Rightor Doyle (@rightordoyle). This guy. He’s a personal hero. Out and proud and speaking up about all the right things. The love list is long: An amazing actor, (On HBO’s “Barry”), a superb writer, director, show creator and executive producer (of “Bonding” on Netflix). But then there’s his enduring friendships with many insanely talented women, the fact that he’s the most loving of sons, his attitude of gratitude, his rejection of rejection, hilarious honesty, and his true effort to remain present throughout each step of his success. He’s a national treasure and long may he reign because he’ll brighten your day always.
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Rightor Doyle: The Special
I sat down with Rightor Doyle and it was a complete dream come true for me. Rightor Doyle is on HBO’s Barry as Nick Nicholby and he’s hilarious. He also created, wrote and directed Bonding on Netflix. He’s from Louisiana and he came in and charmed me like he always does. He’s so real, honest, funny and cool. I love him. I am a huge fan and I admire pretty much everything he says and does. I hope you enjoy this episode.
How are you?
I’m so happy. I cannot tell you how much it means to me that you said yes. Thank you for coming.
It’s my pleasure.
I feel so honored and appreciative. I met you through a mutual friend.
Yes, Jessica Collins. One of my absolute favorite people in the entire world.
I love her so much and one of mine and she’s one of the people that makes me laugh the hardest. I met you at one of her get–togethers. When I met you afterward, the next time I saw her, I went up to her full of passion and excitement because I needed to tell her that this friend of hers that I met at her party, I felt that I had been glamoured. I’m like, “This guy, your friend. I’m in love with him. He’s so amazing.” She was like, “Get in line.” Everyone feels that way. I was a little bit sad and shocked, but then the more that I hung out with her and you would be at these things of hers, I saw everybody. I did try to take a number.
The number is 911.
I’ll be dialing it. Has it always been your superpower, women friends?
The long and the short of it is, in my 36 years of living, even before I realized that I was gay, I had predominantly women friends and they were my strong, bold protectors. It was like a world I felt I identified with, yet I was some weird outsider in. I was so enamored with all of my women friends all through my life. In high school, I failed myself out. I was called out every day at these all-boys Jesuit High School that I went to. Instead of leaving, it was my parents said, “You can leave.” I said, “I always wanted to prove something.” I stayed and I said, “Crazy is scarier than gay.” I started turning my tests in blank and people started leaving me alone and then thought I was cool.
I don’t know if it’s genius.
I’m going to say it is because I didn’t turn to something darker. You didn’t go into some spiral fear and depression. You found a way.
I like to stick it out. That’s why I’ve ended up where I’ve ended up. If people tell me no, I find a crack in the door and I shove a note in that says, “Yes.”
This comes back to your car too.
Yes, I have an orange car. I had made a joke about the car and they told me that that car was sold. I said, “I would like to know if you have another one of those cars,” even though I thought it was the ugliest car I’d ever seen but I own that car.
It’s bright orange, but anybody reading should also know that he at least has color-coordinated his shirt to match exactly the hue of the car.
It turns out that I was buying a lot more orange than I thought I was.
It’s a theme.
It’s a color that I truly never had any love for. It turns out it’s a huge part of my life. Lessons learned, so I went to a boy-girl high school in New Orleans and my mom said to me I needed to go to a school with girls. She was right. I looked around and based on what had happened to me in the past, I saw the cool table of girls and I saw the cool table of guys and then me, someone who didn’t know anyone. I played back and I sat at my own table and I watched the way that the school was working and the girls were working. I saw some of them were in my classes and I thought, “These are the girls I want to get to know.” I would talk to them in the classes and I would befriend them a little bit. One day I went and sat at their table before they got there and they were like, “Rightor from my psychology class.”
That was it. A star is born.
I realized that the only way to get big jocks to stop calling you gay is to get their girlfriends to tell them to shut up.One job is lucky. Two jobs is a career. Click To Tweet
You’re completely right. I also love how you chess–engineered high school in a way that’s awesome.
I tried to get above it.
You did and you won. From high school you then went to Bard?
Yes. I went to Bard College which was unbelievable.
Did you study theater there?
Yes, I did, but it’s not a BFA, it’s a BA. It’s the ideas behind the theater. We’re studying the Greeks. We’re not learning how to be great actors. It was a wonderful place to go to school. Honestly, coming from New Orleans where I went to a Catholic school my whole life, even though my parents aren’t very religious, it’s a predominantly Catholic town. I went to Bard and realized that everyone there was from New York or Los Angeles and was so much more well-read than I was, but they hadn’t read the Bible. I hadn’t read Ulysses, but I read everything that Ulysses was talking about. It expanded my mind in brand new ways. I met a tribe of people that seemed so much closer to what I was looking for.
At Bard, did you continue the theme of having wonderful women friends?
From Bard, you went to New York.
I realized I didn’t go through puberty until pretty late. When I got to Bard, I was a brand new guy.
Were you not out at that point?
No, I didn’t come out until New York. What I found at Bard is that a lot of my girlfriends said that sexuality was playing a bigger part in all of our lives. A lot of my best girlfriends also liked me in a different way, and I liked them in a way that I couldn’t explain. I didn’t have huge sex education. Honestly, one of the real reasons that pushed me to come out was that I was hurting the feeling of people I love.
They‘re like, “Why don’t you want to date me?”
Yes, it’s like, “Do you think I’m ugly?” I was like, “You’re the most beautiful person in the world.”
I would have been in that number. After Bard, you went to New York to pursue an acting career. You’re 22. How did that go for you at first? Did you book jobs right away?
I went into an acting class because I didn’t know anyone who was pursuing acting professionally. Even people at my school, one of whom a good friend of mine, Joanne Tucker, she went to Julliard with Jessica Collins. Some of the kids went into schools. I didn’t get into acting school. I didn’t get into graduate school.
Did you audition?
Yes, multiple times, I never got in. I went to New York and I thought I need to meet some new people. I don’t know how to get an agent. I don’t know how to do any of these things, so I got into an acting class at The Actors Center which is defunct, but it was a great place. I met a lot of wonderful people who I still know and love. About a year in, I auditioned for the Williamstown Theater Festival and that is where I got my first break.
What play did you do?
They wrote shows around this one troupe of actors, maybe twelve to fifteen of us were all in this one group together and they wrote a musical and a play around us, which was cool. I met all these professionals who were doing it in their life and were smoking cigarettes and super jaded. It was very thrilling. That’s why I wanted to be, smoking cigarettes and super jaded. It went from there. I did Williamstown three years in a row. I got agents from them. I did a play in London and I started doing TV and all the things started to kick-off, not in a moneymaking way. It’s very hard to make money as an actor, but I started getting jobs and people started to see me.
That much happened right from when you got there. It’s not right from the top, but you’re a steadily working actor.
I kept booking. I remember one of my acting teachers in college and one of my mentors, Joanne Akalaitis said, “One job is lucky. Two jobs is a career.” I take that into everything that I do, which is not those exact numbers, but the idea behind it, which is that no one deserves this because deserving it would mean that other people don’t. It’s about luck and I do believe in luck and situational luck timing. People who think they deserve it and don’t say that they’re lucky in terms of how this all shook down are insane.
I like that perspective.
I know people like Oprah who I love say they don’t call it luck. They say it’s preparation meets timing. All of those things, the little meats in between, that’s called luck.
That’s true. In this time when you’re working in New York, you’re meeting and probably working with and going to class with incredible actresses who are becoming your good, true close circle of friends.
At Williamstown as well. I was lucky to meet a bunch of cool, wonderful actress, one of them Jessica Collins. Our other good friends Mayme, Zoe Kazan, all these wonderful people, they were working more than me, but we were all starting in the same place. It was thrilling to see them. They all did well pretty quickly. It was a wonderful education for me who was still working every other few months.
Did you get an agent fairly quickly?
I did. I got a small-time agent very quickly, and then I got a decent manager. She was a cuckoo person, but she was big enough to get me into some rooms that I’d never been in before.
Through here, I ended up booking my first big thing, which I booked a Broadway show called Enron, which was very big and it was a huge hit in London. They’re like, “I’m going to be a star,” and then it closed in two weeks.
“This is it. I’ve arrived.”
Honestly, I was sad, but at the same time I was like, “I don’t think I would’ve wanted to do that for a year.” You have to start thinking about it like that. I never wanted to be on television or in film. I realized that that’s the way you make money and also that‘s the way that the world works. I only ever wanted to be in Broadway. I was this little tap dancing five-year-old. My big dream was to be on Broadway.
