Back in 1992, Ryan Phillippe helped break new ground in American television: At only 17-years-old, he played the first ever gay teenager on an American TV show, “Billy Douglas“, on the daytime soap One Life to Live.

Now, 25 years later, Ryan Phillippe talks about his groundbreaking role (which he played for two years), the fan mail he used to get, and the change his character made in people’s lives. And that wasn’t even Ryan’s only gay role…

Ryan Phillippe one life to live studio 54
Ryan on One Life To Live and 54 [Photos: ABC / Miramax]

When Ryan Phillippe was cast as Billy on One Life To Live, he didn’t even know he was going to play a gay character. At the time, gay characters were very rare on American television – and gay teenagers simply didn’t exist on the small screen.

Speaking with TooFab, Ryan recalls his early days on the show – long before shows like Will & Grace and Ellen.

“I remember the fan mail that we would get, my mother and I would get, from gay teenagers or from parents of gay teenagers who found a way in to relate to or talk to their child through the show

Entertainment media can do those things, it can make people think differently or see a different side of something and I do remember understanding and appreciating that – even back then when I was only a teenager myself.”

Watching Billy’s coming out scene now, 25 years later, it’s hard to understand how groundbreaking it was at the time – though many of the homophobic reactions of his father on the show haven’t changed much to this day.

“I didn’t have a full understanding of how important it could have been”, Ryan says, “But I’m proud to have done it.”

Watch the interview here:

Another scene from One Life to Live, shows Billy introducing his boyfriend, Rick, to his clueless father:

A few years later, in 1998, Ryan Phillippe portrayed a bisexual character in the movie 54 (known in some countries as Studio 54), alongside Mike Myers and Breckin Meyer. But any mention of his character’s bisexuality was deleted from the film in its final edit, and was only restored for a “Director’s Cut” DVD version years later.

When the deleted scenes were finally released, Ryan Phillippe was pleased, as the Huffington Post reported at the time – especially regarding his gay kiss scene with Breckin’s character, Greg.

“We did something that was relatively bold for two young male actors, and we took pride in the places that the original story went. So, it’s nice that people finally get to see Breckin and me kiss.”

You can see a low-quality of the deleted scene here: