In Web Series 'Collar Confessions,' Nathaniel J. Ryan Plays Pastor on the 'DL'

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday November 29, 2021

The Here TV original series "Collar Confessions," based on the book by Dwight Allen O'Neal, follows the affairs (of every sort) of Pastor Eddie Lawrence (Nathaniel J. Ryan) and his fiancé, Quentin (DeAngelo Jackson).

Pastor Eddie may be a Man of God, but he's living a hell of a double life: Out online, but closeted to his congregation, and trying to balance his love and commitment for Quentin while also romancing a woman (Rheaume Crenshaw). There's also someone from Pastor Eddie's past — at a different church, which went up in flames — named Rafael (Marco Maldonado) who is resurfacing, just as Eddie is trying to win back Quentin's trust. Oh, and by the way... it was Quentin who torched the church where Pastor Eddie used to preach.

That's a lot of baggage, and a lot of backstory, all of it making for plenty of drama in the steamy six-episode short-form series. The show gets off to a running start, months after the church's burning, as Eddie and Quentin are settling in at a new home, and with Eddie taking on pastoral duties at a new church.

But their new residence also seems to be the home of some sort of supernatural force — a haunting that's as unsettling and relentless as Eddie's past.

EDGE had a chance to chat with series star Nathaniel J. Ryan, who is no stranger to web series with an LGBTQ+ twist, having previously started in "Bi." He's also starring in the upcoming TV series "Casters," which premieres next year.

EDGE: How did you come to star in this web series?

Nathaniel J. Ryan: I saw the audition, I believe, on an application called Actors Access, which is what actors use to find gigs — even if they have an agent — to select an opportunity to look for yourself. I remember I saw the audition, and the day I was offered to submit an audition tape I was headed for the beach, and it was due, like, the next day. I said, "If I don't do it [now], I'm never gonna do it."

So I put something together really quick. I think they had me do a monologue, and then a scene from the web series. I just put it together and sent it off. I did, I think, two takes, and then they offered the role maybe two days later.

EDGE: You play Eddie, an LGBTQ+ pastor. Was that who you originally auditioned for?

Nathaniel J. Ryan: From the breakdown, he fits my description — leading male, pastor, leader. At the time I didn't know it was going to be a thriller, but I did know the character's background.

EDGE: Did they stick to the same background as the book, in which Eddie is out on social media but not to his parish?

Nathaniel J. Ryan: From my interpretation of Pastor Eddie, from the book and in the series, he's on what would be described as the "DL" ("down low"). Whoever he's dealing with knows he's out, of course, but the women in his life don't know that he has an interest in men as well.

EDGE: And he also has a longstanding relationship. I mean, it must be fairly longstanding, if the guys are still together after Quentin torched Eddie's church!


Nathaniel J. Ryan: Yes, in the web series the fiancé does burn down the church, and I haven't gotten to the part in the book where they disclose who burned down the church, but that that part seems to be consistent. There was a church that burned down.

EDGE: What is your sense for this relationship that is so fractious, and so impassioned, and so volatile?

Nathaniel J. Ryan: My interpretation, really, with that is that, you know, there has been so much hurt and disenfranchisement within the community that when someone finds what they feel like is love, they hold on to it no matter what, even if it's dysfunctional. So, you have Eddie, and his partner, and even his female partner, that are still trying to make it work, where under normal circumstances everyone would have been justified in walking away.

And my character is based on a real person. And there are people out there like that — especially pastors — who have an interest in bisexuality or homosexuality, but they are so conflicted with what their interpretation is with the Word of God, and how that fits in their life, and how they can be an effective leader. And that's why you have so many hearts being broken.

EDGE: As an actor, and personally, how do you feel about the supposed schism between being a person of faith and being LGTBQ+?

Nathaniel J. Ryan: My job is really to bring the character to life with as much believability as I can. I'm taught not to judge my character, but to come to my character from a place of love. We are our own worst critics, but at the same time we don't judge ourselves too harshly. Pastor Eddie is someone who just wants to be loved. But, since he doesn't love himself too much, he seeks love from multiple people.

As a human being, my reconciliation with faith and being a part of the LGBTQ+ community is... I think [religiously-based anti-LGTBQ+ bias] is just a misinterpretation of the Word, whether it be the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, or any other religious texts.

EDGE: We don't want any spoilers, but it seems like there's some kind of a haunting happening in the new house that Eddie and Quentin share.

