Mark Deklin stars in ABC’s newly launched comedy GCB (set in suburban Dallas and based on Kim Gatlin’s acclaimed semi-autobiographical novel Good Christian Bitches), alongside roles in Desperate Housewives and Hawaii Five-0. In Bitches, he plays happily gay-and-in-the-closet Blake Reilly, and spoke to Wonderland about tackling the complex part.

GCB premiered last month. What has the audience reaction been like so far?

I think the main thing people are enjoying, right off the bat, is the comedy. It certainly has the flavour of Desperate Housewives, and I think a lot of people tuned in because it has that flavour. But I think we still very much have our own thing. I think people are surprised by just how fun and funny it is. On the flip of that coin, I think people are surprised by how much they’re starting to emotionally invest in it. On a personal level, I’ve been really touched by the relationship between Blake and Cricket, which I think has really struck a chord. The outpouring of their love that people are getting is, to be honest, quite unexpected and wonderful.

Why was its named changed – from Good Christian Bitches and then Good Christian Belles – to GCB?

It was Good Christian Belles for about a minute. We all sort of knew that Good Christian Bitches wouldn’t be the final title. It was the title of the book that it was based on, but we all knew that ABC wouldn’t keep that. By the time we had finished shooting the pilot, which was called Good Christian Bitches, we were already referring to it as GCB. And so, I remember that someone on the producing staff made these hats for us which said GCB. I suspect, along the line, they said “why don’t we just call it GCB?” and people hooked into that.

Tell me about how you went about approaching the role.

I wasn’t sure how to approach Blake. I found him an interesting character. As an actor, you want to play a character who has layers and complexity. And so [the idea of playing] a closeted gay man obviously intrigues me as an actor. But I didn’t know how to approach the role, because I don’t know anyone in my own life who is closeted and I think of it as an old-fashioned paradox. I think I thought the character would be tortured and self-hating – but one of the first things they said was “no, he’s not. He’s really comfortable in his own skin; he has just made a choice.” And that sort of opened up a whole new world for me, to approach a character and get past my own prejudice about what sort of person would be in the closet. It became a really wonderful opportunity, because there’s no real template for a character like this. I got to work with the writers and sort of build this guy from scratch.

Is it a fun set to work on?

That’s always important. Ultimately, what I’m doing, me the individual actor, isn’t really that important. What is really important is that me and the other actors, the thing that is between us – that’s what’s exciting. I didn’t know that Miriam Shor had already been cast. I knew Miriam’s work, I had always admired her as an actor. When we started working together it just clicked. We just became such good friends; we have a great chemistry. Robert Harling and the other writers were wise enough to say you guys have a really great energy, let’s work with this.

Words: Jack Mills