Did you tap dance?
Yes, we did it at all. I don’t say I’m good at a lot of things, but I was good at tap dancing.
You need to write yourself a tap-dancing part. You have an agent, you’re close friends with these incredible women. When did The Walker come about?
Enron closed and one of my best friends, Zoe Kazan, is also a writer. A lot of times you think people are writing vanity projects for themselves or this is the way the world is working. People are writing a web series. I had always written and Bard was primarily a writing school. You didn’t take a lot of tests. You write.
Great writers come out of that.
I felt I had read enough bad scripts and audition for enough bad things that I could write something bad, bare minimum. If it’s anything better than bad, that’s cooking with gas. I had started doing that and with Zoe’s encouragement, I ended up going with her after Enron, I went to her agent. We shared the same agent who read the writing that I had done, which was the show called The Walker about a gay guy with a bunch of best girlfriends who becomes a gay best friend for hire. It’s like monetizing this idea of myself. From there, we made a little version of it with a bunch of cool people like Betty Gilpin, Carey Mulligan, Gabby Sidibe, Caitlin Fitzgerald, great people. We made it very quickly for no money in New York City. Honestly, it’d almost like a time capsule of this moment in our lives and the show would see by a bunch of people in Los Angeles. I was brought out to LA to work on it with Warren Littlefield and his company who’s the head of NBC and he’s made Handmaid’s Tale and Fargo and a bunch of other little shows like that. I was like, “Here I go, this is it.” I had a failed Broadway show and now I have my own show. I came out to LA and it fell apart again.
This has the happiest next steps because of everything that came after that.
Maybe I’m born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline. I have an engine in me that rejects rejection and I think that it’s delusion and anger. Maybe there’s a positive word that goes in there as well, but they live in this soup of me being like, “It’s a bad day. I’m going to make it bad for you.”
I feel that that’s a special quality of resilience. It’s not just resilience. It fans the flames.
My dad owns a business and he’s a very successful businessman. When we were growing up, it was a struggling business. We went from living in a big house to living in a tiny apartment to living in an okay house. We moved around a lot in New Orleans when we were little. My dad always told me that this career in entertainment was my small business and that the emotion that comes with rejection is personal and it is not professional. If I can start to distinguish between those two things, I can think of this as a business. I’m trying to make a life out of it. I take that with me every day.
That is some exceptional parenting. I’m so obsessed with your family but what a lesson. They have books written on Rich Dad Poor Dad. It talks about money because some people grow up learning about money and how it works and some people don’t. The lesson that your dad gave you about learning to ride the wave of it and treating acting like a small business is invaluable.
It was so important for him to say it, but even if he never said it, I saw it every single day. We worked for him, me and all of my siblings, which is why I could never get a table waiting job in New York City.Luck is when preparation meets timing. Click To Tweet
What is his business?
He owns a land acquisition business. He’s essentially the middle man between a large company and a small landowner. He works deals and he also does a lot of protective marshland stuff in Louisiana. It started out as an oil industry business and as the energy business has grown and changed, his model for that has grown and changed as well.
Why couldn’t you be a waiter?
I couldn’t be a waiter because I always worked for my dad, and when I moved to New York City, you needed years of waiting table experience and naturally everyone has waiting table experience because when you’re sixteen-years-old you work at Applebee’s, but I never did. I worked for Doyle Land Services. I blamed it on him and then I worked for him from my apartment in New York.
Did he give you your side hustle?
Yes, which is incredible. That’s a very forgiving boss. There’s a ton of privilege.
You come out here and The Walker falls apart.
Granted, this is the only thing I’ve ever written. I am an actor first and foremost, and I start auditioning for things and I can’t remember my lines. I can’t remember anything. I used to be good at it. I used to just go in. I used to fall asleep in audition rooms. It was my defense mechanism or outside of them.
Like turning your paper in blank with your name.
I used to be like, “This doesn’t matter.” I fall asleep. Someone would tap me on the shoulder. I’d walk into the room and do a good job. When I got Barry, I did not read either of those scripts because I had to say to myself, “This cannot matter.”
That’s part of that. When you start to be rejected, just cook it up inside.
