EDGE Interview: Cooper Koch is a Talented Out Actor Edging Stardom
Timothy Rawles READ TIME: 7 MIN.
According to researchers, Cooper Koch's face is one of the most attractive in the world, that is if you are going by science. The actor has what they call "perfect facial symmetry." According to studies, this is when both sides of someone's face are completely proportioned. It's a sign of highly evolved genes that have adjusted themselves through time in order to appeal to other humans. It's survival of the fittest or, in this case, the prettiest.
But Hollywood doesn't care about science as much as they do about money. Even though Koch has been auditioning for roles almost daily, he hasn't booked a job since the release of the LGBTQ+ slasher "They/Them" in 2022. That is a shame because his latest movie, "Swallowed," directed by Carter Smith, is not only a great horror movie, but his performance is one of the best of the year.
Although "Swallowed" didn't have the big budget or big sets of "They/Them," it was a lot more personal for Koch who, like his character, is searching for the Hollywood dream. Of course, since he is in almost every frame of the film, he got a lot more say in the production and the direction he wanted to take with his character Ben, a young actor himself forced into transporting drugs via his digestive system.
"I had a lot more to do and I had a lot more work," says Koch in a telephone interview with Edge Media. "I mean, Carter just threw me a big juicy bone to chew on and eat and devour. I'm so grateful to him that he gave me that opportunity."
Fast forward to this year and despite his great performance in "Swallowed" he has yet to book anything. If this had been 10 years ago, one might think that being a budding out actor in Hollywood was a nail in the coffin of your career. Add to that his full-frontal nudity in the film and his chances are even slimmer. But this is 2023 and on-screen gay artists are no longer fearful of being blacklisted, or at least the industry is a little more progressive.
Whether he is out as a queer actor or not, the offers he is getting should be abundant just based on his talent.
"Well, let's get one thing straight," he says. "I'm not being offered any roles at this point."
But that is not for the lack of trying. Koch is diligent about auditioning. He pounds the pavement for almost anything, and they don't have to be queer roles either. "There's a lot of roles that I go out for that don't identify as gay, and I don't only wanna play queer roles."
With Hollywood claiming to promote diversity, gay actors shouldn't have a problem with getting roles outside their sexuality. Especially if artists as good as Koch are vying for them. He is not claiming that the industry is discriminating, but one problematic comment from an acting teacher recently felt especially pointed. She asked him why he wasn't booking anything. He said he didn't know and that is why he was taking her class, to which she responded, "Well, you have a gay voice."
Although the comment may have been off-the-cuff, it was no less disheartening. "I have a thick skin and at this point in my life, I've, you know, been through bullying when I was a kid, I've been fired from a pilot because of it," he says. "But I also don't tolerate it anymore. I just will turn the other way and walk away. And also, it's like, yeah, if you're gonna have that kind of opinion or you're not gonna wanna work with me because my voice sounds a certain way or because I walk or talk or move my hands in a certain way, then I don't wanna work with you either, babe."
Koch garnered critical acclaim for his role as Ben. Talking to him over the phone, I didn't detect any distinctive verbal cadence or lilt that his teacher may have been pointing out. There may have been a slight Southern California accent (there is one), but it wasn't distinctive.
Koch also does print work for major labels who seem to appreciate his perfect facial symmetry. At the beginning of that career, he took a few thirst-trappy photos, but since then has become more practical, posing in fashions that fit his toned body type. "I make a lot of money modeling so that I have more time to audition to potentially go and do a role or whatever."
Koch is 26 years old. He is committed to acting even through the setbacks. The free time he had after his last two films was used to reflect on himself in between auditions. He says he was struggling with self-doubt because he wasn't getting cast in anything. The pressure had a stranglehold on his confidence. He remembers thinking, "is it because I'm gay, or because I'm not this or I'm not that?"
"I just was really struggling and then I started to kind of just get involved in other places of my life. I got back into Groundlings. I'm a yoga teacher. I got a job scooping ice cream at Salt and Straw. I joined a gay volleyball league. My life just started to become, like I said, really full and I just feel really happy and healthy and just good in my life," he says, adding that this new attitude really helps him with constant rejections, "But it's like now I sort of have this foundation to sit on, which is just a very full and busy life outside of acting, which I kind of never had, or at least I haven't had in a long time."
For whatever reason, Hollywood is yet to discover Koch. He is willing to do whatever comes his way. And he is adamant that he isn't being pigeonholed because he has come close, really close, to doing straight roles.
"It's definitely been a journey to get there," he says. "I remember when I was in college before I had come out and I was still studying in school, I really didn't wanna come out. I was really afraid to be an actor and be gay just because I didn't think anyone would take me seriously or I wouldn't get cast, or I would be shunned or it just wouldn't work. And I sort of learned through being in acting school that, you know, if I can't be myself, then I'm not gonna be able to play anyone else regardless of what they identify in terms of their sexuality or their gender or whatever."
You can watch Koch in "They/Them" on Peacock or his body horror movie "Swallowed" on your favorite digital media platform.
Watch this YouTube interview of Koch talking about "Swallowed."
Check out pics from Koch's Instagram: