TIME Television

Zombies, Aliens and Robots: The ‘Walking Dead’ Producer on Her Greatest Hits

Producer Gale Anne Hurd at "The Terminator" 30th Anniversary Screening on October 15, 2014 in Hollywood, California.
Producer Gale Anne Hurd at "The Terminator" 30th Anniversary Screening on October 15, 2014 in Hollywood, California. Albert L. Ortega—WireImage

The executive producer of 'The Walking Dead' talks about the making of the hit show, the 30th anniversary of 'The Terminator' and how 'Aliens' got its name

This post originally appeared on Rolling Stone.

When The Walking Dead premiered on Halloween 2010, long before it would become AMC’s most popular show to date, one name in particular stood out in the opening credits. It was not Robert Kirkman, the cult hero/comic-book writer whose graphic novels (created with Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard) gave the series its sickening, gory source material. It was not Frank Darabont, the filmmaker best known for directing The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and The Mist (2007) who would be Dead‘s first showrunner and help set its course. It would not even be one of the cast member’s names, as most of these talented journeymen actors would become famous via the show later on.

No, the name that would give those in the know pause was one of five listed executive producers on the show: Gale Anne Hurd. For genre-film fans, this was the credit that suggested this serialized tale of zombies and survivors might be more than a Sunday night lark. If you grew up watching The Terminator movies, if you ever ran around your front yard pretending to be Ripley or Vasquez or Corporal Hicks from Aliens, if you remember when superhero films were still considered pulpy pleasures instead tentpole collossi, if you still love that certain B-movie thrill, then you knew what this pioneering writer-producer’s name on a project meant. And as The Walking Dead became a gigantic hit, lost key creative team members and experienced growing pains, viewers would come to realize exactly how important her continued involvement would be. Showrunners would come and go. Hurd’s hand on the wheel not only kept things steady, it insured that someone who understood what the series was really about was helping to call the shots. “The title doesn’t refer to the walkers,” she says. “It refers to the survivors. That’s the key to the whole show right there.”

Speaking to Rolling Stone as she was getting ready to attend the Season Five premiere in Los Angeles (“I’m literally trying to get into my dress as we’re talking, so my apologies in advance”), Hurd talked about where The Walking Dead had been and where it was headed, the 30th anniversary of the film that established her as a producer — the original Terminator — and how she and then-husband James Cameron turned the sequel to Alien into a template for blockbuster sci-fi action flicks.

MORE: The 10 Best ‘Walking Dead’ Episodes

Let’s go back to the very beginnings of The Walking Dead. Zombies were already prominent in pop culture, but not on TV. What made you think these comics would work as a series?
Anyone who’s read Robert Kirkman’s books can tell you that the story he’s telling…it’s not really about the zombies, or what you need to do to survive a zombie apocalypse — thought you will pick up some tips on that, definitely. [Laughs] They exist to ask a certain question: What does it mean to be human? More specifically, can you maintain your humanity in a world where there is essentially no civilization left, no law and order left? The zombies were simply a way to raise the stakes for the characters in a way that wasn’t, you know, “They are trying to survive in a warzone, they’re experiencing something that people actually went through.” I mean, you could not tell this story if it was set during a real war — it would be genuinely horrible! But you set it in a world beset by zombies, and look at these issues in a situation that could never possibly happen…

So you say!
I think it’s a pretty safe bet that this will remain a work of fiction [laughs]. I was impressed by the way Robert had set it up without losing the key questions behind everything. That, more than anything else, was what drew me to this.

Why not adapt it into a movie, then?
The idea that these characters were all on a journey, one which didn’t really have an end in sight — that meant something longform. That didn’t mean two hours. Frank Darabont, Robert Kirkman and I all shared a vision of doing this in a way that wouldn’t rush things and wouldn’t be camp. Thankfully, when we brought this to AMC, they didn’t want to turn this into something silly either. They were committed to taking something that might seem preposterous but playing it very straight, and very, very real.

Did the fact that the show was hugely popular right out of the gate surprise you? Horror TV shows have traditionally been cult hits, not pop-cultural phenomenons — so you can’t really chalk it up to genre.
I’ve thought about this a lot. I think it’s this sense we all have that each and every one of us is dancing on the edge of some sort of abyss. I think social media and the Internet has made every global catastrophe feel like it’s right next door. Whether it’s civil war, an Ebola epidemic , a tsunami, global financial collapse — we now get this news immediately, and it feels as if it’s happening right next door to us. So our characters are in the worst of all possible worlds — a world which, as I said, any one of us is very unlikely to encounter. But the moral and ethical dilemmas they face…we can all identify with those right now. You know, “What would I do if everything collapsed around me?” I think that struck a chord with everybody.

So it’s the moral and ethical dilemmas that keep people tuning in, you think?
If you go on social media after an episode airs, you’ll find a small percentage of people talking about the “kills” — and a large percentage of people talking about the choices and decisions these people had to make. We took a risk in doing an episode like “The Grove,” in which we had a character, Carol, who had grown to love these surrogate daughters — and then had to do something absolutely horrible. When we went on Twitter or Facebook once the episode had aired, we had no idea what to expect. And what we got was a lot of people admitting that they’d cried. That, and a lot of discussions over “What would you have done in that position?” It generated discussions like that for days afterward. They responded to the human element, not the fantastic elements. It made me think, “Okay, this is doing what it’s supposed to be doing. This is still working.”

MORE: No Guts, No Glory: The Rise of Gross-Out TV

There have clearly been a lot of behind-the-scenes changes that have gone on around the show, all of which have been widely reported. In a lot of ways, however, The Walking Dead seems to be very much the same show four seasons in that it was when it started. How has you managed to maintain a sense of consistency when so much was in flux?
[Pause] You know, the great thing about television is that it’s a collaborative medium. So, you absolutely have a showrunner — but you’ve also got a writer’s room, and you have a certain core of our actors have been there since the very beginning. The cast…they know who their characters are, and they would call bullshit if that changed.

It’s not like a movie where sometimes a sequel is really a remake, or it’s a complete reinvention. The world is the same, and you have to put any kind of upheaval aside and say, “You know what? We’re still telling Robert Kirkman’s story.” There is very much a universe, and as long as we stay within that universe and we work with people who embrace and understand that universe, it’s going to remain fairly consistent.

So what can you tell us about Season Five?
[Laughs] Ah, right. Well…we left our characters split up. Beth is gone; we assume she’s been kidnapped. We’ve got Carol and Tyreese with Baby Judith, separated from the rest of the group; we’ve seen a number of people reunited in the worst of all possible circumstances. And we’ve seen Rick come full circle to…it doesn’t matter how tough or bleak the circumstances, he’s embraced that mantle of leadership again. He’s no longer “Farmer Rick.” He’s, excuse my language “don’t-fuck-with-me Rick.”

So they’re in a fairly precarious position when we see them again, and it’s a question of who will get out of this situation and who won’t. There will also be a number of new characters getting introduced — some from the comics, and some not.

That was very deftly played. You managed to do that without really giving anything away.
I have to choose my words very, very carefully, here [laughs].

This year marks the 30th anniversary of The Terminator, which you co-wrote and produced. What do you remember about making it?
Oh God, I remember it all!

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
[Laughs] Good question. You have to remember, both Jim [Cameron] and I worked for Roger Corman at the time. Jim’s first movie was Piranha II: The Spawning for Roger; had he not directed that, there would be no Terminator films! So Roger was the first person we took the script to, and I’m paraphrasing, but he said something along the lines of “I really don’t think you want to do this for me. You should do this for someone who will actually give you a budget.” [Laughs] Even he could see that this was not a quickie, do-it-for-no-money film. He was nice enough to know when someone had outgrown working with him, and that was the point when he basically told Jim and I, you should fly the coop with this.

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Was there a moment when you realized that this would not be something that would just play on the back half of a drive-in double bill, and that it would have life 30 years later?
Oddly enough, it was the guy who was on the financial side of things, this industry veteran named Lindsley Parsons, who caught on very early that this would work. Actually, he saw a rough cut that didn’t even have any of the effects in there, and he still said, “This is going to be a classic.” We thought he was nuts. But that was what we needed to hear, because everybody else looked at it and called it a down-and-dirty exploitation film that they were embarrassed to have been involved in. It’s funny though, that the money guy is the one who had the greatest passion for it and protected us. He was there to make sure the interest of the bond company was represented, and when certain people were coming to take the film away from us, he was the one that threatened to post guards outside the editing room’s doors so we could finish cutting the movie. You just don’t get those kinds of ballsy individuals anymore.

You said in 2003 that The Terminator would not have been made in this day and age. Do you still think that’s true?
We could if we still made it for $6.4 million, sure [laughs].

Really? Because if you look at how the Comic-Con demographic has completely taken over mainstream culture, it actually seems like you get this made in a heartbeat today.
You have to realize that most people underestimated the fact that, once the quality of the entertainment based on genre books and and comic books had the production value and the talent to make them A-picture quality, the audience would show up. Most people in the industry looked down on genre stuff in a condescending way until the one-two-three punch of 2001, Jaws and Star Wars hit within a decade. And even then, it still took a while.

As someone who’s always loved genre movies, it’s an exciting time, but the fear — my fear — is that it’s going to be nothing but tentpole movies based on pre-existing material. So 30 years later, yes, people want to remake the Terminator movies. If it hadn’t been something people already knew, however — it doesn’t matter that sci-fi movies are now accepted. It wouldn’t get made.

So Aliens would get made today, but the Terminator wouldn’t?
Probably, yeah. But the funny thing is, in terms of Aliens…this was a time when people weren’t really making sequels, certainly not like they are now. What happened was, we were all set to make The Terminator, but Dino De Laurentis had Arnold [Schwarzenegger] under contract to make a sequel to Conan the Barbarian. So we knew we were making the movie, but we weren’t going to start for a year. In that time, Jim took a couple of writing assignments — one of which was Aliens, though it wasn’t called that yet.

The story, and it may or may not be apocryphal, was that Jim went into a pitch meeting with the studio executives and the first thing he said was “I am not making another gothic sci-fi film; I’m making a combat movie.” Then he walked up to a white board in the room, wrote “Alien” — and then added a dollar sign to it.

Alien$.
Exactly! That’s how he came up with the name. [Pause] Again, no idea if it’s true, but I’ve heard this story so many times from so many people, including Jim, that, you know…print the legend! [Laughs]

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TIME celebrities

Martin Short’s Big Fat Funny Autumn

Actor Martin Short during the 52nd New York Film Festival on October 4, 2014 in New York City.
Actor Martin Short during the 52nd New York Film Festival on October 4, 2014 in New York City. Jim Spellman—WireImage

The dynamic comedian talks about his 'Mulaney' role, the joys of working with Paul Thomas Anderson and his famous last words

This post originally appeared on Rolling Stone.

