble
I met up with Martinez at one of his favorite places, The Verve Coffee Roaster, in Los Angeles, down the street from where he used to wait tables at Zinqué. When I arrived, I spotted his hair first. Then, his girlfriend, actress Adeline Rudolph who stars in Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. In real life Martinez, 26, is not bisexual, but he tells me that he identifies with Gael in a number of ways, even candidly talking about his own same-sex experience 10 years ago.
The revelation came to light while he was taking part in a panel discussion with some of the show’s creators and stars at the Los Angeles LGBT Center in January. Tommy says he felt compelled to share the anecdote because he had recently opened up to a close family member about it. And for the better part of an hour, he shared with me what it’s been like to bring this character to life.
MTV News: Who is Gael to you?
Tommy Martinez: When I first read it — the character description — I said, “This is me.” Not exactly relating his bisexuality to my same-sex experience but everything else just felt like me. For instance, in the way that he would speak and throughout that month-long experience of auditioning I really just sank myself into his shoes, into his life, and really related to him. I feel as though I’m so parallel to Gael.
MTV News: Was that what attracted you to the role?
Martinez: With any of the other roles, it’s not something that attracted me. It’s just something that came to me from the agent’s office. They just send it out to you, and then I read the character description and, with Good Trouble, with Gael Martinez, he’s an artist trying to balance his artistic capabilities with a real job that’ll keep him afloat. I kind of had that same experience out here [in Los Angeles]. I did pretty well in modeling for a time, but that was just to pay rent. When that slowed down, I didn’t want to burn a hole in my pocket, and I still wanted to take acting classes, which can be very expensive. Actually, right down the street, Zinqué, that restaurant there? I worked there as a waiter. That’s where everything started.
I would work there to help pay rent and also pay for my acting classes. I remember, even with Shameless and Riverdale, that’s where I got my call. I was working the floor, and then I’d feel my phone start vibrating, and I’d see that it’s my agent. So I’d run over to the bathroom and answer it. She’s like, “You’re booked for Riverdale.” I was like, “Fuck!” It’s just insane.
The cast of Good Trouble
MTV News: You were talking on a panel recently, and you revealed that you had a same-sex experience years ago. Why did you feel comfortable in that moment to share that?
Martinez: Two weeks before, I was on vacation, and one of my family members was scrutinized for something that had happened a couple of years ago, which happened to be him and another boy. He was kind of being made fun of for it, and he had a melt down while we were on this vacation. I had never seen him like that before, and it fucking broke my heart.
You think if you just had an experience with a man, then you’re either gay or you’re bisexual. Same thing with some of the articles that came out after that panel. It was like, “A bisexual [actor] representing a bisexual,” and that wasn’t the case at all … Right before we went up on the panel, I turned over to Bradley [Bredeweg], one of the EPs and one of the creators of the show, and I was just like, “I had this experience a couple of years ago, and I was wondering if I could just tell that story today.” I just felt compelled to say it because that family member was still in my mind, and I felt like I needed to, and I wanted to.
MTV News: You’ve said that growing up with a big Venezuelan family that sexuality was something that’s not really talked about.
Martinez: I think that playing a character like this, and knowing that people from my hometown are seeing it, because everybody knows everybody there, and having that kind of exposure would just make it that much easier. It’s like breaking down that wall that like, “Oh, you can’t talk about it.” Here, I’m fucking throwing it out at you. Let’s talk about it. And we have. When I went back home for the holidays, they’ll ask me, “How does it feel to play a bisexual character?” I was like, “It’s fine. It’s fun. There’s nothing bad about it.” It’s just two humans who are attracted, or are intimate with one another. What’s the problem with that? There’s not a fucking problem with that. Sorry for my language.
MTV News: Have you thought about the weight of the character you play and what it means for the LGBTQ community?
Martinez: I learned as I research more about this character that even within the LGBTQ community bisexuality isn’t really accepted, and that’s upsetting to me because it’s like you are working against the very same things that you are fighting for. There’s still so much work to be done and to tell these kinds of stories.
Trans actor and activist Hailie Sahar plays Gael’s sister, Jazmin
MTV News: What has been your family’s reaction to you playing this character?
Martinez: My parents, my sisters, and brother — they love the show. Granted, it was something new to see me on screen hook up with a guy, but I told them this is the character and that’s that. Some of my other family members questioned if I was really into the guy that I make out with on screen. I used it a teachable moment, where I wanted it to be known that if I did [enjoy it] that it shouldn’t be a problem. I feel really good about this character because it’s helping my family to understand that people live different lives.
MTV News: Who is more likely to get into trouble, Gael or Tommy?
Martinez: Maybe me. I feel like Gael is a good guy. He’s a really good dude. I get myself in trouble, as in, some of the stupid shit that I do, like rock climbing. Putting myself in trouble… It’s a lot of dangerous stuff. Riding on a motorcycle in this crazy city.
MTV News: Was there a time either during shooting or once the episodes started to air that you realized this character would impact people?
Martinez: It took a couple of episodes to really feel how everything was happening, and then it was a whole second wave that hit me once the show started airing — seeing the responses on Instagram, like, “Dude, thank you so much. I’ve been going through the same kind of situation, and this kind of gives me more confidence to break out my shell and talk about it as a gay or bisexual man, or woman.” Just the response of the fans was — even just saying fans makes you feel crazy — it was all so positive.
MTV News: What do you hope people take away from Gael?
Martinez: The confidence to push through life… to have that confidence in being who they are, fully and truly, and not having to have any straps keeping you back from being just that. If someone is in that same position as Gael, the story’s not over. We’re filming the second season now, and there are some really powerful things that involve [his] family.
So, yeah, I just hope it allows people to accept themselves for who they are, regardless of if their friends or family accept them. What, are you gonna keep prolonging that? Until how long?
Good Trouble airs Tuesday nights on Freeform.