Nathaniel J. Ryan: Yeah, yeah! I won't give any of it away, but there are some twists and turns, and I don't think anyone will expect how it's gonna end up.

EDGE: On a scale of one to an "American Horror Story," ten, where would you rate the series in terms of this horror or thriller element?

Nathaniel J. Ryan: You know, honestly, I don't like scary movies, so I can actually say this is my first scary movie, or thriller, that I've been a part of. I've never watched "American Horror Story," but anything that jumps out of the corner unexpectedly is scary for me.

EDGE: How do you like working in this short form, with each episode being around eight minutes or 12 minutes?

Nathaniel J. Ryan: It works your muscles in a different way, because usually we have a time to prepare, and you get to feel the character more. But we filmed [the whole season] over six days. We only had one day off. And they were, like, 12-hour days. Some days were overnight. I love to get in and out, but me with a theater background, I really love to dive deeper, get into the character work and stuff like that.

EDGE: We see a little skin in this series, and things get steamy. Was this onscreen intimacy something you'd done in earlier roles? Or was this a learning curve for you and your onscreen partner?

Nathaniel J. Ryan: I actually did another short series right before the this series, where we dealt with some intimate scene, and we had an intimacy coach. I was able to learn language to describe what I'm comfortable with, with my partner and with the production team. And then, of course, with scenes like that you only have the cameraperson on set, and the director. It's a closed set, so I was very comfortable with the way that everyone conducted themselves on set.

EDGE: What was that like to film those intimate scenes during the time of COVID?

Nathaniel J. Ryan: With people having their vaccinations and being in charge of your health — taking vitamins and zinc and stuff like that — yeah, I was very comfortable. And everyone else was wearing masks on set. So, I was comfortable.

EDGE: Was DeAngelo Jackson as comfortable as you? Or maybe more so? Did you have to help each other through it?

Nathaniel J. Ryan: Oh, I think we're both comfortable, [and we] both helped each other along. I think we complement each other. I have more experience right now with acting, and he's worked in a few more movies than I have, so we were able to both educate one another.

EDGE: What else are you working on right now?

Nathaniel J. Ryan: I'm in a play right now off Broadway at the Soho Playhouse called "Tammany Hall," which is based on another true story about the racketeering and corruption in New York government. Tammany Hall was run by the mob basically, and they have control of the mayor. So, it's a play about that. And it's an immersive play, which is a first-time experience for me. So that's working my acting chops in a totally different way.

EDGE: Do you enjoy when you're interpreting characters based on real people, as opposed to being in a fictional story with fictional people?

Nathaniel J. Ryan: A lot of the characters that are written... if it's not written specifically by a person of color, everything that I do pretty much is kind of fictional, because I'm not white. I'm African American. You have to lose your sense of believability. And I have to use my imagination in a different way; it's kind of like I have to put my character in an alternate universe that is not racially divided, or is more equitable to actors of color, so even though I'm playing the historical character, me depicting this person has to give him more liberties, which does stretch my imagination.

: A lot of actors write and produce. Are there roles you'd like to create for yourself?

Nathaniel J. Ryan: Many! I have written and produced. During the pandemic I wrote a short film that I would love to produce. [It's about] how two men dealt with police brutality. I've never seen it depicted in any form of media, how men deal with another man being emasculated by the cops.

EDGE: You mean, like a witness on the street, or a close friend or a lover of someone who's had that experience?

Nathaniel J. Ryan: A lover. How do you deal with that? What is the conversation at home after you've been pulled over or frisked? Or when you come home from jail, and all your rights have been stripped from you, and now you still have to be a "man" in this society.

EDGE: Is this based on research, or things friends have gone through, or that you went through yourself?

Nathaniel J. Ryan: Well, I mean, all 2020. In the media [there] was a lot of Black Lives Matter, and we saw a lot of men and women killed and assaulted by law enforcement across the country. That's where that story came from.

EDGE: Do you suppose you'll be back to do more with "Collar Confessions?"

Nathaniel J. Ryan: I would love to work with the production team again. Dwight and David were really great guys to work with. I can't give away any spoilers, but if the fans love the show, I'm sure the production team can create some content and, hopefully, they'll have a role for me.

To watch "Collar Confessions," visit the Here TV website.

Check out these pics from Ryan's IG:??

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.