What happens when the only thing you have in common with your sibling is that you’re both gay?

That’s the crux of director Wade Gasque’s “Tiger Orange,” which will be screened at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema on Oct. 4 as part of the Out On Film festival.

The film stars Mark Strano (also a co-screenwriter) and Frankie Valenti as brothers who must face their differences during a time of upheaval. Many might know Valenti better as Johnny Hazzard, the popular former adult film star. This is Valenti’s feature film debut.

But don’t write off “Tiger Orange” as some farce starring a porn star as a gimmick. The film is a dramatic story showing what happens when two estranged gay brothers try to reconnect after the death of their father, and it’s getting solid reviews as it tours the festival circuit.

Variety lauded Valenti’s “fine performance” and rebutted naysayers, confirming, “Yes, he can act.” While The Hollywood Reporter raved, saying the film “may be best remembered for demonstrating the acting chops of [Valenti]” and that he “walks away with the film.”

The stars of 'Tiger Orange.' (publicity photo)

The stars of ‘Tiger Orange.’ (publicity photo)

In “Tiger Orange,” the character of Chet (played by Strano) is the more buttoned-up, responsible brother who never left his small central California hometown, while Todd (Valenti) is the tatted-up bad boy who left town as soon as he turned 18 and never looked back—until his father’s passing.

“He’s the one with the in-your-face kind of personality, he never hid who he was, he is out and loud and proud, much to the dismay of the townspeople and his brother,” Valenti tells the GA Voice.

But underneath that tough facade is a little boy lost.

“Todd’s always been searching for that sense of belonging and family and camaraderie,” he says.

Valenti scored the role thanks to a sizzle reel he put up on YouTube in hopes of landing a reality TV show.

“Mark had told me he was familiar with my previous body of work, no pun intended,” he says. “He came across [the sizzle reel] and got an idea of my personality and the way I carry myself and he said they were confident I had what it took. I think they had an idea from the get-go that they wanted me to do it.”

The budding actor found parallels between his life and that of his character’s life, which helped inform his decisions on set.

“My brother was not gay but we’re both very different. My father passed away very young, I left home as soon as I got pubic hair, I never told my father I was gay but he always knew,” Valenti says. “Just having that feeling from very early on that I didn’t belong with the family. It was much later in life that I got that feeling of belonging.”

Valenti has been too busy with his entrepreneurial projects (including a t-shirt line called SpitShine) and hitting the festival circuit with “Tiger Orange” to even begin playing the Hollywood game, saying he has no agent and hasn’t started going on auditions. But later this fall, he plans to get back to Los Angeles and, armed with a well-received film debut and an armload of great reviews, see if he can overcome the odds and make the rarest of acting transitions.

Tiger Orange
Followed by a Q&A with director Wade Gasque and
stars Mark Strano and Frankie Valenti
Saturday, Oct. 4 at 9 p.m.
Landmark Midtown Art Cinema
www.outonfilm.org

psaunders@thegavoice.com | @patricksaunders

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