Martin Short is having a bit of a moment. His memoir, I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend, is out in November, and he’s earning huge buzz for playing a drugged-out dentist in the upcoming Paul Thomas Anderson film, Inherent Vice. Right now, you can see him on Mulaney, the new Fox sitcom starring stand-up comic John Mulaney. Short plays Mulaney’s boss, Lou Cannon, a narcissistic TV game-show host who comes on to female guests and obsesses over how his eventual death will be covered on TV. “He’s a moron with power,” says Short, 64. “Those people are my specialty.”

It’s surprising that it’s taken you this long to become a regular on a sitcom.
Actually, my first job in America was a small role on a James L. Brooks sitcom called The Associates [in 1979]. It didn’t last a season. Then I was on another sitcom called I’m a Big Girl Now, which was about a think tank in Washington – but then, suddenly, by episode 12, we’d become a newspaper. No explanation whatsoever.

SCTV came soon after that, and SNL a little while later, so I found myself doing stuff that was either a late-night show or, eventually, the movies. At a certain point when you’re not struggling for rent money, you have the luxury of keeping yourself intrigued by something. The idea of being a regular on a series felt limiting; you know, you’re on a TV show every week, and that’s what you do. The eclectic nature of being able to do a sketch show and then a movie and then go out and do live shows with Steve Martin for a bit — that intrigued me.

However, Lorne Michaels, who I have a huge amount of respect for, called me up and said “You know, I know you’ve never really done something like this before, but John [Mulaney] is a great guy and I think you want to be part of this.” Once I met John, I got what he was saying. It made perfect sense. The voice of that show is very specific.

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How would you describe Lou Cannon?
Lou can’t comprehend why people wouldn’t be constantly thinking about what’s most important in life – which is Lou and his well-being.

I think you’ve just described 90% of people in show business.
Oh, absolutely.

Is the character based on anyone in particular?
President Harry Truman. [Laughs] Oh, I don’t know. Every character I’ve done has been based on one or two specific people, but then they’re colored by many, many other folks. It’s the same with Lou. He’s more of a type.

But you know, I do have famous friends who I’ve sat with over the years, and they’ll go on and on about themselves for so long that — since you tend to drift when these conversations take place — I wonder what they would think if they saw a transcription of this exchange. I think they’d be stunned. It’d be me going “Uh-huh” and then pages and pages of them droning on. [Pause] That’s my long-winded way of saying I’m not telling.

He’s essentially sort of a descendant of Jiminy Glick [the preening, clueless fake talk-show host Short played on Primetime Glick], who once said, ”You know, the problem with Charlie Rose as an interviewer is that he listens.” Lou would agree.

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You originally came up with Glick when you were doing an actual talk show, right?
It was a syndicated talk show, and I wanted to create a celebrity interviewer who could go to junkets and looked nothing like me, so that people literally wouldn’t recognize it was me. Since my show was being broadcast at all sorts of different hours, including during the day, I thought, Well, I’d better take a look at daytime TV and see what it’s like. These were the pre-Ellen days, mind you; Rosie [O'Donnell] was on, and that was cool. But other than that, it was mostly people with large staffs and huge budgets who had no business being on TV whatsoever. To me, the notion that they’d be terrifying to the people who worked for them and that there would be some production assistant who’d be scared that they’d messed up someone’s tuna-fish sandwich order made me laugh. That’s where Glick came from.

You’ve got a busy fall: There’s your memoir, and you’ve got a small role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice.
If you ever have a chance to play a horny, swinging, coke-snorting dentist, you really have to take it. I was expecting Paul to be this brooding auteur, but he’s really a regular guy. He likes doing fast takes, and lots of them. I’d improvise something and he’d say, ”That’s great, Marty, do some more of those.” ”You sure it’s not too big, Paul?” ”Nah, nothing is too big!”

He keeps a very relaxed, cool vibe on his sets, which is something he and Mulaney have in common. You have some actors where they need the World War III of it all to be creatively juiced; unnecessary tension stifles my creative instincts. I just find that to be such pretentious bullshit. But those guys aren’t like that at all. They keep it loose. The best stuff happens that way.

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SNL is coming up on its 40th anniversary. Do you have fond memories of your time on the show?
I was on during the Dick Ebersol years – or the George Steinbrenner years, as we called them, since that was when he brought in a bunch of players who were already well-known and gave us one-year contracts. You’ll get horror stories from some folks, but I was treated like a prince.

My situation, of course, was very different. Having just come out of doing SCTV for three years, there was a part of me that really wasn’t sure whether I wanted to jump back in to something like that. Dick called me up and said “We’d love to have to have you on the show for the next year, along with Billy Crystal and Christopher Guest.” I thought, well, they certainly aren’t going to do it, so I said “Hey, as soon as they agree, phone me, Dick!” I figured I was safe until they’d called a press conference announcing those guys had joined, so I jumped aboard at the last minute.

Since I knew I was only going to be there for a short time, I treated every show like a stand-alone TV special. I drove myself crazy, putting all this pressure on myself, so it was like final exams every week. That’s my only regret, that I didn’t enjoy it a bit more or be a little more open to the idea of staying for a few seasons and seeing what I could have done with it more.

Is there a surefire way to get a laugh?
You know, I had done some stage work in the Seventies and was a funny guy at parties but having to come up with it on demand? But as I watched a bunch of my friends go to Chicago when Second City opened up a sister company in 1973 — people like John Candy, Eugene Levy, Gilda [Radner], Danny [Aykroyd] — and thought, well maybe I could do that. It still took me four years to join them, of course.

But what I quickly leaned was that it was usually the reaction that got a laugh. The fact that you could have a drycleaner sketch and you could say “I cleaned your stain out, mister” — and if you said it right, you could get a laugh. When I first played Ed Grimley at Second City, I’d stick his hair straight up to try to make [scene partner and Danny's younger brother] Peter Aykroyd laugh. Then the audience laughed too. So, basically, a funny look is a surefire way to get a laugh. That, and falling down.

Lou’s ideal last words are “I did it for the laughs”. What would yours be?
Something more practical: ”Pass me a tissue,” maybe. ”Could you hold this for just a second?”

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TIME Music

Kanye West Co-Writer Says New Album Is ‘Like a Pair of Timberlands’

Kanye West
PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 28: Kanye West attends the Celine show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Spring/Summer 2015 on September 28, 2014 in Paris, France. Pascal Le Segretain—Getty Images

G.O.O.D. Music veteran Malik Yusef tells us rapper has "20 finished songs" for 'Yeezus' follow-up

This post originally appeared on Rolling Stone.

When Chicago songwriter-rapper-poet Malik Yusef released his 2003 debut album The Great Chicago Fire – A Cold Day in Hell, he paired his friend Common with then-fledgling rapper/producer Kanye West on the track “Wouldn’t You Like to Ride.” Since then, Yusef has been a quiet yet essential part of West’s sound, becoming the second signee to West’s G.O.O.D. Music and picking up multiple Grammys for his work on West’s 2011 hit “All of the Lights.”

In July, Yusef released a “deconstructed” version of his 2009 second album G.O.O.D. Morning, G.O.O.D. Night with extra tracks and additional guest features. Now, he’s focused on helping West finish his Yeezus follow-up. “Yeezus was a hard album to work on because it was a departure from where I wanted to be with our music,” Yusef tells Rolling Stone. “Kanye was very declarative in his statement of ‘I don’t want this to be a regular Kanye album. I don’t want this to be what people are familiar with.'”

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Asked to describe the new album, Yusef says, “This album is different. It’s like a pair of Timberlands; like how Timberlands are not quite leather and not quite suede. It’s not the smooth, slick Chicago music sound we have right now and it’s not the ruggedness of just ‘hip-hop hip-hop hip-hop.’ We’re still working like a motherfucker. We’ve been all around the world [recording].”

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Yusef would not divulge any titles (“Your favorite title may not even make it on the album”), but says that West has “20 finished songs.” The musician claims that recording with West this time around has been smoother than Yeezus. “We fought over Yeezus every day,” he says, laughing. “There was no friendly disagreements. It was definitely a war. It’s ‘I don’t give a fuck, Malik. It’s a Kanye album, not a Malik Yusef album.’ Kanye’s kicked me off the label eight times.”

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Last month, musician Theophilus London posted a picture of himself and West that indicated he’d heard the LP. “I only remember Kanye playing his new album three times in a dark room of 20 people last night and moshing drunk with mad babes haha,” he wrote. London would later tweet that the album remained unfinished.

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In July, West told GQ that he hoped to release his new album “most likely in September,” but no later than the end of the year. “I was thinking [the record] could somehow come out in June, like Yeezus, and just kill it for the summer,” he said at the time. “But then I’m like, I have to work on Adidas and be with my child.” A two-minute, lo-fi leak of West’s first single “All Day” leaked in August, but it was quickly taken down.

TIME Music

Pink Floyd Roll Out Plans For The Endless River, First LP in 20 Years

Roger Waters In Concert At Stade De France
Roger Waters performs at Stade de France on September 21, 2013 in Paris, France. David Wolff - Patrick—Redferns via Getty Images

"'The Endless River' is a tribute to Rick Wright," says Nick Mason. "His playing was at the heart of the Pink Floyd sound"

This post originally appeared on Rolling Stone.

After months of rumors, Pink Floyd have finally announced the details of their new album The Endless River, which hits shelves on November 10th. It’s the group’s first new release since 1994’s The Division Bell. According to a press release, The Endless River is a “four-sided instrumental album,” though one track, “Louder Than Words,” has lyrics by David Gilmour’s wife Polly Samson. It was produced by Gilmour, Phil Manzanera, Youth and Andy Jackson and is available for pre-order right now.

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The project began with Gilmour and Floyd drummer Nick Mason sorting through music they recorded with keyboardist Rick Wright (who died in 2008) during the Division Bell sessions. “We listened to over 20 hours of the three of us playing together and selected the music we wanted to work on for the new album,” Gilmour said in a statement. “Over the last year we’ve added new parts, re-recorded others and generally harnessed studio technology to make a 21st century Pink Floyd album. With Rick gone, and with him the chance of ever doing it again, it feels right that these revisited and reworked tracks should be made available as part of our repertoire.”

Adds Mason: “The Endless River is a tribute to Rick. I think this record is a good way of recognizing a lot of what he does and how his playing was at the heart of the Pink Floyd sound. Listening back to the sessions, it really brought home to me what a special player he was.”

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Pink Floyd quietly disbanded in late 1994 at the conclusion of their worldwide stadium tour in support of The Division Bell. They reformed with Roger Waters for a four-song set at Live 8 in 2005. The following year, Gilmour went on a solo tour that featured Richard Wright on keyboards. (Waters played a handful of gigs with Mason around the same time.) Gilmour and Mason joined Waters at a 2011 stop on his The Wall Live show in London, but have consistently shot down any talk of a reunion tour. Waters has no involvement with The Endless River and the group hasn’t announced any plans to support the disc with any live work.

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Here is a complete track listing for The Endless River:

SIDE 1
1. “Things Left Unsaid”
2. “It’s What We Do”
3. “Ebb and Flow”

SIDE 2
1. “Sum”
2. “Skins”
3. “Unsung”
4. “Anisina”

SIDE 3
1. “The Lost Art of Conversation”
2. “On Noodle Street
3. “Night Light”
4. “Allons-y (1)”
5. “Autumn’68″
6. “Allons-y (2)”
7. “Talkin’ Hawkin'”

SIDE 4
1. “Calling”
2. “Eyes To Pearls”
3. “Surfacing”
4. “Louder Than Words”

TIME

No Guts, No Glory: The Rise of Gross-Out TV

Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) - The Walking Dead - Season 4 _ Gallery - Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC—nk Ockenfels 3/AMC

From primetime network shows to premium cable prestige-TV hits, we've entered a golden age of small-screen gore

This post originally appeared on Rolling Stone.

Maybe you started to notice it last March, when AMC’s The Walking Dead featured a zombie’s head gets bashed in repeatedly by the butt of a machine gun. Perhaps it was during a key episode of Game of Thrones when the Red Viper, Oberyn Martell, unwisely lets his guard down in a fight — and the result is something that resembles a ripe melon given the Gallagher treatment. Or it could have been the moment on FX’s pandemic procedural-cum-horror show The Strain when an airport worker is drained of blood and skull-pummeled until there’s nothing left but a red blotch of punctuation on the floor.

And those are just the heads.

On television shows built for old-fashioned scares (NBC’s Hannibal, Showtime’s Penny Dreadful) and on those aiming for a little more prestige (Steven Soderbergh’s new Cinemax series The Knick, HBO’s The Leftovers), scenes of stomach-turning gross-out shocks are increasing. The Knick‘s surgery scenes are a must-avoid for the squeamish. And on The Leftovers, an often bleak show got even more grim with a close-up depiction of a stoning in its fifth episode, which caused a TV critic at Entertainment Weekly to quit watching.
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For most, though, these scenes are far from a turn-off. Some of the grossest shows on television are both adored and acclaimed: The Walking Dead’s previous season premiere was the most-watched hour of cable television ever with 16.1 million viewers, with a separate SportsCenter-style after-show — Talking Dead — devoted to replaying zombie kills like game highlights. HBO’s Game of Thrones,which regularly pushes the boundaries in both nudity and violence, was nominated for 19 Emmy nominations for its fourth season, which also featured a grisly death by poison and many body parts hacked away in battle scenes. Even the critical hit Breaking Bad, a much milder show than the aforementioned programs, featured a visceral scene involving bodies after they’d been dissolved in hydrofluoric acid and the severed head of Danny Trejo memorably riding atop a tortoise.

Alan Sepinwall, an author and TV critic at Hitfix.com, says he’s noticed an uptick in gore-as-spectacle in the shows he covers. “I’ve been doing a lot of traveling by airplane lately,” Sepinwall says, “and it’s been much harder than usual to find screeners of things I can watch without grossing out the person in the seat next to me. I think the effects are easier to pull off [now], but I also think it’s a way to get attention. Whether you think The Walking Dead tells its stories well or not, whether you think the characters are compelling or not, no one disagrees about how creative, memorable and graphic the zombie kills are,” he said.

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On The Strain, based on a trilogy of novels co-written by filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, the infected vampires are not the shimmery, pretty lovers of Twilight. Rather, they’re disgusting, sickly, noseless predators with six-foot proboscises shooting out of their mouths to seek blood. Del Toro, who directed the show’s pilot and is hands-on in its production, says he is used to playing in what he calls “closed sandboxes” after years of making movies that required conforming to a PG-13 rating (Pacific Rim) or the limits of an R (Pan’s Labyrinth). But he says as far as gore and violence, he’s not reined in by the TV network.

“FX was very clear about frontal nudity, and what profanities you could or couldn’t use,” Del Toro says. “But when it came to graphic violence, they just said to me, ‘Do whatever you feel you need and we’ll support you as far as we can.’ They never set a limit.”

The director says his approach to the program’s gore was partially inspired by the 1970s series Kolchak: The Night Stalker, which once aired an episode with a rotting corpse attacking gangsters. “It was very realistically rendered,” says Del Toro. “It looked like a decomposing corpse. I was absolutely floored as a kid. So now, I’m trying to imagine being a teenager and getting together with my friends to watch The Strain when I’m thinking of what to do on the show.”

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Before the series debuted in July, its marketing campaign was already disturbing some: Namely, the giant billboards showing a parasitic worm digging in to an eyeball in extreme close-up. FX pulled the ads; Del Toro called it truth in advertising. “I think people who reacted wrong to the billboards shouldn’t watch the show,” he says. “It’s not for everyone. It’s a show that’s fun if you like the genre.”

“There was a scene in the books, however, that was just too shocking (to include in the series pilot),” Del Toro admits sheepishly. “Worms were crawling over a victim’s legs and digging into the legs and going a little upward and digging in. I said, ‘That’s too much. We cannot do that.’ That would have crossed the boundaries of fun.”

One reason gore has become more pronounced on shows like these is that the makeup and computer effects necessary are easier to pull off and cheaper than in the past. Even on a TV budget, showrunners and producers are working to make a big-screen impression. “We’re trying to push the look of the series to look far more expensive than it is,” Del Toro says. “We now have cutting-edge makeup effects, cutting-edge digital effects. We couldn’t have done it 10 years ago.”

MORE: The Best TV of 2014 So Far

Given that so much of the golden age of television is crimson-tinged and popular shows like the CSI and NCIS shows on CBS keep multiplying like flayed rabbits, it may be that viewers, weaned on the icky examinations of procedurals and premium-cable boundary-pushing, have not only grown accustomed to the shocks and splatter-film excesses of today’s gore-filled shows — they now expect and crave such leave-nothing-to-the-imagination thrills.

“I don’t think (viewers) are getting blasé about it, but it’s definitely something they look forward to,” says Sepinwall. 
Gross sells, and given that The Knick and The Strain have already been renewed for second seasons (the latter stayed above 2 million viewers per week after five episodes, making it a breakout hit for FX), not to mention that further seasons of The Walking Dead and Game of Thronesare waiting in the wings, there should be no shortage of guts and glory hitting your TV screen soon.

Prepare your stomach.

MORE: The Rise of ‘The Walking Dead': TV’s Goriest Show

TIME movies

Heroes and Villains: Love & Mercy‘s Paul Dano on Playing Brian Wilson

Variety Studio Presented By Moroccanoil At Holt Renfrew - Day 4 - 2014 Toronto International Film Festival
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 08: Actor Paul Dano attends the Variety Studio presented by Moroccanoil at Holt Renfrew during the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2014 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Variety) Jonathan Leibson—2014 Getty Images

The star of the Beach Boys singer's biopic talks about madness, genius and the joys of singing 'Surf's Up'

This article originally appeared on Rolling Stone.

The guy in the short-sleeved, striped button-down shirt certainly looks happy enough, playing the bass alongside his brothers and relatives, watching the kids dance to his band’s hits about girls and cars and surfing. But something is clearly troubling the Beach Boys’ singer-songwriter and resident musical genius Brian Wilson, and in the film Love & Mercy, the epiphany that will give birth to both creative heights and a descent into dark times is communicated in a few facial expressions. There’s the silent look of dread on Wilson’s face, as hears the crowd roaring and a cacophony of voices in his head starting to get louder. And then, a few scenes, later, there’s the sheer excitement and optimism beaming from his smile when he tells his band mates to head to Japan without him. “I’ll stay behind in the studio,” he says. “When you guys get back, I’ll have some great sounds for you.”

Credit Paul Dano, the slim young actor best known for playing the mute, moody teen in Little Miss Sunshine and the fire-and-brimstone holy roller in There Will Be Blood, for selling not just those key scene-setting moments but the sensation that, over the next two hours, you’re watching one of the 20th century’s greatest musicians find his mojo and lose his mind. Flipping between two timelines — the heyday of the Sixties and the late Eighties, when an older Wilson (John Cusack) was still under the thrall of Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti) — Love & Mercy allows viewers to watch the troubled singer come back into the light. It’s Dano’s version of the Pet Sounds-era Wilson, all guileless grins and anything-goes excursions into bold new territory, that gives the movie its heart and soul.

Rolling Stone spoke to Dano right after the movie’s world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, about the difficulties of playing Wilson, why he waited to meet the man and the joys of singing and playing “Surf’s Up.” (Roadside Attractions will release the film in the U.S. in 2015.)

MORE: Brian Wilson’s Girl-Powered LP: In the Studio With the Beach Boy

On a scale of one to “I own several Smile bootlegs,” how much did you know about Brian Wilson prior to getting involved?
I’d thought I knew something about Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys…you know, you hear the music everywhere, you read a few articles, the usual stuff. I knew the songs that everyone knows and knew that Brian had lived a troubled life. But it wasn’t until I read the script that I realized the extent of this guy’s struggle; it was a real “holy shit” moment [laughs]. The first thing that really struck me about his story was not just that he eventually came to this place where he could live a more stable life, but that throughout this whole ordeal, he still wanted to make music that made people smile and help them heal. I wanted to spend time with that guy.

So I just started immersing myself in all things Brian — listened to everything I could, started reading through his biographies, just hunted down everything I could find. I just thought it about night and day. It was in the bloodstream even before I even had the part.

How long was it before you met him?
Quite a while — because I didn’t want to seek him out right away. I wanted to hold off on meeting him for as long as I could, because he’s a much different person now then he was during the Pet Sounds era, and I was really intent on channeling that particular person. I wanted to form my own impression first. You hear the energy in his voice during those Sixties session tapes, and it’s like, let me see how I can get close to that first.

