While last season, we watched as Jeffrey Harrington struggled to come out of the closet and deal with the fact that his attraction to straight Wyatt Cryer wasn’t reciprocated, Jeffrey has come into his own much more in the second season of the OWN hit series, “The Haves and the Have Nots.”
However, this being a world created by Tyler Perry, Jeffrey has come up against different obstacles this season like his mother, who is bullying him back into the closet, and dealing with an aggressive suitor in Landon while Jeffrey is still trying to figure out where he fits in the world.
I grabbed some time last week with actor Gavin Houston, to talk about where Jeffrey is this season, whether his attraction to Wyatt (Aaron O’Connell) is over and how the actor is dealing with the fame that comes with a buzzy, exciting series like “The Haves and the Have Nots.”
Let me ask you kind of a dual general question just about Jeffrey. Has it been different for you playing him in this crop of episodes just because he came over a big hurdle in the first season?
Gavin Houston: Yeah, it has. And I wanted to make sure that he was different because now there’s a little bit of ownership and no more feeling the need of permission to be who he is. It still is a little bit more stepping into who he is without any feeling of needing to play around and be someone else because he’s kind of been cast out on his own. So I felt there had to be a little bit more confidence. There has to be a little bit more strength in him now because now he’s on his own two feet because all he has is himself, really. And he’s been cast out by his mom, who is kind of his biggest influence in his life as well as a bully. But yeah, I definitely feel empowerment with him now and a right with everything he does. Basically, he has the right to be able to do this seriously.
Do you think Jeffrey's mother is against him being gay? Or is it just the fact that she doesn't have control over him as much as she used to? Or is it a little bit of both?
GH: I honestly don’t think it actually has to do with being gay. It’s such an interesting issue. I think, of course, anything like this and bigotry, it’s always a reflection of that person. And I feel like she really has struggled and been through a lot in her own life to get to where she is. She really doesn’t want Jeffrey to struggle. And it feels like, in a way, doing this is protecting him from some sort of harm or some sort of thing that will inhibit his ability to go as far she did or even further. So she also wants to please. And it’s about what the people see and what society sees. She just kind of wants to protect him in his life from hurdles that she thinks that he’s going to have as well as she thinks a certain image that she feels she’s built and created. And I think that’s more where it comes from as opposed to the issue. I just think that she just uses that as a root to kind of get into him.
Why do think Jeffrey doesn't just walk away from her? I mean, granted, it's his mother, but she just is unrelenting.
GH: It’s that love as well as the way they’ve raised him. They’ve always raised him in a sense of being codependent to them. So it’s that kind of still that codependency as well as just the love as well as just wanting to be, like any child, just wanting their parents to be proud of them, and wanting to be accepted. [Jeffrey] needs to be validated and needs approval. So I think there’s a huge codependency and still love as well and that’s why he’s still going to shut it down. It’s 50-50 since on one side he has the support of his father. So he feels like, ‘well, maybe I can change her and just get her to see that she’s just looking at it the wrong way and I’m happy.’ So probably also that view of getting her to change her view because there’s nothing wrong, and nothing bad about it, and nothing too serious.
How would you characterize Jeffrey's feelings about Landon, who is clearly interested in him? But Jeffrey is definitely pushing him away. Why?
GH: Too much too soon. I definitely think right now, especially with what he’s been through with Wyatt and what he’s going through with his family, Landon is almost coming on so strong that there seems to be an insincerity about it because I think he doesn’t trust him anymore. I think his trust in people other than Candace has definitely been challenged. So now it’s just like…and especially the way this guy is coming on so strong and so consistently every time he sees him. And just really pushing it whereas with Candace, she was almost like, ‘Just be free.’ And this guy is like, ‘But you got to do this.’ I think he’s definitely wary of his intentions as well as being a part of the campaign and that whole situation. Just very wary of him and whatever his intentions are.
And maybe it's also just a little too close to home. You don't really want to be dating somebody that's involved with your family that much, especially if you're just coming out.