It goes both ways. It can be a bad thing and a good thing. One should be prepared. I think of myself as a very hard worker, but strangely, the acting jobs I have gotten have come from me caring more about going in there and being myself than going in there and being someone else.
I watch a lot of kid movies because I have kids and I don‘t know if you’ve seen Kung Fu Panda. Po is the secret ingredient. It’s him that makes him so incredible. Did you fall asleep in the Barry audition or no?
I didn’t fall asleep, but I didn’t read the script for that one. What I was saying is that I couldn’t memorize any of my lines and told my manager, I was like, “I need to take a year of timeout from acting because I’m embarrassing myself.”
Your usual go-to wasn’t working. You’d go into a room and it was blank.
Yes, it wasn’t working. I spent that year writing and developing other ideas and thinking about things that had happened to me in my life that I could make into something new that I could sell as a writer. I tell this party story when I was 22-years-old and had moved to New York. The thing that I’m leaving out is that what I also did as a side hustle was I was an assistant to my friend who was a dominatrix for my best friend. I did it not for an extremely long amount of time. It was very sporadic, but it was a huge learning lesson. It was also very informative in terms of me coming out and accepting myself, seeing other people who are dealing with their own internalized patriarchal sex shame in positive ways or in ways that are slightly secretive that they don’t feel positive about. They’re trying to exercise this demon or trying to celebrate themselves. Many people go to these things for different reasons.
I used to tell a bunch of party stories about it and people would have a good laugh. I remember trumping them up for a good laugh. The truth is they were also strange, beautiful, sad, informative and real. I took those stories that I’ve been telling and put that inside of it. I said to my manager, “I have a show I want to go out with. I could do something with it.” The day that I went to a meeting about Bonding, the show, it became the day that I went to my Barry audition and I did not have time to read the script. I’m in the car, read the signs, walked in, did the signs and left. I went to my meeting about Bonding. Both of those things happen on the same day.
Did you find out that you got both around the same time?
With Barry, I probably heard about two weeks later. I knew I had done a good job, and that I was, “In the mix.”
Rightor plays Nick Nicholby on Barry and is great. I love that show. It’s a great show.
That’s also luck because if you’re lucky enough to be a working actor, to get on a show that is good is crazy, and to get on a show that’s good that people watch, especially when there’s so much content out is insane. To get on a show that is good that people watch and has been nominated for tons of awards is wild. It’s a once in a lifetime thing.
I was the biggest fan of Veep and when that ended, I was devastated and Barry became the next ensemble piece that gives me great joy and I could snuggle out on bed and I get so excited to watch it. It’s so funny and great.
We have the best time.
It looks like you do. The cast is incredible. The writing is wonderful. Henry Winkler is a dream.
He’s also truly the nicest man in America. I can’t figure it out.
I have no personal knowledge of him, but I was at a lunch place and he was there and something happened to a child, but everything was fine. He was so awesome, helpful, sweet and so kind. I wanted to go home with him.
He and his wife, Stacey, they are the greatest people. They have the greatest kids. Everyone on the show, Stephen Root and his wife. We’ve gotten to know everyone’s family because Barry took a long time. HBO takes its time. We’d finished our second season, but we’d been involved in the show for four years.
Two seasons have aired.
It takes a long time. We’ve gotten to know each other in that time and it’s been an incredible experience.
The ensemble work is the greatest. You all look genuinely like you’re having so much fun doing it together. I saw some crossover people in Bonding. You found out you booked Barry and then how long after Bonding?
We had this meeting and this development stuff can take a long time, but there was this company called Blackpills. They’re a French company. They gave us the money to make the show. They don’t blush at BDSM culture the way that Americans do. They’re like, “Bondage, sorry. Here’s some money. Bye.” Thank goodness for them. I had to make it very quickly. I wrote it all probably in about a month because we had to turn it around.
When you’re under the gun, do you work well like that?
Yes, only then.
Because you can’t procrastinate.
America’s number one masturbator. We make jokes, we can talk about anything in the world, killing a bunch of people, but you can’t talk about masturbating, pooping or having sex.
It’s a big taboo and it’s super weird.
I do them all.
I have two little boys and I am obsessed with their poop. I check it. I look at it, I cheer for them. I want to know what is going on. It’s not just enough that they did. I’m like, “Let me see it.” When does that change?
