Arts & Entertainment
2 min

My dinner with a porn star

Nathaniel Bacon plays Casey Donovan in Sky Gilbert’s new play

Nathaniel Bacon plays '70s pornstar Casey Donovan in Sky Gilbert's new play.

It’s not hard to imagine Nathaniel Bacon in porn. Broad, towering and overflowing with that particular combination of rippling muscle and boyish charm, he looks like he could sweep you off your feet and fuck you through a wall. The up and coming Toronto actor will be putting what nature gave him to good use when he plays the title character in Sky Gilbert’s My Dinner with Casey Donovan.

Based on facts which Gilbert uncovered while researching his upcoming novel, the play tells the story of an evening the 1970s era porn star spent with a 25-year-old closeted fan and his parents.

“He was incredibly thoughtful and intelligent, as well as having a huge passion for the arts,” Bacon says of his character. “He was also a narcissistic sex addict who seemed to show a different face to every person he knew. I’ve tried to create a portrayal that honours him but doesn’t sugar-coat his intense flaws.”

Born in the tiny town of East Bloomfield, New York, Donovan spent time as an Ivy League prep school teacher before heading to NYC with dreams of theatrical stardom. He booked some modelling jobs and a few minor roles on- and off-Broadway. But his first taste of fame came with Wakefield Poole’s 1971 film Boys in the Sand. He went on to appear in erotic classics The Other Side of Aspen, LA Tool & Die and the 1986 fisting film Fucked Up. But a mainstream crossover never materialized. He spent 15 years making adult films before his death from AIDS-related complications in 1987.

Bacon is also a small town boy who moved to the city with dreams of an acting career. Hailing from the hamlet of Burnt River, Ontario, he arrived in the Big Smoke 11 years ago, by way of the joint Sheridan College and Univeristy of Toronto acting program. Unlike Donovan, he’s stuck to earning cash with small TV spots and occasionally stomping the runway for local designers. Onstage, he’s garnered attention in Hart House’s 2012 production of Bent and as the lead in Lower Ossington Theatre’s staging of Hedwig last summer. His biggest role to date, one most Toronto theatre-goers missed, was playing the title character in another Gilbert show, rural company 4th Line Theatre’s St Francis of Millbrook.

While he’s never done the nasty on film, Bacon’s well versed on the subject. His first job out of school was at a downtown sex shop. He learned the ins and outs of sex toys, condoms and lubes, but describes porn as his “speciality.” Customers would come to him with specific tastes and he’d happily make recommendations.

“It wasn’t glamorous and I actually had some pretty scary encounters,” he says. “But it’s been really useful in terms of working on this show because I already had a knowledge of the industry when I started working on it.”

So given his expertise, what kind of flicks are keeping his hands busy?

“I think diversity is the key,” he says with a laugh. “If you develop a taste for different things, you’ll never get bored by always having the same flavour. And yes, I meant that to be just as dirty as it sounded.”