Brian is in the music. It might sound weird to say this, but I felt like the truest sense of who this guy was, and is, can be found in the songs. I wanted to really learn how to listen to him first. Plus I was learning how to play the piano and sing, and that was going to take a while. I’m not kidding, playing and singing to those songs he wrote made me feel much closer to him than meeting him early on would have. I’m glad I got to know him that way before I got to know him personally.

So that’s you playing and singing in those scenes?
Most of them, yeah. I played and sang “God Only Knows” live on the set when we filmed. My second day of filming, I had to perform “Surf’s Up” over and over. It remains one of the best days I’ve ever had a film set. Have you ever tried to play that song, by the way? It’s incredibly hard. Thankfully, we only did two minutes of it, and not the whole thing, but it’s tough. I simplified a lot of the left hand work on the piano. Brian’s left-hand work is pretty complicated.

MORE: In Pics: The Beach Boys Through the Years

As for the rest of the actors singing….
Look, you’re not going to get five guys that sound like the Beach Boys! We would be the first to tell you that. The harmonizing in the studio scenes are where you start to hear a lot of blending going on. There are a few scenes where you hear me start a line of a song and by the end of the session, you’re hearing Brian’s vocals. I have to give credit to the sound people, the transitions are really smooth; you can’t tell that one half of it is the real thing and one half is me faking it, so I thank those guys a lot [laughs].

You did eventually spend some time with him, right?
Yeah, it came to a point where I thought, I’ve done all I can do on my own…I’d like to meet him, if I could. That man — he has some fairy dust [laughs]. The man is an an angel. He’s touched, in some indescribable way. My initial idea was, What can I draw from him that will help the performance? But when I actually met him, I just wanted him to feel comfortable around me. You know, “Hi, I’m Paul. I’ll be one half of the duo bringing your life to the screen.” You don’t want to go in with hawk eyes with Brian.

The only questions I asked him were around a few instances where I couldn’t quite figure out the truth of the matter. I asked him a number of things about Mike Love; it’s interesting, because for as much turmoil as that relationship had, there was a lot of affection and respect there. It was just very mercurial — and a relationship that echoed things with his dad and with Eugene Landy. I had a lot of trouble sympathizing with Mike, to be honest. You read the biographies, and it’s like, Fuck this guy! But after I talked to Brian, I saw that he still has a lot of love for his cousin. So it did change things in terms of how I played those scenes.

MORE: The 10 Best Rock Biopics

The movie does not paint a very good picture of Mike Love.
A lot of people have said we were too gentle with him, actually.

When you were asked at the premiere’s Q&A about playing the scenes of Brian losing his mind, you had an interesting answer.
Yeah. The idea is not to play a character as if they’re “crazy”; you play it as if it’s someone who’s trying to ignore the fact they’re losing their mind and is putting on a brave face. It’s a little like how some actors describe playing “drunk,” you know? To be honest, it was harder to find a way to play the more innocent, everyday moments. It’s easy to play childish, but tough to play childlike — which is what Brian is. He seemed genuinely surprised by everything, even when he was coming up with these songs that had all these elements he was hearing in his head. There was a lot of “Oh, wow, a glockenspiel, cool!” [Laughs] He was very present tense. That aspect was a lot of fun to play.

What do you hope fans get out of the film?
Personally, I hope they feel that we captured even the tiniest bit of the energy that he has. I mean, fans know his story; they undoubtedly have a good idea of what he’s gone through in his life, how he suffered and was exploited, how he finally found peace in his life. And if they love his music, they certainly have a sense of who he is as an artist. But I hope the movie leaves them with a sense of compassion. More than anything, that’s what I got out of this. I’ve never told him that, but I’m sure he’d be happy to hear it.

MORE: The 40 Greatest Rock Documentaries of All Time

TIME Music

22 Things You Learn Hanging Out With Taylor Swift

2014 MTV Video Music Awards - Roaming Show
INGLEWOOD, CA - AUGUST 24: Singer Taylor Swift performs onstage during the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards at The Forum on August 24, 2014 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by MTV/MTV1415/Getty Images for MTV) MTV/MTV1415—Getty Images for MTV

From why she doesn't take sexy selfies to why she dances at awards shows, here's what didn't fit into her third Rolling Stone cover story

This article originally appeared on Rolling Stone.

We followed Taylor Swift for days, getting all the details on her pop coming-out party, 1989 — and learned a little about living under the constant eye of the paparazzi to boot. Here’s 22 facts from the co-author of “22” that couldn’t fit into this issue’s cover story, from why Lena Dunham thinks she’s a little bit like a 90-year-old to why it’s impossible to keep a steady romantic relationship.

She has money in her blood.
Swift’s mom, Andrea, was working as a mutual-fund wholesaler in Philadelphia when she met Swift’s dad, Scott, who was a client. “They met in a meeting, and he asked her out,” Swift says. “He had this farm 40 minutes outside of Philly, and he was throwing this big hoedown, and she came, and that’s where they fell in love.” As a girl, Swift wanted to be a stockbroker like her dad; she and her brother also took sailing and horseback riding lessons — “just in case we were put in a time machine and had to live in the 1800s.”

She used to get drunk and cry about Joni Mitchell.
“When I first started drinking — when I was like 21 — I used to cry about Joni Mitchell all the time after a few glasses of wine,” Swift says. “All my friends would know, once I started crying about Joni Mitchell, it was time for me to go to bed.”

She actually does curse from time to time.
Although Swift has cultivated a pretty G-rated image, in private she’s just like anyone else. At one point she’s playing some rough demos of a few new songs on her iPhone when she pulls up one co-written with Ryan Tedder. Swift is playing the piano and hits a wrong note when she blurts out, “Fuck!” Blushing, the real-life Swift immediately attempts to cover the speaker on her phone.

MORE: The Reinvention of Taylor Swift: Rolling Stone’s Cover Story

She co-wrote Lena Dunham’s future wedding song.
As a bonus track on her new album, 1989, Swift co-wrote a song with Jack Antonoff of fun., who happens to be her pal Lena Dunham’s boyfriend. Antonoff describes it as having “a very ‘Secret Garden’ Springsteen vibe.” According to Dunham: “Jack and I have a lot of existential and political issues with marriage. But if we ever do get married, there’s no fucking way Taylor is not playing that song.”

She lives in the house Frodo Baggins built.
Earlier this year, Swift moved to Manhattan, where she bought a pair of adjoining Tribeca apartments for a reported $20 million. The building dates back to 1882, when it was built as a warehouse for a sausage dealer — she likes the way it feels like a farmhouse in the city, with lots of wood beams and exposed brick. The apartment was previously owned by Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, but Swift says she didn’t have to change very much. (“They have really great taste in paint colors.”) She did, however, find a new use for one walk-in closet: “Now it’s my greeting-card writing room!”

She’s surprisingly proud of being able to do splits.
Hanging on the wall in Swift’s new apartment — near dozens of Polaroids of Swift’s family and friends — is a photo of her doing splits. “I was the kid in elementary school who could never do them,” she explains. “So it was a big goal of mine.” In order to pull it off, she spent four months stretching every single day. “It was really hard and painful,” she says. “No one could understand why it was so important to me.” But in the end, it was all worth it. As she says: “Take that, elementary school insecurities.”

She took her grandma’s style.
Also hanging in Swift’s apartment is a photo of her maternal grandmother, Marjorie Finlay, an opera singer in the Fifties who was a dead ringer for Swift. “I’ve taken after her in ways I really didn’t see coming,” Swift says. “We have the same nose. We both like to dress up. And she loved to entertain: At her parties, she would get up and sing for her friends.” Her grandma also took Swift to see her first musical, a children’s production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, when she was 10. “I started doing kids’ musicals, because I loved seeing these kids up there singing and acting,” she recalls. “It affected me more than I realized.”

Don’t expect to see her at the club anytime soon.
Swift’s idea of a big Saturday night is watching Titanic at home with her cats. “We’re both a little bit like 90-year-olds,” says Lena Dunham. “If we’re feeling really crazy, I can get her to go to a furniture store.”

Despite the rumors, Swift says she and Selena Gomez never had beef.
Last August, the gossip press reported that Swift and her pal Gomez weren’t on speaking terms because of the latter’s involvement with Justin Bieber. Not true, says Swift. “People think they have my relationships all mapped out. There were all these blogs, like, ‘Are they feuding? Are they fighting?’ Meanwhile Selena and I would be on the phone that night, laughing about it. We let them have that one.”

She’s not a fan of sexy selfies — or of flaunting it in general.
“I don’t Instagram pictures of myself for people to be like ‘Wow, that looks really sexy,'” she says. “I take pictures of cute kittens, or when the ocean looks nice, or of a funny sign I saw in an airport.” This philosophy extends to sexiness IRL as well: “I like a more classic look,” she says. “I always go back to Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. Red lipstick and a winged eyeliner — I think that looks nice.”

MORE: In Pics: The 10 Best Taylor Swift Songs

She has a simple trick for surviving the paparazzi.
When it comes to the paps, Swift has two simple rules. “You just make sure your skirt is down, and you make sure you don’t give them a terrible eating shot,” she says. The second one is hard for her: “I’m incapable of telling when food is on my face. It’s like I don’t have nerves in my skin. So if I get, like, a heinous piece of chocolate on my face, please let me know. I won’t be offended.”

If you ever spot her in public, go ahead ask for a picture.
“I’m totally cool with human interaction,” says Swift. “I’m not scared of strangers. I don’t walk around with bags over my head.” All she asks is that you come up and ask, instead of trying for a sneak pic. “Everyone always says the same thing when they get called out: ‘I was not!'” she laughs. “But it’s like, yeah, you definitely were! As a human being who’s been dealing with this for eight years, I know when someone is taking a picture of me.”

She’s a very thoughtful gift-giver.
“The amount of baked goods and needlepoints I’ve gotten from Taylor cannot be counted,” reports Jack Antonoff. She’s baked him multiple batches of cookies (including pumpkin and oatmeal raisin), and she’s made Dunham a button collage and a cross-stitch of a cat. She was also the first person to give the couple a housewarming present when they moved into their new apartment. It was a taxidermied moth.

But she’s never ordered anything from Amazon.
“I’ve never ordered anything from Amazon. But my brother does all the time.”

She’s grown a little disillusioned with love.
There’s a song on the new album in which Swift takes a fatalist view of romance. “I think the way I used to approach relationships was very idealistic,” she says. “I used to go into them thinking, ‘Maybe this is the one — we’ll get married and have a family, this could be forever.’ Whereas now I go in thinking, ‘How long do we have on the clock — before something comes along and puts a wrench in it, or your publicist calls and says this isn’t a good idea?'”