It shows you everything you need to know about your bonding.
You’re bringing it to the forefront and I’m so grateful. You’re a pioneer and an activist. You book these two huge and incredible projects. You are an actor on Barry and then you are the creator, writer and executive producer of Bonding, which Netflix then subsequently bought.
We got into some festivals. We went to Cannes. No one expected that much. I’m sure we had an end. We got to go there and it was very thrilling to walk on the steps of the Pele. It was wild. I never expected any of this to happen, then Netflix bought the show. Maybe less than a year later, the show comes out. I’m a little bit of a diminished expectations person. You want things to go well, but you also want to be happy with where you are when you are there. Through the whole process, I was like, “I made it. That’s good. We’re going to Cannes.” Everything was the height of the height. It came out and it was a huge hit and I couldn’t believe it, which is so wonderful.
It’s also well-deserved because I love the show. I also appreciate that what you call diminished expectation is also living in the present and enjoying the moment and not just waiting for the next thing to happen because then what’s enjoyable about that?
That’s a beast I fight every day. I say that like I’m an expert at it, but I say that I’m an expert at trying it. Consciousness is maybe the word or state of being that I’m always in search of. It’s the present consciousness.You shouldn't be running a show if you are not willing to take criticism. Click To Tweet
I feel like you’re doing it. You’re on the road to being, doing and emulating all that good stuff. Barry has two seasons. The first season of Bonding was picked up by Netflix. It was a huge success.
We’re in talks to do more. Hopefully, that will all happen. We have more stories to tell and we have richer, deeper, more exciting things to discuss and talk about. I always say that the first season is like an entry point, a spoonful of sugar as it were.
I read some articles and I saw that you got some criticism from the BDSM community.
The dumb Twitter community. Tell me a new one.
They did, but your response to that was so bad as it was so calm. I don’t know what it was privately, but you welcomed it. You thought it was important to read everything that people’s comments and thoughts and maybe if there was going to be a next season that you would take on different opinions.
These things did happen to me. It’s a fictionalized show but a lot of these things did happen to me. In many ways, it seemed through my eyes so I can completely relate to them saying that that’s not their experience because it was mine. I never thought that the show would be on Netflix and be seen by millions of people, but that doesn’t matter. It matters that I put it out there in the world and that this conversation is happening and if I’m not responsible or adult enough to be able to say, “They’re not wrong,” and to say, “Wouldn’t it be great to further the conversation beyond my own perspective?” what an idiot I would be? At times, it was difficult to feel misunderstood, but then I had to say to myself, “This specific group of people or people that feel misunderstood all the time, they feel like I’m misrepresenting them and that is not my intention.” If that’s a result, then I have to be responsible for that. I don’t think in doing another season I can’t make everyone happy and I have to be able to go in and think about the story and the characters first and foremost because this is the show that we’ve created. At the same time, I shouldn’t be running a show if I’m not willing to take criticism.
It’s such an important show because it is the first of its kind that I’ve ever seen or heard of. Can we talk a little bit about your family? I don’t know your family. You went on a family vacation to Hawaii and I feel like I had maybe had my second kid. I was locked in my home with my child and I fell down a writer rabbit hole of watching your stories. I feel like stories were fairly new at that point. They were tiny snippets, 50 of them put together and I was riveted. They were hilarious, and at the end you were like, “If you’re still watching this, what’s wrong with you?” That was me. I don’t know what was wrong with me. Your family is incredible.
They’re lovely. My parents are Warren and Lori Doyle of New Orleans, Louisiana. They are truly exceptional, beautiful, wonderful people. They got married quite young. They had my brother and sister who are twins and then me and then my little brother Taylor. I’m right in the middle. The first thing I say about them is that we all graduated from different high schools and graduated from different colleges. It speaks to both of my parents. They said we grew up together and we were all very young together and whether you realize that or not, then you realize, “We want to you guys to be yourself.” They let us go where we wanted to go and pursue what we wanted to pursue. They’re truly incredible. They’re funny and they like to have a drink and have a good time.
Are you thirteenth generation?
That’s exactly right. I’m thirteenth generation New Orleanians. My nephews are fourteenth generations New Orleanians.
