The first thing you’ll notice about Nico Tortorella is their face.
(Nico, who is nonbinary/gender fluid, prefers the pronouns “they/them.” – Ed.)
It’s a beautiful face, that much the actor, author, podcast host and LGBTQIA+ advocate knows. “To let you in on a little secret, my greatest insecurity has always been my own intelligence. Am I smart enough? And even if so, will people care given the shell that holds it?” Nico writes in the introduction of their book of poetry “All Of It Is You.”
And it’s a face many people—fans of the show “Younger,” in particular—have fallen in love with. (In the show, going on its sixth season, Nico plays Josh, a Brooklyn-based tattoo artist who has what might just be the world’s biggest heart. Seriously—the guy just keeps falling in love.)
But Nico is more than just a face—they have a voice and they are using it. They want to be heard. Read.
National Book Store brought Nico to Manila for the “All Of It Is You.” book tour. It’s four days before their appearance at the 39th Manila International Book Fair and three days before the terrible weather would derail what should have been the Cebu stop of the tour. Nico is sitting on a couch at Raffles Makati’s Writers Bar, a couch that might as well be called the Writers Couch, given the number of authors who have sat on it for the same reason Nico is sitting on it now: interview after interview with journalist after journalist. But none of the previous authors have sat on the couch quite like Nico. Nico sank into it, completely at home, completely at ease, a metaphor for how completely comfortable they are in their own skin.
“You can ask me anything,” Nico says.
You never hear that from a Hollywood personality. It is both unnerving and refreshing.
And when they say anything, you know they mean the things that so many people have asked them about: their gender fluidity, their sexuality, their polyamorous marriage.
In this Super interview, we talked about those things but we covered other topics as well: Josh, tattoos (“I want to be covered, head to toe. Maybe not face. Although I have been thinking about getting a third eye tattooed in the middle of my forehead. In white ink though.”), their books (yes, plural), the secrets behind the images in “All Of It Is You.” (“There’s so much hidden in these pictures. If you really looked at them, there’s so much more than what you think there is.”) and God.
Why is being open about gender and sexuality important to you?
Probably because I haven’t seen it before. If growing up, I had somebody who was talking like this, I think things would have been a lot easier, just navigating identity and expression. Once I started, there was no turning back. I couldn’t just go, “Oh actually, I’m done talking now.” The fact is, I don’t need to have this conversation, right? I’m fine. I have a job where I could work for two months out of the year and then completely disappear. But the second I realized that this conversation was so much bigger than who I am and what I represent and who I date and who I love, I realized it was a responsibility, for the kids, really, and for the greater good of the universe.
Does it ever get frustrating though? In every story we read about you, it’s people trying to get you to define who you are. And you actually have a tattoo that says “no definition.”
(Laughs) You know, it’s part of the game, I guess. It’s more frustrating when people don’t want to pay it any mind, don’t even want to talk about it all. In order to inspire the person that is interviewing me to take a look at themselves in one way or another… Me talking about myself at this point is simply a device to inspire someone else. It’s not even about myself. It’s not even about who I am. I’m good. I don’t have it all figured out but I have just enough figured out where I don’t really get frustrated, I don’t really get upset about anything anymore.
Is there a question you wish journalists would stop asking you?
I don’t even know how many times I’ve been asked it but when anyone is like, “So who do you like more, boys or girls?” I’ve been asked it a few different times at different points in my own evolution of queer theory and understanding of gender. Right now, I don’t even think sexuality is a real thing. I’m not even sure it exists. That’s just such a stupid question.
What’s a question that you wish they would ask?
How do you feel? How are you? You know. People don’t usually care about how your day is or if you’re emotionally stable in the moment. It’s about the sound bite and the question, the tastiest thing that you can get.
You had a beautiful wedding and it’s a wedding that people don’t usually see… but do you ever feel like sometimes that too much of your life is out there?
There’s still a bunch that nobody knows. Bethany (Meyers, Nico’s partner) and I were just talking about this the other day. So much of our daily routine, our ritual, isn’t known to the public. It’s ours and it’s sacred. But obviously there’s so much that we do show. I think we have a pretty healthy balance of what we’re comfortable sharing and what we’re not while we’re navigating what it means to be polyamorous in 2018, while we are gender nonconforming and in the public eye.
Your preferred pronouns are “they/them.” Does it bother you when people use “he?”
It depends on who’s using it. It’s like, if you love me and you care about me and I’m asking you to do something and to just completely forget about it every time you talk to me or about me… it’s just a point that gets proven, time and time again.
Yeah, that they’re not paying attention.
Yeah. And it’s like if I can’t get you to rethink the way you talk about me, how can I get you to do anything else? How can I inspire anything else? I don’t want to say it’s a test because it’s annoying but it’s something that I’m still working through, figuring out how to deal with people that I’ve said to time and time again, “Hey, these are my pronouns” and they choose not to or they forget. I’m still working it out. Sometimes it’s better than others. Sometimes it really sucks.