MORE: Taylor Swift’s 10 Countriest Songs

And she says it’s almost impossible for her to maintain a relationship.
When it comes to dating when you’re a celebrity, Swift says, “you do feel a little bit like you got run over by a truck. You’ll be riding in the car with someone and all of a sudden it comes on the radio that he bought you a diamond ring and he’s going to propose. And you look at him and go, ‘…that’s not true, right?’ And he says, ‘No that’s not true!’ Can you blame me for wanting less of that?”

When it comes to breaking up, Swift is a rip-off-the-Band-Aid type.
“Once you’ve established that someone doesn’t belong in your life, I don’t understand what more there is to talk about,” she says. “I walk away from things when they’re bad. I don’t stick around to watch them burn to the ground.” She says when she decides a relationship has “become toxic,” “I’ll just check out. Stop communication. I don’t want to scream and yell at someone and give them the opportunity to say I’m crazy, or that I went psycho,” she says. “No one will ever be able to say I went psycho on them.”

Although she’s had plenty to say about her exes, she’s not sure what they’d say about her.
“If you turn on a tape recorder, they’d say nice things,” she says. “But you never know what they’d say in a regular conversation.”

She’s never been in love.
“Looking back? Not real love. Not the kind that lasts. I think that’s still ahead of me — which is really exciting.”

MORE: Trace Taylor Swift’s Country-to-Pop Transformation in 5 Songs

She gets very excited about animals.
During one afternoon spent walking in Central Park, Swift freaks out about animals at least four times. First comes an encounter with some snapping turtles, whom she wants to feed but can’t. (“I’ll get in trouble with PETA.”) Then there’s a bumblebee that tries to land on her head. (“Have you ever gotten stung by a bee? I can’t remember if you’re supposed to stay still or keep moving.”) A little while later, she spots some ducks in a pond. (“Ducks!” she says. “Are those babies, or are they teenagers?”) And finally, there’s the appearance of a quintessentially New York rodent. “A mouse!” she squeals happily, before being informed that it’s actually a rat. Swift laughs: “Do you feel like you’re hanging out with a six-year-old a little bit?”

Speaking of age: She knows she sometimes comes off like a 24-year-old tween.
“I think there’s an interesting lag-time on emotional growth for me,” Swift says. “Because I write my records a couple of years before I put them out, I’ve always seemed two or three years younger than I actually was.” That said, having gotten famous singing about fairy tales and crushes, she wary of growing up too fast, because “there’s always gonna be an eight-year-old in the front row. Always.”

Besides — she likes feeling like a little kid sometimes
“I think you have to do things that make you geek out like you’re a kid again, or else you just become one of these 45-year-old 24-year-olds,” Swift says. “That’s why I dance like I’m having fun at awards shows, even though no one else is. Because being cool usually means being bored by everything. And I’m not bored by any of this.”

TIME Music

6 Things We Learned From the New Bob Dylan Tell-All

17th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards - Show
Bob Dylan performs onstage during the 17th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards held at The Hollywood Palladium on January 12, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Christopher Polk—2012 Getty Images

Longtime road manager Victor Maymudes spills about the night he introduced the Beatles to pot, his relationship with Joan Baez and much more

This article originally appeared on Rolling Stone.

Not many people get close to Bob Dylan, but Victor Maymudes – who was Dylan’s road manager in the mid-Sixties and again from 1986 to 1996 – certainly did. Maymudes died in 2001, but he left behind hours of interview tapes, which his son Jacob has turned into a revealing new memoir, Another Side of Bob Dylan. The book, which hits shelves this week, traces their entire time together, from the coffee house days in Greenwich Village to their legendary cross country road trip in 1964 to the madness of the Never Ending Tour in the 1980s and 1990s. Here are six things we learned from the book.

MORE: In Pics: The Evolution of Bob Dylan

The night Dylan met the Beatles was kind of awkward.
Maymudes provides one of the most complete accounts of the famous summit, at the Beatles’ New York hotel on August 28th, 1964. “Bob tried to roll a joint and it fell to piece in his hands,” Maymudes says, “scattering pot over a bowl of fruit sitting on the table.” Victor took over and rolled the joints himself. That helped liven up the party, but Dylan, who’d been drinking, passed out on the floor within an hour. “The following morning, Paul came up to me and hugged me for 10 minutes,” says Maymudes, ‘and said, ‘It was so great, and it’s all your fault because I love this pot!'”

Dylan quit drinking in 1994.
“He just stopped on a dime,” Maymudes says. “He didn’t talk as much once he stopped and he didn’t laugh as loud either. It was a really big deal for him and really showed his commitment to changing his behavior. He was capable of dealing with a broader range of personalities when he was drinking and after stopping, his tolerance for certain types of behavior diminished. Bob lost a bit of self-esteem when he sobered up, became little more introverted and a little less social.”

MORE: In Pics: Bob Dylan Through The Years

George Harrison was pissed off about Dylan’s 30th-anniversary concert in 1992.
The all-star show at Madison Square Garden was widely believed to be for charity. It was actually for profit. “Harrison was so angry, he made T-shirts with dollar signs on them and sent them to me and Bob,” Maymudes says. “George also got in trouble with Olivia, his wife. She tracked the last number he dialed on the hotel phone to a limousine company that I had arranged for him to use to send a limo for a girl he was involved with. When Olivia blew up over that, I found myself in the middle of the confrontation.”

Victor was there when the legend cut Another Side of Bob Dylan in one amazing night.
“He had never sang the songs in front of anybody before [that night],” Maymudes says. “He just blurted it out, like electricity building up in a capacitor, and then shooting out, he had packed it all inside himself and let it explode. I was in a daze.”

MORE: Rolling Stone’s 10 Greatest Bob Dylan Songs

Joan Baez was no pushover.
Maymudes was shocked when Dylan married Sara Lownds. “I asked him, ‘Why Sara?!'” Maymudes wrote. “‘Why not Joan Baez?’ He responded with, ‘Because Sara will be there when I want her to be home, she’ll be there when I want her to be there, she’ll do it when I want to do it. Joan won’t be there when I want her. She won’t do it when I want to do it.'”

During downtime on his 1989 tour, Dylan went out to see Tim Burton’s Batman.

There aren’t many more details available, but it raises many questions. Was Dylan upset by the film’s exclusion of Robin? Did he dig the Prince songs? Was he bummed out when Val Kilmer took over as Batman in 1995? Has he seen the more recent Dark Knight trilogy? How about The Avengers?

MORE: In Pics: The 10 Worst Bob Dylan Songs

TIME LGBT

The Forsaken: A Rising Number of Homeless Gay Teens Are Being Cast Out by Religious Families

While life gets better for millions of gays, the number of homeless LGBT teens — many cast out by their religious families — quietly keeps growing

This article originally appeared on Rolling Stone.

One late night at the end of her sophomore year of college, Jackie sat in her parked car and made a phone call that would forever change the course of her life. An attractive sorority girl with almond eyes and delicate dimples, she was the product of a charmed Boise, Idaho, upbringing: a father who worked in finance, a private­school education, a pool in the backyard, all the advantages that an upper-middle-class suburban childhood can provide – along with all the expectations attendant to that privilege.

“There was a standard to meet,” Jackie says. “And I had met that standard my whole life. I was a straight-A student, the president of every club, I was in every sport. I remember my first day of college, my parents came with me to register for classes, and they sat down with my adviser and said, ‘So, what’s the best way to get her into law school?'”

Jackie just followed her parents’ lead understanding implicitly that discipline and structure went hand in hand with her family’s devout Catholic beliefs. She attended Mass three times a week, volunteered as an altar server and was the fourth generation of her family to attend her Catholic school; her grandfather had helped tile the cathedral. “My junior year of high school, my parents thought it was weird that I’d never had a boyfriend,” she says, “so I knew I was supposed to get one. And I did. It was all just a rational thought process. None of it was emotionally involved.”

After graduating, Jackie attended nearby University of Idaho, where she rushed a sorority at her parents’ prompting. She chose a triple major of which they approved. “I remember walking out of the sorority house to go to Walmart or something, and I stopped at the door and thought to myself, ‘Should I tell someone I’m leaving?'” she says. “It was the first time in my life where I could just go somewhere and be my own person.”

In fact, it took the freedom of college for Jackie to even realize who her “own person” was. “Growing up, I knew that I felt different, but when you grow up Catholic, you don’t really know gay is an option,” she says. “I grew up in a household that said ‘fag’ a lot. We called people ‘fags,’ or things were ‘faggy.'” Her only sex-ed class was taught by a priest, and all she remembers him saying is, “‘Don’t masturbate and don’t be gay.’ I didn’t know what those words meant, so I just hoped to God that I wasn’t doing either of them.”

When Jackie got to college, the “typical gay sorority encounters” she found herself having didn’t seem to qualify as anything more than youthful exploration; she thought all girls drunkenly made out with their best friends. By her sophomore year, she was dating a fraternity brother but was also increasingly turned on by a friend she worked with at the campus women’s center. “I was just playing it off as ‘So maybe I’m just gay for you – I mean, I don’t have to tell my boyfriend’ kind of thing,” she says. “I knew what I wanted, but it was never something I ever envisioned that I could have on a public level.” And yet, as her friendship with this woman turned physical and their relationship grew more serious, Jackie saw her future shrinking before her: a heterosexual marriage, children, church and the knowledge that all of it was based on a lie. “I honestly thought my whole life I was just going to be an undercover gay,” she says, shaking her head in disbelief.

For better or worse, that plan was never to be. Toward the end of her sophomore year, Jackie got a text message from one of her sorority sisters who said she’d been seen kissing another girl, after which certain sisters started making it clear that they were not comfortable around Jackie. (“You’re living in the same house together,” she says, “and, of course, to close-minded people, if somebody’s gay, that means you’re automatically interested in all 80 of them.”) Eventually, she went before her chapter’s executive board and became the first sorority girl at her college to ever come out, at which point she realized that if she didn’t tell her parents, someone else would. “I was convinced somebody was going to blast it on Facebook.”

So while Jackie hoped for the best, she knew the call she was making had the potential to not end well. “You can’t hate me after I say this,” she pleaded when, alarmed to be receiving a call in the middle of the night, her mom picked up the phone.

“Oh, my God, you’re pregnant” was her mom’s first response, before running through a litany of parental fears. “Are you in jail? Did you get expelled? Are you in trouble? What happened? What did you do?” Suddenly her mom’s silence matched Jackie’s own. “Oh, my God,” she murmured in disbelief. “Are you gay?”

