Clea DuVall on being closeted in Hollywood: ‘I was very afraid of people finding out I was gay’

American actress, director and producer Clea DuVall has described being closeted in the 1990s, in Hollywood, as “terrifying”.

Speaking to The Independent about her new project, based on the memoir of pop duo Tegan and Sara, High School, DuVall has opened up about her sexuality and legacy of queer coolness.

“I came out at 16,” she says.

“That was something I remember. But honestly, until I was in my thirties I was just kind of surviving.”

When her career began to take off, featuring a remarkable early appearance on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she was forced to hide her sexuality, only being out to close friends and family.

“I was very closeted and very afraid of people finding out I was gay,” she says of her early years in the spotlight.

“It was the nineties, there was no conversation about sexuality – you were just not going to talk about it.”

Clea DuVall and long time best friend Natasha Lyonne starred in But I’m a Cheerleader together (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

She also vividly remembers writing “poems, sci-fi stories, love stories,” she says, with a slight wince.

“Always with a guy and a girl but always wanting to make them both girls.”

High School is based on Tegan and Sara’s memoir of the same name. Both identify as lesbians, and Clea DuVall commends the book/memoir as something that spoke to the universal experience of queer children, even as an adult.

“The original book was the first time I’d read something that felt really representative of my queer coming out and coming-of-age,” DuVall says.

“Even as a woman in my forties it spoke to me.”

High School is based on Tegan and Sara’s memoir of the same name (Steve Granitz/FilmMagic)

Clea DuVall starred in 1999’s But I’m a Cheerleader alongside Natasha Lyonne. The film is satirical take on Republican America as Lyonne is sent to a conversion camp – even featuring RuPaul as an ex-gay counsellor.

She remembers filming the movie – which has since become a cornerstone of queer culture – and now regrets the shame she had surrounding it, despite parents often edging up to her and saying: “‘We watched your movie. It was very important to our daughter.'”

“There was always lots of subtext to it,” she says

“I”It was such a scary time. Once it came out and we started the press cycle for it, I remember feeling like, ‘Oh s*** – I need to hide, I need to stop.’”

“So many opportunities came to me because of [But I’m a Cheerleader] that I didn’t take because I was afraid.”

Natasha Lyonne and Clea DuVall

Natasha Lyonne and Clea DuVall star in But I’m A Cheerleader. (YouTube/Lionsgate)

Before coming out publicly in 2016, DuVall says that she nearly “buckled” under the pressure of staying hidden.

“So much pain comes from not accepting yourself for who you are. I’ve seen so many people bending over backwards and tying themselves in knots.

“I’ve had friends die because they were trying so hard to be something that they weren’t. Eventually you buckle under the weight of that.”