Oh Grow Up Article

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Binghamton press & Sun-Bulletin September 26, 1999

Gay role may be ticket to fame for Seton grad

After knocking around Hollywood for eight years, snagging a few small roles in movies and television programs, former Binghamton resident John Ducey is on the brink of possible sitcom stardom. Ducey, 30, is one of the five newcomers (to TV) starring in a new ABC series, Oh Grow Up (9:30pm Wednesday). one of several series based on the adventures of 20--somethings making their way in the big city, Ducey unabashedly calls the show a cross between Friends and Will and Grace.

As one of three men who live together, Ducey plays Ford, a straight-arrow lawyer, who has a significant issue to deal with. As Ducey explained, Ford did everything he was supposed to do growing up. He got good marks in school, took his place on the career track and got married. but since he lives with two other guys (David Alan Basche and Stephen Dunham), you may wonder what happened to his wife. In a word, divorce. It turns out Ford has this niggling little problem: The straight-arrow isn't all that straight. "He's just coming to terms with his gayness," Ducey said.

Thus Ducey, who has not previously played gay roles, joins a growing field of gay characters in prime-time shows, including the aforementioned Will and Grace (coincidentally, Will also is a lawyer), Spin City and Dawson's Creek. While "playing gay" used to be considered a detriment top careers, Ducey doesn't think so, based on the appearance of acceptance of gay characters in both movies and television. There are gay actors such as Rupert Everett and Sir Ian McKellan, who have achieved star status. Major stars such as Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Nathan Lane have played gay characters at no apparent detriment to their careers. "I don't think of it as positive or negative. I just think I'm playing a character people will like," Ducey said. And it will give him the visibility he's hungered for since starting an acting career.

The only conceivable problem he should have, Ducey said, is whether or not his show survives the lottery that is prime time for new programs. A fact of TV life is that most new programs fail. Benefiting the show is its time slot -- at 9:30pm Wednesdays, immediately following the popular Drew Carey. If Oh Grow Up can capture Carey's spill-over audience, it has a chance to become, if not a ratings leader, a comfortable Wednesday fixture. As Ducey awaits the first critical response to the show, he said success isn't up to him or the show's creators and actors. It is up to the viewing public.

Going into the show, he and the other actors signed standard five-year contracts, which will provide a measure of security in an otherwise insecure profession -- if the show succeeds. "This is the first time in eight years that I've had to go to work every morning," he said. "It takes getting used to."

The son of James and Judy Ducey of Binghamton, Ducey graduated from Seton Catholic High School in 1987 and entered Harvard University for electrical engineering and pre-med. but the acting bug bit him at Harvard and he decided to take a flyer at show business. Unlike many young actors, he didn't have to turn to low-paying jobs to live between endless auditions. He put his math and science to good use as a substitute teacher and private tutor.

Starting a career means making contacts and getting known, Ducey said. Over the past few years he's gotten small roles and speaking parts in show such as Encore, Sabrina, Frasier, Late Night [sic], the movie Deep Impact and a co-starring role in a pilot, The Hanleys, which wasn't picked up by the networks. Being chosen for Oh Grow Up puts his career, not to mention his life, on a whole new level.

--Gene Gray

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