“Yeah,” Jackie forced herself to say.

After what felt like an eternity, her mom finally responded. “I don’t know what we could have done for God to have given us a fag as a child,” she said before hanging up.

As soon as the line went dead, Jackie began sobbing. Still, she convinced herself that her parents would come around and accept her, despite what they perceived to be her flaw. As planned, she drove to Canada to celebrate her birthday with friends. When her debit card didn’t work on the second day of the trip, she figured it was because she was in another country. Once back in the States, however, she got a call from her older brother. “He said, ‘Mom and Dad don’t want to talk to you, but I’m supposed to tell you what’s going to happen,'” Jackie recalls. “And he’s like, ‘All your cards are going to be shut off, and Mom and Dad want you to take the car and drop it off at this specific location. Your phone’s going to last for this much longer. They don’t want you coming to the house, and you’re not to contact them. You’re not going to get any money from them. Nothing. And if you don’t return the car, they’re going to report it stolen.’ And I’m just bawling. I hung up on him because I couldn’t handle it.” Her brother was so firm, so matter-of-fact, it was as if they already weren’t family.

From that moment, Jackie knew that she was entirely on her own, that she had no home, no money and no family who would help her – and that this was the terrible price she’d pay for being a lesbian.

MORE: The Hidden War Against Gay Teens

Jackie’s story may be distinctive in its particulars, but across America, it is hardly unique. Research done by San Francisco State University’s Family Acceptance Project, which studies and works to prevent health and mental­health risks facing LGBT youth, empirically confirms what common sense would imply to be true: Highly religious parents are significantly more likely than their less-religious counterparts to reject their children for being gay – a finding that social-service workers believe goes a long way toward explaining why LGBT people make up roughly five percent of the youth population overall, but an estimated 40 percent of the homeless-youth population. The Center for American Progress has reported that there are between 320,000 and 400,000 homeless LGBT youths in the United States. Meanwhile, as societal advancements have made being gay less stigmatized and gay people more visible – and as the Internet now allows kids to reach beyond their circumscribed social groups for acceptance and support – the average coming-out age has dropped from post-college age in the 1990s to around 16 today, which means that more and more kids are coming out while they’re still economically reliant on their families. The resulting flood of kids who end up on the street, kicked out by parents whose religious beliefs often make them feel compelled to cast out their own offspring (one study estimates that up to 40 percent of LGBT homeless youth leave home due to family rejection), has been called a “hidden epidemic.” Tragically, every step forward for the gay-rights movement creates a false hope of acceptance for certain youth, and therefore a swelling of the homeless-youth population.

“The summer that marriage equality passed in New York, we saw the number of homeless kids looking for shelter go up 40 percent,” says Carl Siciliano, founder of the Ali Forney Center, the nation’s largest organization dedicated to homeless LGBT youth. A former Benedictine monk-in-training, who once went by the nickname Baby Jesus, Siciliano had spent years living in monasteries and serving in shelters run by the Catholic Worker Movement before his own sexuality inextricably came between him and his institutional faith. “I ended up just feeling like the Catholic Church was wack,” he says. “Cardinal O’Connor [the archbishop of New York at the time who once said if he was forced to hire homosexuals, he would shut down all of the Catholic schools and orphanages in the diocese] was like the arch-homophobe of America.” Siciliano was working at a housing program for the homeless in the Nineties when he noticed that his clientele was getting younger and younger. Until then, he says, “you almost never saw kids. It was Vietnam vets, alcoholics and deinstitutionalized mentally ill people.” But not only were more kids showing up, they were also disappearing. “Every couple of months one of our kids would get killed,” Siciliano says. “And it would always be a gay kid.” In 2002, he founded the Ali Forney Center, naming it after a homeless 22-year-old who’d been shot in the head on the street in Harlem, not far from where the organization’s drop-in center currently resides. Siciliano had been close with Forney and felt that had he had a safe place to go, he might be alive today.

Since founding the center, Siciliano, 49, has become one of the nation’s most outspoken homeless advocates. “I feel like the LGBT movement has been asleep at the wheel when it comes to this,” he says, running his hands through his closely cropped hair and sighing. “We’ve been so focused on laws – changing the laws around marriage equality, changing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ getting adoption rights – that we haven’t been fighting for economic resources. How many tax dollars do gay people contribute? What percentage of tax dollars comes back to our gay kids? We haven’t matured enough as a movement yet that we’re looking at the economics of things.”

Siciliano also understands that the kids he works with don’t sync up with to the message everyone wants to hear: It gets better. “There is a psychological reality that when you’re an oppressed group whose very existence is under attack, you need to create this narrative about how great it is to be what you are,” he says. “It’s like, ‘Leave the repression and the fear behind and be embraced by this accepting community, and suddenly everyone is beautiful and has good bodies and great sex and beautiful furniture, and rah-rah-rah.’ And, from day one of the Stonewall Riots, homeless kids were not what people wanted to see. No one wanted to see young people coming out and being cast into destitution. It didn’t fit the narrative.”

Jackie knew well what her parents thought of homosexuality, but she still held out hope that maybe over time her family would come around. With the last of her cash, she bought a bus ticket back to campus, where within a few weeks she defaulted on her rent. She started couch surfing and persuaded the women’s center to let her work through the summer for $6 an hour, 10 hours a week. “I mean, it was crap money, but it was something,” she says. “I didn’t tell anybody the situation I was in. I didn’t tell anybody I was hungry every day. I didn’t tell them I didn’t have a place to stay, because I thought this was my punishment for being gay and I deserved it.” She’d ask friends to crash overnight, lying about being too drunk to go home. If that fell through, she’d spend nights in study rooms on campus. She found herself dating women simply to have a bed, which she admits was neither “healthy nor permanent.”

In the upheaval that had suddenly become her daily existence, Jackie felt that she had to cling to something constant; she chose her education. The day after returning to campus, she went to the financial­aid office to ask for the help she’d never before had to seek, appealing to the university to gain status as an independent student. Though she did eventually receive tuition assistance, Jackie says, “You’re not meant to be homeless and a student. I learned really fast how to pretend to not be poor. I learned that if I had a couple of nice things to wear, nobody would notice that you wear them all the time. Or if you are a sociable person, people don’t notice that you’re never actually buying drinks. You just sort of figure it out.”

She was soon taking any job she could get: on campus, in town, even picking up the odd construction shift. “I would do anything I could for money,” she says. She finally pieced together enough funds to get a room in an apartment, but she couldn’t afford furniture. To hide her penury, she never let anyone in her room. Even being around other gay people was sometimes difficult, a reminder that though “they had committed the same ‘sin,’ their parents loved them,” she says. “They got to go home for the holidays. I had these moments when I would say, ‘I did everything right. I excelled in all the right ways. So why me?’ That hurt really bad. I mean, how do you explain to people that your parents chose not to parent you anymore?”

At times, it felt like more than Jackie could bear, and in these moments of doubt and despair she wrote her mother and father countless letters and e-mails begging them to be her parents again. “I wanted to take it all back so badly,” she says. “I was just like, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean any of it.'” They eventually responded: If she went to a conversion therapist and tried to be straight, they would at least help her financially. At first, she agreed. “But I couldn’t do it,” she says now, four years later, in a city hundreds of miles away from where she imagines her parents still live. “I wanted to be their kid, but I couldn’t change. Everyone I’d ever known my whole life cut ties with me. But this was who I am.”

MORE: One Town’s Extremist War Against Gay Teens

Growing up in a small Midwestern town, the son of a divorced Latina who worked three jobs, James would have felt like an outsider even if it weren’t for his sexuality. His hometown was the kind of all-American, cornfed place where “on every street corner you’d find a church” and where “the football players, if they knew you were gay, would call you a fag and tell you to suck their dick, or try to get you to bend over.” Already sidelined for being a minority, James, 20, says he “was terrified of being branded the gay kid.” In fact, he was so afraid that he suppressed an effervescent personality and kept to himself. When an openly gay classmate gave him a love letter, James was too scared to act on the impulses he’d felt for as long as he could remember. “So I just flipped out on him. I wasn’t ready for that.”

The same kind of fear kept James silent at home, where his mom cycled through religions: first Catholic, then Pentecostal (“die-hard Pentecostal”), then Jehovah’s Witness, and then back to Catholic once she met James’ stepfather. Though James never told his mom he liked other boys, her views on the matter were abundantly clear – “It was disgusting, sick, adding to the end of the world” – and she must have suspected. “At one point, and I was right there,” he says, “my mom actually told this lady that she loved all of her children besides me.”

Nevertheless, he worked up the courage to secretly start dating someone he’d met while waiting tables, and when he accidentally left his phone at home one day, his mom searched through it and found a picture of them kissing. “That was the day it really got serious,” James says of the fallout with his family. “When I came home, she accused me of being a whore and told me I’d die of STDs. She made my brother move out of the room that we shared. I guess she thought it was a disease or something, that I would give him the gay. Like, I’d touch him and he’d automatically be gay.”

Shortly after James graduated from high school, his mom told him that her home was not open to “people like you.” He grabbed a bag and followed her orders. “I was like, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do this, I don’t know where I’m going,'” he says. “‘But at some point, it has to get better.'” He decided to get as far from home as he could. “I hitchhiked – 18-wheelers, anybody who would give me a ride. I knew it was dangerous.” He was in Florida before he felt like he’d gone far enough to stay put, though the only place he could find to sleep was an abandoned lot. “It used to be an old bus station,” he says, shrugging. He lasted three penniless weeks alone there, collecting rainwater to drink and going hungry. “For the first week, you’ll be like, ‘I’m dying of hunger,’ but after a while you don’t feel it anymore.” He finally got in touch with a friend who lived in Atlanta, and ended up staying in the friend’s car until they heard about a shelter called Lost-n-Found Youth, which had been started specifically for the large influx of homeless LGBT kids who travel from the surrounding red states to one of the South’s most liberal cities.

As James (who has asked me to change his name so he would not be identifiable to his family) is telling me this, he’s covered in dust and plaster particles from renovation work on the rambling old Victorian that Lost-n-Found has been able to lease for $1 a year. One day, the house will be able to give shelter to 18 homeless youths – a day that cannot come nearly soon enough for Rick Westbrook, a kindly 51-year-old with a serious Southern drawl. Along with two friends, Westbrook started Lost-n-Found in a small but cozy home he rented using donated funds, after learning that LGBT youth were frequently being turned away at local shelters.