I feel like anybody needs to go to your Instagram because anytime you do post about your family, I love it. Your mom cropped you out of a picture. Your dad is so hot.
My parents are very sexy. Is that weird thing to say about your parents but I don’t think so because they are. I always say it’s rude for two attractive people to have children.
Your mom fully did crop you out though.
It’s like you make some kids and you’re like, “You guys can go to hell.” This is the expectation.
All of you guys are gorgeous because I’ve seen the family photos but I love that your mom’s so in love with your dad.
They love each other. We know how to deal with each other. When we went on that Hawaiian vacation, one of the things was the travel agent was like, “For the amount of money that you’re looking to spend on this beautiful Hawaii trip for her 60th birthday, you guys should stay at a house.” She’s like, “I’m never staying at a house with my family in Hawaii.” She’s like, “I could stay at a house in New Orleans and have these people ruin my life.” She would be around picking up towels and doing all the mom stuff. We stayed in hotels and the next part of it was we all stayed in different wings of the hotel. She’s like, “We’ll be over here. You’re over there, you’re on a different floor.” When we saw each other, it was happy times. It was the greatest trip ever. I tell everyone, “Tell your family to stay in different hotel rooms.” Whenever we saw each other we were like, “I love you.”
I felt that you did revert to whatever your roles were as children because your looks and some of the family photos were amazing. I feel like there was some eye-rolling.
I am a monster. I was the angry boy in my family. I ruined multiple lives.
I can relate to that because we’ve talked about this. I have some angry people in there. The one I forgot to ask you, and I don’t want to be sad about that, is when you shot the first season, you did everything on a shoestring budget on a tiny scale. You had very little time and you did everything. You wrote it, produced it and directed it. How was that working under pressure?
Working under pressure is great for me, but I never directed anything before. I was lucky to get the opportunity.
Did you ask for that?
Yes, I think in the negotiation thing they said he could direct three and I said, “I want to direct them all.” Not only will it be cheaper, but that’s what I want to do. If they do not say yes to that, then take the project back.
Did you? You weren’t bluffing.
No, I wasn’t. I had seen other people direct my work and not like they had done a bad job, but if I’m going to mess it up, let me mess it up. If I’m going to move home to live in my parents’ basement, can I do it on my own terms?
I love that you said that and that you weren’t bluffing.
They did it. The crazy thing is that we were talking before we came on that I felt very special as a child and that gets beaten out of you for all the right and wrong reasons. I’m not saying it’s totally bad. I felt very special and I felt I should be seen in a certain way. It didn’t come from the way that my parents treated me. It didn’t come from anything. I was born thinking this thing about myself. As one realizes that they have to be social in the world, humble and live a real-life, you decide to pack your special away a little bit and only bring it out when people are ready to receive. The crazy thing about directing was thatI know I can do this. It came from the same place that my little special box lives, which was I know that I was made do this. These years of having girlfriends, talking to actresses, all the jobs I thought I should have done instead of doing this stupid job. I should have been an interior designer. I should have been a stylist. I should have been a therapist. All these different things that I would say to myself all the time when this profession was very hard, they all culminated and added up to this one job, which is being a director. I’d never felt more like that little boy who felt very special than when I was doing that.
You got to unpack your special box.
It wasn’t even chasing the dragon of it. It was more of living in that thing and saying, “For now this is what was supposed to happen, and maybe later I’ll feel differently.” It was so wonderful to touch, like ET touch fingers with that.
I find that to be one of the most inspirational parts of your story because I can relate to that. I thought I was super special as a child. I don’t know why. You do have to put that away and be social and be humble.
Maybe we all do feel special, but that’s the sad thing. None of us are allowed to say it.
Maybe it’s when we can talk more about poop more openly. Maybe special suitcases will come out of everybody’s closet.
I feel like actors get to feel special a lot or entitled to some specialness because of what they ended up doing, but I didn’t feel that special as an actor. I felt very special when I was directing.
I think you’re special and great at it. Your cast is incredible. Thank you.
Thank you for having me.
I‘m so thankful to you for coming. Thanks, Rightor Doyle. You can watch Bonding, which is amazing. You can see him on HBO‘s Barry as Nick Nicholby. He’s hilarious and I can’t wait to see all the other things that you are going to bring out.
About Rightor Doyle