GH: That’s the other thing as well. The whole issue with the campaign and just being a part of that. Again, it’s that world. I don’t think [Jeffrey] fits in that world at all. And I think he’s still opposite of that but he just does it because he’s trying to fit in. I don’t think he’s trusting of any of it at all.
Last week, Jeffrey visited Wyatt in prison so what can we expect moving forward?
GH: Wyatt’s in a bad place and one thing is Jeffrey’s always had his back, even when he probably shouldn’t have always had his back. But he definitely has a soft spot for Wyatt. And they’ve squashed kind of whatever issues they had in the past. So I don’t think he wants to really see him go down and get hurt, but the total issue is coming up because of Wyatt’s addictions. And he just sees that as unhealthy. He doesn’t see Wyatt as a bad person so I definitely feel like coming back this season that he needs to do what he needs to do to be there for him…but to also do what he needs to do to get information to be Wyatt’s eyes on the outside and help get him out of there.
Do you think Jeffrey’s crush on Wyatt is completely gone or he’s just at least accepted the fact that it’ll never be reciprocated?
GH: I think he’s just more guarded with it. I don’t think it’s completely gone. I think he’s still hopeful that at some point it will be reciprocated. But I don’t think it’s completely gone. I just think he’s more guarded. And I think he knows that to be able to be around him, he can’t show it. So he has to hide it and he has to just be careful. But I just think now he’s more guarded, much more guarded and then gone back into his shell but it’s definitely still there.
And Wyatt's just so pretty. Or Aaron is or Wyatt. They're both pretty!
GH: [laughs] What’s a soap without someone pretty on it?
Exactly. Are we going to see Jeffrey and Candace interact much at all? I know she's being held captive at the moment but I kind of love where their friendship was last season.
GH: First she’s got to get out of her little situation. I definitely think their bond is strong now. And it’s not going anywhere. And I think regardless of the situation that she’s in right now. They will unite at some point and he will be a huge influence on her. It’s just that they’re there for each other. That’s all I want to say.
Because it is a soap and it gets very emotional. How are you with crying scenes when you have to cry?
GH: What’s great is that Tyler doesn’t say to us, “This is the scene.” It’s never scripted in the scene you have to cry. And me, just as an actor, I never make an appointment for it because I feel like everything has to be honest and come from a place of truth. So if you’re there at this point having to worry about crying, you aren’t connecting with the situation. So there’s times when it doesn’t happen. There’s times when it comes on stronger or I fight it back. So I, personally, never make an appointment. And I just really immerse myself in what the situation is for me and how I can personally relate to it in my own personal life. When it’s true or that it’s genuine, you can tell. And I think that’s part of what’s amazing about it is when you go in, you never know what’s going to happen or what you’re going to see.
How have you taken just the success of the show? I'm guessing you're getting recognized more…?
GH: Oh, man. Everywhere! I get recognized everywhere. It’s so crazy to me. I’m such a just a quiet, shy, normal person but I’m so thankful for it. It surprises me almost. Like people are like, ‘Do you know what? You look familiar.’ I’ve had people say, ‘Do you know what? You look like this guy on this show.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah.’ And they’ve said, ‘He’s a little more better looking, and he looks different.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, okay.’ I’ve literally had that happen and it’s hysterical. But it’s amazing. But it’s also very humbling.
And it's also I mean the power of just Oprah and Tyler having just their own audience themselves. But just also what this show has done and the amount of people that it's reaching. And it's doing so well. And every week it's breaking records. It just broke a season premiere record for the network. So it's doing so well. So for us, it's just like so much more inspiring just realizing all the people that we're being able to reach out to. And then the people that are coming and just how much they love it and how much they are addicts of this show. And that's, to me, why we do it. That, to me, is the paycheck. It's all for those people. And for me, it's just every time it makes me happy. I'm so happy to share that experience with them.
“The Haves and the Have Nots” airs Tuesdays at 9pm on OWN.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.
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