Westbrook, known to his charges as “Mama Rick,” says this has been due to discrimination: In one survey, approximately one in five LGBT youth were unable to secure short-term shelter, and 16 percent could not get assistance with longer-term housing – figures that were almost double those of their non-LGBT peers. However, it’s clear that funding is also a problem. The U.S. government spends more than $5 billion annually on homeless-assistance programs, yet federal laws allocate less than five percent to homeless children and youth specifically (though some money also makes its way to them through more generalized programs under agencies like HUD and the Department of Labor). Most of the dedicated funds are allocated through the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), which expired last September. “This is the first time it has not been reauthorized on time since 1988,” says Gregory Lewis, executive director of Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors Fund, who is working with Congress to ensure that RHYA will include a nondiscrimination clause. Currently, Lewis tells me, “there are no legal federal protections in place to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in RHYA programs.” At one residential placement facility in Michigan, LGBT teens were made to wear orange jumpsuits to “warn” other residents about their sexuality.

Since 2002, when President George W. Bush issued an executive order that permitted faith-based organizations to receive federal support for social services, an increased amount of federal funding has gone to churches and religion­affiliated organizations where LGBT youth may not feel welcome. The biggest provider for homeless youth in the country is Covenant House, an organization based in New York and a shelter where LGBT teens have historically faced harassment. “The gay kids would routinely get bashed there,” Siciliano tells me. “In the Nineties, one of the first kids I had go there came back and said he would never go back. When I asked why, he said they put him in a dorm with 14 kids, and when they went to bed, they gathered around and urinated on him to show how much they hated having a gay kid there.”

Yet to have even landed a bed at Covenant would have taken some luck. In New York, a city with nearly 4,000 homeless youth, there are only around 350 spots in youth shelters, and less than a third of those spots are designated for LGBT kids, despite their disproportionate share of the homeless-youth population. (And considering that many homeless youth may not openly identify themselves as LGBT when seeking services, many providers believe that the estimate of 40 percent may be far too low.) Across the country, there are only 4,000 youth-shelter beds overall, while an estimate derived from the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrownaway Children put the number of homeless minors at 1.7 million. “We’ve actually thought about creating a handbook: This is what to look for in a decent, abandoned building to stay in,” says Westbrook ruefully. “If we don’t have the space for them, as an activist, it’s the next logical step: Give them information.”

While reserving beds for LGBT youth might at first seem like segregation, providers have often found that it can be difficult to ensure a safe space otherwise – and that creating a safe space can have a very discernible effect. James’ roommate Hannah (unlike most shelters, Lost-n-Found does not separate rooms by sex, making it much easier for trans kids to assimilate) was in and out of shelters all over the Atlanta area for more than three years after she was kicked out by a mother who had adopted her at age two because she’d always wanted a girl, and then rejected her when Hannah proved not girlie enough. “She read me Scripture about how people who have sexual sin would not enter the gates of heaven,” Hannah, a zaftig African­American, says, frowning. When that didn’t seem to have an effect, “she takes a knife and puts it right here” – Hannah points to her neck – “and says she will kill me, that she hates me and regrets adopting me.” Hannah was 20 and just back from a Job Corps training program when she found a policeman at her bedroom door telling her she had to leave, that her mom no longer wanted Hannah under her roof. Her stepfather gave her $20 on the way out. While driving her to a bus stop, the cop told her how sorry he was.

Over the next three years, Hannah cycled through shelter after shelter. The weeks, and sometimes months, when she couldn’t find a bed, she slept on the street, often outside the Day Shelter for Women, where she could at least get warm meals and a shower, even if she also found maggots in her hair. Living like that, it was impossible to imagine going to a job interview, especially after she lost her birth certificate and high school diploma when a worker at a shelter accidentally cleaned out her locker. She sold pot to make money and considered prostitution, a way many homeless women she knew got by. “I was very tempted,” she tells me. “Like, I had a guy say, ‘I’ll give you $100 if you do what I tell you to do.'” Hannah knew $100 was enough money to put herself up in a hotel for a couple of nights, but she says, “I could never see myself doing it.”

It wasn’t until she finally got off the waitlist at Lost-n-Found that Hannah began to see there might be a future for herself as a nonstraight woman – a revelation that Westbrook assures me is not uncommon. “Just in the two years we’ve been up and running,” he says, “there’ve been several kids we’ve run into who have been through every single system in town, but for some reason, they did not thrive. Other caseworkers had told us, ‘Good luck with him or her. We did all we could.’ These kids are now either in college or in an apartment of their own. The minute you bring them into a program like ours, where they’re with people like themselves, they don’t feel like they’re outnumbered, they don’t feel oppressed. They blossom.”

Hannah still sometimes feels like she’s “burning in hell.” She still wonders if “my life’s always been horrible because I like girls.” But since she started staying at Lost-n-Found, things have definitely shifted. She no longer sleeps with a knife under her pillow or worries about being kicked out of a shelter for her sexuality. She has a steady job with UPS, LGBT friends who accept her and a small safety net of savings to get her own apartment one day soon. “I’m not scared no more,” she says. “I don’t have to worry about people beating on me. It has been 100 percent better.”

MORE: The Transgender Crucible: A Homeless Trans Teen Who Became a Folk Hero

For LGBT kids who remain homeless, the stakes are clearly life and death. They are seven times more likely than their straight counterparts to be the victims of a crime, often a violent one. Studies have shown they are more than three times more likely to engage in survival sex – for which shelter is the payment more often than cash. They are more likely to lack access to medical care, more likely to attempt suicide, more likely to use hard drugs and more likely to be arrested for survival crimes. According to the Equity Project, leaving home because of family­ rejection is the single greatest predictor of involvement with the juvenile-justice system for LGBT youth. And for so many of these outcomes, the clock starts ticking the moment a kid hits the streets. “We know we have 24 to 48 hours to get to them before they do anything illegal – whether it’s selling drugs, stealing or prostitution,” says Westbrook. “It’s a survival thing. In America, we lose six queer kids a day to the street. That’s every four hours a queer kid dies, whether it be from freezing to death or getting the shit beat out of them or a drug overdose. This is our next real plague.”

In fact, the ability to cope and handle homeless life may be significantly diminished in children who have grown up in very sheltered, religious environments. “It sounds so paradoxical, but the kid who’s been abused and neglected from childhood, in this very perverse way, they’re ready for the trauma that’s to come on the streets,” says Jim Theofelis, executive director of the Mockingbird Society, an advocacy organization for young people impacted by homelessness and the foster-care system, which does not always effectively screen for family acceptance before placing an LGBT youth. “But queer youth who grew up in a family where they were taken care of, and there was ice cream in the freezer at night, they face an extra challenge of really not being prepared for the culture of the streets or the foster-care system.”

That so many once-coddled youth choose this lifestyle over remaining at home is a testament to how horrifying familial rejection can be – and a phenomenon youth advocates refer to as being not “kicked out” but rather “edged out.” “The greatest gift my family ever gave me is driving me to the train station,” says Luke, 20, a soft-spoken son of a Pentecostal preacher who grew up in a backwoods part of Tennessee so remote that the closest town had less than 2,000 people and was 20 miles away. His only neighbors were a great-aunt and great-uncle, and because he was home-schooled until the second grade, after which his education ceased altogether (“My family didn’t approve of the things they taught at school, like science and sex ed”), he would go whole months at a time without seeing anyone outside of his family and the members of his church. He attended services at least three times a week, participating in faith healings and speaking in tongues. His dad performed exorcisms at home; once Luke realized that the feelings he had for men meant that he was gay, he was terrified that an exorcism would be performed on him. “It’s their belief that they can see auras or tell when people are lying, so I was always scared that everyone would be able to figure out my sexuality that way,” Luke says. “I prayed all the time that they wouldn’t. It was all just demon possession. That’s how they thought all gay people were, just possessed.” When the issue of gay rights would come up on the radio, Luke’s father would say in disgust, “They should gather all the gay people together and just kill them.” When Luke finally worked up the nerve to come out to his mother, she told him, “If you want to live, don’t tell your dad.”

But by then, Luke wasn’t sure he did want to live. He felt so depressed that he rarely left his room. He started having panic attacks. When a friend he’d made online told him that he couldn’t possibly stay in his situation any longer, he knew it was true. But he also knew that he didn’t have any skills, any education, any money or anywhere else to go. That’s when his friend sent him a $300 train ticket to Portland, Oregon, and told him about a youth shelter called Outside In. Luke told his family he was leaving, and though they warned him about how scary it was in the outside world, they didn’t stop him.

For Luke, the outside world has in fact been scary. During his three-day train ride to the West Coast, he barely left his seat except to change trains in Chicago, where Union Station was filled with more people than he’d ever seen in his life. Once he got to Portland and secured a shelter bed, he was so shy that he couldn’t speak above a whisper. “There were a lot of heroin users, a lot of meth and weed,” he says. “I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this, because I’m used to being around church people.'” Nevertheless, the time away from his family has helped him begin to accept the reality of his sexuality. “I’m free now, and I can be how I want, and that’s not wrong at all. It’s a struggle at times, but I’m getting there.” On the day we spoke, Luke had been homeless for almost a year. “It’s definitely been the best year of my life,” he says.

On Palm Sunday this past April, Carl Siciliano wrote an open letter to Pope Francis that was published as a full-page ad in The New York Times. “Your Holiness,” it began, “I write to you as a Roman Catholic, a former Benedictine monk and as a gay man who has spent over 30 years serving the homeless.” It then went on to explain how the papal stance on homosexuality tears families apart and to beg the head of the church – which disregards biblical passages on atrocities like slavery and genocide – to see that the time has come to reconsider a teaching that yields “such a bitter harvest.”

Of course, the bitter harvest begins long before a child ends up on the streets. When Ben, the youngest son of a Baptist minister from New Hampshire, asked his mother at age nine what the word “gay” meant, he didn’t realize that the answer she gave would describe his own feelings – or that those feelings would, from that moment on, impact his emotional development. “She explained what it was and told me that it was an abomination,” Ben tells me in the sunny group-therapy room at the Ali Forney Center, which he ran away to at age 17. “It was like telling a nine-year-old that they are broken. I remember being on the kitchen floor just crying, praying to God for him to make me normal. That’s how I looked at it: ‘If it’s this bad for me to be this way, why did God make me? I wish I were dead.'” When Ben finally did come out to his parents at age 16, they sent him away to a Christian school across the country and began to explore reparative-therapy options, all of which reinforced the idea that he was terribly flawed, so much so that “the people closest to me thought I needed to be changed, fixed.”