When you were a kid, what did you want to become?
I always knew I was going to be an actor. It’s funny, I had this manifestation board from when I was young. I was vegan for a long time and then I was a raw foodist. I had written down that I was going to get really famous as an actor and then I was going to use that fame to inspire health issues and really tackle global epidemics because of my platform. That’s basically what I’m doing. It’s just not about food. It’s about sexual and gender identity, humanity.
When did you think that you wanted to work on a book?
For a while. This actually isn’t the first book that I thought I was going to write. The second book, the one that I’m writing right at this second—I was up at 2:30 this morning writing, I’m on a deadline, y’all—the book is called “Love Y’all.” I had an astrologer come onto my podcast. She read my entire chart and she told me I had a couple of books inside of me. I knew that I do, that I did. And once I stopped the podcast, I really took it seriously. I knew I had to be done with the podcast in order to birth this new chapter, quite literally, pun intended. And that’s what happened.
You wrote “All Of It Is You.” in 45 days?
From the first to the last.
And you shot your own photos, too?
In 24 hours. And I edited them all on my phone.
And I read that you wrote a lot…
…on my phone. I didn’t have a computer for nine years.
That’s crazy. Are you still writing on your phone?
On my computer. I have my computer here. Although I did forget it in New York when I went to my house upstate for a week so I wrote 12,000 words on my iPad. (laughs)
Has your writing process changed from the first book to now?
Oh yeah, drastically. I’m just different. I’m so much different than I was from the end of last year. I started this book less than a year ago, this book is a much bigger book. It’s a lot more personal. It’s an origin story of sorts. It’s half-memoir, half-narrative.
You posted on Instagram that you’ve been writing about your family?
And that brought up a lot within my family, actually. They immediately jumped to the conclusion that the worst thing is going to be said about them. There are some things in this book that no one’s gonna be happy about. But you know what? That’s who we are. The only thing they have to be afraid of is themselves. But the best part of the whole thing is the second they found out that I was writing a book, all of these family secrets started getting unraveled… They started talking to each other. If that’s not healing, I don’t know what is.
Do you have rituals as a writer? Can you write anywhere, anytime?
I like writing in the morning and the afternoon. I’m not really a nighttime writer. I light palo santo, sage, clear space, a lot of chanting, I listen to different icaros like shaman music and I channel a lot. I kind of just black out and go. Not like drinking…
Because you don’t drink, right?
Yeah. Four years sober.
What do you love the most about writing?
This. The sharing, really. In the first book, I found God. I found my own God.
I loved that each section of your book ended with God.
It’s my favorite part of the book. I literally found my own version of God in putting this book together. And now, with this tour, I get to share that with them. I never imagined that this is what the tour for this book would look like. But what I have curated onstage, I never imagined in a million years that I would be putting this show together. This is a whole new territory.
What can people expect from the show?
Like a cleanse. Just like a spiritual cleanse. It’s a reawakening. It may last 2 seconds, it may last 200 years. But let it happen, don’t fight it.
What’s the best thing anyone’s said about this book?
I didn’t kill myself because I read this book. I stopped cutting because of this book. I came out to my family because of this book. The list is on and on and on and on. And it’s not always attached to pain and trauma but those are definitely the most impactful when someone says something like that to you.
Let’s talk about “Younger.” What are your favorite moments on the set?
Working with Hilary (Duff) and Molly Bernard. Debi (Mazar) and I have our own special relationship. Obviously, Sutton (Foster) and I together is magic. It’s just the people. It’s really just great people. We’re making a show that’s so light-hearted. We just go to work and have fun.
In which ways are you similar to Josh?
His heart. His ability to fall in love.
If there’s anything that you would change about the show, what would it be?
I want Josh to date a trans girl. It would be epic.
Is the podcast really done?
For now. The next book has a lot to do with the podcast. There’s a lot of self-reflection. There’s a TV show coming. We start shooting in March. It’s a travel show so we might come back to the Philippines.
When’s your tattoo show with Snooki coming out?
Soon. Sometime this year, maybe within the next couple of months. It’s epic. It is so epic.
Is it people choosing tattoos for their loved ones?
For their best friends, lovers…
Without them knowing it?
Yeah. And then we tattoo them blindfolded for five hours. Like giant pieces.
Oh my god. Who would you trust to pick a tattoo for you?
Bethany. My brother. My mom. A lot of people, I think. Everyone but Snooki. (laughs)
I feel like that would be a really good season finale.
God knows it’s gonna happen at some point. They’re already talking about seasons 2 and 3.
What else do you want to do that you haven’t done?
I want to get way more involved in the music industry. I’m doing a lot of music and I could keep doing it at the level I’m doing it right now as a hobby. It’s not my source of income, it’s not something I need to do, which is usually when the best work is created, right? But I think I want to know what it looks like to take it to the next step, what it looks like to have an album.
“All Of It Is You.” is available at National Book Store.