The former Saved by the Bell star chats with The Advocate about underwear, his hippest fans, and a gay cinematic classic.
According to Mario Lopez, the “M” in Rated M, the actor’s new underwear line, “stands for masculine, modern, Mario … make it whatever you want it to be.” And while some may see putting your initial on a sexy line of briefs, trunks, long johns, and cycle shorts (and then donning them in an ad campaign) as little more than a vanity move (or an excuse to strip down and show off your famous abs), the unstoppable Lopez — who has already made his mark on TV, movies, Broadway, and publishing — has his sights set on something bigger than mere Marky Markdom.
The Advocate: Congrats on the underwear line.
Mario Lopez: Thank you! Have you had a chance to see it?
I’m actually wearing the gloxinia-colored trunk as we speak —
And even though it doesn’t look as good on me as it does on you, I’m a fan.
Thank you very much. It’s comfortable, right?
Yeah, definitely. But who came up with “gloxinia?”
It was a collaborative effort. We just wanted to have fun and be a little cheeky, but at the same time give it a sexy undertone. But mostly we wanted it to be a premium quality and really comfortable.
You’ve done so many things in your career — acting, hosting, dancing, you’ve written two books — why underwear?
I wanted to get into apparel, specifically fitness apparel. I’ve always liked the sort of fitness clothes that don’t look like fitness clothes. The kind you can rock with jeans and be casual. I wanted to get into that realm, and we just decided to start with underwear. I get teased because I’m always walking around in my underwear. I’m like Nature Boy — just very comfortable, I guess. There are also undershirts and T-shirts and little cool headbands that I work out in.
Sounds like you have your sights set on a whole wardrobe line.
Ideally, yeah. That’s the dream. But I wanted to start off with this and see how it goes. We’re starting from the bare necessities and working our way out.
You do realize that an underwear line by Mario Lopez featuring Mario Lopez is the perfect gift from you to the gay community —
Was that your intention? Be honest.
It wasn’t my intention but I’m flattered that you say that. I’m honored.
Where did the tagline “For manful men and their very special guests” come from? And does it refer to what I think it refers to?
I think so! [Laughs] We wanted to let the mind wander there. And like I said, we just wanted to have fun with it. Because that’s my personality. I work hard, but I like to have fun while doing it.
A lot of well-toned actors who begin their career doing shirtless publicity reach a point where they stop doing that, and the excuse is always that they want to be taken seriously. But you — to the delight of your fans — seem to show more and more skin. Has that been a conscious choice?
That’s a good question. I don’t know that it was a conscious thing. I think when I was younger I was associated with sports from the character on Saved by the Bell or from playing Greg Louganis. But then health and fitness became a priority in my life. Being the fitness ambassador for the Boys and Girls Club of America and on the president’s council on physical fitness, I definitely want to practice what I preach. And since I’m approaching 40 — which is around the corner, believe it or not [Laughs] — I want to show that guys who are about to hit 40 can still keep it together.
You played Greg Louganis back in 1997. And as far as biopics driven by gay characters, that was pretty groundbreaking. Not to mention that the story dealt with domestic violence and HIV. Was there ever any concern that playing this role would affect your career as a teen idol?
I wasn’t concerned. I just looked at it as a great opportunity to show a different side of myself as an actor and kind of break away from that Saturday morning sort of stereotype. Like you said, there were lots of layers to Greg. And I was a big fan. He’s a San Diego guy, and I’m a San Diego guy. I thought it would be an honor to play him.
At what point in your career did you realize it wasn’t just girls who were swooning over you?
[Pauses] I probably realized it in my 20s. Maybe my late teens.
And in your experience, how are gay fans different from straight fans?
Gay fans are very loyal. And very cool. I’m honored to be embraced by the gay community. They’re the smartest and the hippest. They determine what’s hot out there.
How has fatherhood affected the way you approach your work?
It’s made me work that much harder. I’ve always had a strong work ethic and have always been a pretty ambitious guy and a go-getter. Being a father just gives me incentive to grind it out even more. It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’m blessed with a beautiful, healthy little girl. Hopefully there are more to come.
I have to warn you, my last question is super gay …
Seeing as how you worked with Elizabeth Berkley, I need to know your favorite scene in Showgirls.
Oh, my God, I don’t think I remember it well enough to have a favorite. [Pauses] Probably one of the dancing scenes. Or when she called Versace “Ver-sayce.” [Laughs] Oh, wait — I remember! When she was in the pool and she was having what looked like convulsions! [Laughs]
Good choice. Best of luck with Rated M.
Thanks so much. I’m glad you like it.
Originally published on Advocate.com, January 2012.