The problem is, running away, as Ben did, may deliver youth from their parents’ judgment, but not from that of God – whom more than half of the youth I spoke with said they still believed in – and once on the street, the psychological trauma that’s inherent in this deeply internalized shame often plays out to their detriment. And yet, as hard as it might be to imagine conservative faiths backing down from their demonization of homosexuality, it can be equally hard to get activists to address the issue. “LGBT­advocacy groups don’t want to talk about religion,” says Mitchell Gold, founder of Faith in America. “One, they don’t want to come across as anti-religion. And two, they just aren’t familiar with it. But the number-one hurdle to LGBT equality is religious­based bigotry. The face of the gay-rights movement shouldn’t be what I call ’40-year-old well-moisturized couples.’ The face of the gay-rights movement should be a 15-year-old kid that’s been thrown out of his house and taught that he’s a sinner.”

Of course, even when it’s a large factor, religion often isn’t the only reason a child leaves home. Many stories include poverty, addiction and abuse; the intricate workings of a family’s dynamic can be impossible for an outsider to understand or parse. But it becomes so natural to vilify parents who’ve abdicated­ their duties or alienated their kids that it is often forgotten how very hard it can be to change one’s worldview in the face of deeply ingrained religious beliefs. “It’s easy to see kids as victims and parents as perpetrators,” says Caitlin Ryan of the Family Acceptance Project. “But most parents would not want to make a Sophie’s choice between their faith and their child. These are parents who have been given misinformation for years.”

Nevertheless, more than 40 percent of the agencies responding to the LGBT Homeless Youth Provider Survey do not offer services that address family conflict. When Child Services got involved with Ben’s case, as the law requires of homeless minors, they initially wanted to send him home. And his parents wanted him back: Under their own roof, they would have been able to control his contact with the secular influences they felt were affecting his sexuality. Ben refused to return to that environment. He promised his social worker that he would only run away again – and that the next time, he’d know enough to stay under the radar.

MORE: The 10 Dumbest Things Ever Said About Same-Sex Marriage

In December 2013, Jackie finally graduated from college – not that she attended the ceremonies. “The only reason you walk during graduation is so people can watch you,” she says. “But I had nobody to invite – and a cap and gown cost money – so I just took a shift at work instead.”

As she’s saying all this, Jackie, now 24, is slowly sipping a Pabst Blue Ribbon in the sort of pleasant dive you’d expect to find in Portland, the city she now calls home (the signs on the bathroom doors read BOTH and EITHER). Last week, the marriage-equality law went into effect in Oregon, and so it’s a celebratory time, even for those like Jackie who know what disappointments faith in one’s future can bring. Not long ago, she was in Ikea with her girlfriend, when, for the first time in years, she felt herself begin to come apart. “I never shed a tear after coming out, ever, but I always knew the mourning was going to come, and it did,” she says. “When you stop stressing about food and having a roof over your head, you stress about normal things like wanting to be wanted, or wanting to be loved, or ‘Damn, I wish I had a photo of myself from when I was a kid.'”

Jackie’s girlfriend has helped her cope with the transition. Now that Jackie has a job training sexual­assault advocates, she can enjoy the first adult relationship she’s ever had, in which a stocked fridge and warm bed weren’t wrapped up in it, marring the emotional aspects. And while she says it’s strange, being with someone simply to be with them, she admits “there’s a healing process in entering a consensual, healthy relationship that’s based on love rather than need.” It’s not quite the same as having a family, but it’s not like being alone either.

The evening’s golden sunlight streams in through the bar’s front window, washing the room in sepia tones. Jackie leans back in her chair. Wearing Ray-Bans, hair rakishly swooped to the side, she looks like any other educated, socially conscious Portland hipster. But for Jackie, poverty and abandonment are brands she’ll carry for life. “I’ll never look at a bed in the same way; I’ll never look at food in the same way,” she says. “Sometimes, I’ll sit at a table with people I interact with on a daily basis and think, ‘None of these people have an inkling of anything I’ve been through, and they never will.'”

Jackie doubts she’ll ever speak to her family again, though it’s still hard to think of holidays spent without them, of childhood stories that will remain untold, of the jarring lack of continuity between her existence then and now. “I spent the past four years paying for that one sentence I uttered,” she says quietly. “People ask me all the time if I hate my parents for everything they’ve put me through, but I really don’t. If anything, I just feel sad for them because I’m sure it hurts so bad to have chosen their religious values over their child. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, they suffered through it just as much as I did, just in different ways.” She sighs and looks out the window to where the shadows will soon lengthen into night. “I think, in the long run, no one won.”

TIME Comedy

Brains Behaving Badly: Why So Many Comedians End Up Self-Destructing

Robin Williams Death
"Na-Nu Na-nu."
Mork (Mork & Mindy)
JIim Britt—ABC/Getty Images

The comic and Simpsons writer explores why so many stand-ups get into staring contests with the abyss

This article originally appeared on Rolling Stone.

Being a professional comedian brings with it a set of unintended consequences. For one thing, you develop an uncanny familiarity with the nation’s airports. “Where are you, St. Louis International? They’ve got a pretty ripping Oki-Dog in terminal four.”

Additionally, stand-up comedians have to ask for their paychecks. Did you know that? At the end of the week, when performing in a club, we actually have to track down the club owner and ask to get paid. In all fairness, most of them are cool about it. But as I’ve said before, when it comes to club owners, it’s hard to believe the occupation that gave the world Jack Ruby could produce some unsavory characters.

Lastly, being a comedian means knowing a lot of people who’ve committed suicide.

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My count is now up to five. Five of my friends and fellow comedians have taken their own life. It ‘s shocking, but, sadly, not surprising. Non-comedians — or as we call them, “civilians” — are always surprised. And I am always surprised they’re so surprised. They have yet to realize the Two Big Things all comedians know.

Firstly, the same brain that makes the good stuff makes the bad stuff. Is it really so shocking that an engine that can propel a car from zero to 100 mph in six seconds can do pretty much the same thing in reverse? Comedians dwell on things. They ponder, stew, obsess and spin out scenarios for comedic effect. The more inventive the mind, the funnier the scenarios. The genius of a great comedian is the ability to stride onstage and make it look like all of those amazing ideas are flowing naturally, in the moment and off-the-cuff. But don’t be fooled. A lot of after-hours thought, poured into notebook after notebook, goes into that stuff. Late nights alone with a hyperactive imagination, however, is also when you can get into a lot of trouble.

Into this mix, one has to consider brain chemistry. A lot has been written about the actual, physical chemistry of the creative brain, and I’ve read none of it. That said, it’s obvious to even the casual observer that our greatest minds were housed in brains that behaved very badly.

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Charles Darwin suffered clinical depression, yet he managed to come up with the theory of evolution. Mozart, Mark Twain, and Ernest Hemingway all lived in prisons of their own thought. The roll call of contemporary artists who have suffered a depressive disorder is so long, they could save time by just printing up the list of those who haven’t.

Some of that list makes sense. It’s easy to believe that Elliot Smith suffered from depression. Or Bob Dylan. Or Anthony Hopkins. But David Letterman? Jim Carrey? Or, as we so recently and tragically learned, Robin Williams? Really, Robin Williams? And that leads us to The Other Big Thing.

Being funny is not the same as being happy. This is an area to which I can speak with some expertise. False modesty aside, I have always been pretty funny. My elementary school report cards cite my “hyperactive imagination,” and my “proclivity towards being talkative.” I was also insecure, terrified and so crammed full of anxiety that I could barely function. Why? Because of my “hyperactive imagination.” One day I came home from school and could not find my mother. She had gone next door to visit our neighbor and lost track of time. How did she know I was home? Because she heard me screaming.

Having my mother not answer when I called her name, at eight years old, did not mean I had license to watch cartoons and stuff my face until she showed up. It meant something had happened. She had been taken away and I was now alone and defenseless in a hostile world. How would I eat? Who would take care of me? Was she dead? Who killed my mother?! Was I next?! Of course I screamed. I screamed and screamed and scr – “Oh, hi, mom. There you are. I was just wondering where you’d stepped away to. No, I didn’t piss myself, I accidentally spilled a glass of urine on my underwear before slipping my pants on and it must have soaked through. Say, what did you make of the President’s speech last night?”

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How to deal with this free-floating and oft-visiting, inexplicable panic? I became talkative, in general, and funny in particular. After all, if you’re going to run your mouth all day, you should at least be entertaining. Like many comedians, I put my nightmare machine of a brain to work in a creative capacity. Being funny allowed me to contextualize my anxiety and, also, allowed me a little relief from it.

Laughing and screaming are physiological cousins; both used by the body to release anxiety and tension. In terms of comedians, when the chicken-and-egg question of, “which came first, the sad or the funny” is raised, I can, with authority, say that the egg of acute anxiety begat the rubber chicken of inspired hilarity. In other words, I literally laughed to keep from crying. As do so many.

One of the comedians I fell in love with as a kid, and who remained a lifelong hero, was George Carlin. In 2005, Carlin released his 13th HBO special, entitled Life Is Worth Losing. If you’d like to see a skilled stand-up comic using his creative muscles to get some distance from a raging storm of emotional turmoil, you will find no better example. Performed on a set depicting a cemetery in winter, the show is a meditation on the futility of life, the savagery of man, the fallacy of religion — and forever circling back to the topic of suicide, as if it were some mordant motif.

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Suicide is an undeniably fascinating subject, and one that has been well pondered by our greatest minds, comedic and otherwise, most probably because it hits so close to home in our psyches. In our worst moments, it’s there, like a firehose behind a glass case, waiting to be busted out should the shit get too thick. In lieu of that, we must learn to cope.

Those of us whose emotional states are stable and manageable, and who haven’t condemned ourselves to the hell of addiction in our clumsy attempts at self-medicating, do the best we can, by trial and error, to live a regular life. We try our hardest, every day, to masquerade as a normal person. A civilian. All the while poring over our faults and failings through our work. For money! It’s a symbiotic system that can really pay off if you play your cards right. Not that material success is important.

This is another lesson you need to learn if you desire to go beyond just coping, if actual happiness is one of your goals. In fact, not long ago, I was sitting in the kitchen of a fellow comedian where I saw a sign that brought that point home. It sat atop his cabinets, and read, “Forget What You Want, Look At What You Have.” I remember thinking that this man, who had a career like no one could ever hope to dream of, stand-up success, sitcom success, movie stardom, he’d even won an Oscar, and yet, he was humble, gracious, sincere, caring. He knew where happiness lay. He, who had so much, still knew what was important and what was not. “This guy,” I thought, “he’s really got it together.”

I miss him.

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