September 15, 2018

For gender-fluid Nico Tortorella, erasing the line between femininity and masculinity will bring us all together

You probably know Nico Tortorella for their role as Josh on Darren Starr’s hit comedy series, Younger. But in the short time I’ve had with them, I’ve discovered there’s so much more to the actor and podcaster—and now officially, a book author. But though I feel like I’ve gotten to know them, I also know I’ve only scratched the surface. Nico contains a universe in them, which I felt privileged enough to have been opened up to, even for just a while. When we began with the interview, I was set out to talk about All of It Is You their debut poetry collection, and the process behind it, but what I’ve gotten was much more than that; before I knew it, we were talking about aliens, and shamans, and the “collective consciousness.” Our whole conversation felt more like a spiritual awakening than a formal author interview, we had to hug it out in the end. The whole experience was something else entirely.

You wrote the book in 45 days. What were those 45 days like?

I was all over the place. I was in Chicago, I was in New York, I was in Peru. I was writing while I was traveling. I’m writing right now.

Did you follow any routine? Like, did you have a schedule?

Sort of—not really. It’s much easier for me to write during the day than it is at night. I just kinda like zone out. I go into a hole, you know? By myself. Just leave me alone, let me do my thing. I won’t talk to anybody, I won’t see anybody until I get out of it. It was more spontaneous. Depends on the day and depends on what section of the book I was writing; what I had on my schedule outside of the book, you know? Where I was changed, what was getting written. If I was in Chicago with my family, I wrote after we ate, you know. I wrote “Thanksgiving Feast” that same night. I had all the titles for each piece mapped out. I had the entire book mapped out, beginning to end. From day one of 45.

As an LGBTQIA+ advocate, did you have an audience in mind?

Yeah. I knew that this was a book for them. But I didn’t want it to only be for them. I wanted it to be for everybody; a book everybody could pick up and find a piece of themselves in it. That’s what I set out to do. And that’s what I do for all my work, really. It’s about everyone; for everyone. Some people aren’t ready, and that’s fine. That’s not my fault. It’s on them.

Who is “You”?

The collective consciousness. [By that I mean] that all of us is one. The singularity. This idea that everything exists already. Everything amazing, [and] everything terrible. Every idea. There’s nothing new at all, it’s just collective consciousness. And has since the beginning of time. we are all fragments of it. To a certain extent, we have the ability to tap into it. So the “you” is everything that’s inside of you; is everything that’s inside of me.

That’s really deep. [laughs]

Yeah [laughs]. I was trying to explain this to high-schoolers today for this school in Manila. Some of them tried to [understand it]. Some of them were real a**holes. They didn’t wanna hear any of it. I mean, we all know what it’s like to be in high school. But I haven’t been put in the position now as an adult, like back in that world. And it was really triggering. But I got to say I’m so much smarter now than I was in high school. And I got to say some things to those kids that I was never able to say in high school.

Hopefully, they’ll change.

And if not, it’s not on me, you know? They’ve grown up in a house where they’ve been taught. Hate comes from our parents. It’s taught. And I feel bad. That’s how these kids are being programmed. It’s not their fault either. I think hate is taught. I don’t think hate is innate. At all. I don’t. I think if you took babies from three different types of the world, and grew them in a loving household, they would all be loving, no matter what their past is. They would react differently, but they’re not taught to hate people. They would accept people. It’s all relative to where you grow up, the history of the country you live in, what’s going on politically at the time. But love is love. And that’s innate.

I think your book does that. It spreads love.

Yes, that’s the whole purpose. It’s the divine frequency of love that unites us all. That’s how we connect. We don’t really connect through hate. Certain people do. But as a whole, we don’t. And the one thing that would really bring us all together? Is aliens. If aliens come and land on this planet, the entire countries is gonna have to band together and. So I’m waiting for them. We just need to feel that we are one. Until something bad happens, that’s not gonna happen. I think there was a time when we felt a lot more one than we do right now.

You do a lot of work. You act; you’re a total performer. How did those influence your writing?

Completely. I think that’s why I was able to even attempt to write a book about all of it. You know? ‘Cause I do a lot of things. And I see the world through a lot of different perspectives; talked to a lot of people. I needed to like, almost come up with my own theory of everything. And to make better sense of where I was and how I was working on different things at different fields. That’s what I set out to do. So I draw inspiration from everyone and everything, and everywhere.

Are poems still relevant today? We’re constantly bombarded by content of all kinds, on social media. Where do poems fit in all these?

They’re making their way back into mainstream. I think we have Rupi Kaur to thank for that, a lot. But the thing about music, I mean music to me is poetry. Lyric. Prose. Sonnet. With a melody. It’s kind of how I perform my poetry. You’ll see if you come to the show. So I think it never really went away. Just re-purposed. And now, it’s coming back to the age where it belongs. But that’s only one phase of it, on the page. The second phase is how you think of it. The third phase is if you add anything else to it. And then it goes on and on and on.

Would you say the book is autobiographical? 

Yes, to a certain extent. There was a lot of myself in it, obviously. But the next book is a lot more of an autobiography. It’s getting written right now. The next book is called Love Y’all. It’s a narrative; a memoir; a hybrid of sorts. It’s like an origin story, where I came from. This is what it means moving forward. All of us. Y’all. Cause “y’all”—you all—is literally all of it is you. It’s just another way to say it. And it’s Love Y’all.

If you want to feel enlightened too, catch him perform some of his poems at the Manila International Book Fair on Sunday, Sept. 16, at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia Complex.


Art by Marian Hukom

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