Daniel Franzese

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Daniel Franzese
Franzese in 2015
Born (1978-05-09) May 9, 1978 (age 45)
New York City, New York, U.S.
  • Actor
  • comedian
  • activist
Years active2001–present

Daniel Franzese (born May 9, 1978) is an American actor best known for his roles in the films Bully and Mean Girls.[1][2][3][4] Franzese is the creator of several live comedy shows, including the 2011 rock opera Jersey Shoresical: A Frickin' Rock Opera![5][6] and his one-man stand-up performance I've Never Really Made the Kind of Money to Become a Mess in 2013.[7]

After coming out as gay in 2014,[8] Franzese became more active in the fight for civil and human rights in the LGBTQ community;[9] and through his portrayal of the HIV-positive character Eddie in the second season of the HBO series Looking, and its subsequent series finale television film, Looking: The Movie, he has become a well known AIDS activist in the United States.[10] In 2020, Franzese began hosting a weekly comedy and faith podcast, Yass, Jesus! with former Trinity Broadcasting Network host Azariah Southworth.[11][12]

Early life[edit]

Franzese was born in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York, the son of Denise, a cafeteria worker, and Ralph "R. J." Franzese, a lounge singer.[13] Franzese attended Piper High School in Sunrise, Florida from 1992 to 1996. After high school, he attended Florida School of the Arts in Palatka, Florida. He is of Italian descent.



Franzese portrayed high school student Damian Leigh in the teen comedy film Mean Girls (2004). Mean Girls grossed $130.1 million worldwide and has become a cult classic.[14] In 2018, he was set to reprise his role as Damian in Ariana Grande's music video for the song "Thank U, Next", but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. He was doing a stand-up comedy tour at the time.[15]

He has appeared in numerous feature films, including Bully, Party Monster, Bristol Boys and War of the Worlds.[16] He has also guest starred on several television series, including The Comeback, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Burn Notice, Party Down, and the web series Foodies. He had a main role in the 2010 film I Spit on Your Grave.

In 2015, he was cast as Eddie in HBO's comedy-drama television series Looking;[17] and in 2016, he landed the main role of Vern Testaverde in ABC Family's teen drama series Recovery Road.[18][19] In 2016 and early 2017, he portrayed Jackson Morrison in ABC's legal drama series Conviction.[20] In November 2023, he appeared in a Mean Girls-themed Black Friday commercial for Walmart alongside his original Mean Girls co-stars Lindsay Lohan, Lacey Chabert, Amanda Seyfried and Rajiv Surendra.[21] He portrayed his original Mean Girls character Damian Leigh in a second commercial for Walmart titled "Cady's Wednesday", released on November 15, 2023.[22]


Franzese has written, directed and performed several live comedy productions, including his one-man Off-Broadway show, I've Never Really Made the Kind of Money to Become a Mess, which premiered in New York in 2013 at The Players Theater,[23][24] and his 2011 rock opera Jersey Shoresical: A Frickin Rock Opera!, which also premiered in New York at The Fringe Festival[25][26] before its run in Los Angeles at the Hayworth Theatre.[27] Franzese is also an emerging stand-up comedian, and has performed on stages across America at clubs like Stand Up Live in Phoenix and the Comedy Store in Hollywood.[28][29]

Franzese has been a guest panelist on the Logo TV comedy game show Gay for Play Starring RuPaul[30] and was the host of Gay Skit Happens, a comedy sketch show, also on Logo TV.[31]

Franzese's stand up comedy tour, Yass You're Amazing!,[32] found success at colleges, clubs and theaters. He has also headlined The Burbank Comedy Festival, The Ruby LA Queer Comedy Festival. In 2019, Franzese performed his hit New York comedy show Danny Franzese and The House Of Glen Coco at SF Sketchfest[33] featuring his pick of the best and brightest in queer comedy.

Personal life[edit]

Franzese at RuPaul's DragCon in Los Angeles in 2022

In 2016, Franzese proposed to his boyfriend of two years, stylist Joseph Bradley Phillips, at a Starbucks in North Hollywood, California.[34][35][36][37] They called off their engagement in July 2018.[38]


After penning a coming out letter to his Mean Girls character Damian in 2014, in which the actor spoke of his admiration for the courage Damian displayed as an openly gay teenager and referring to him as an icon for gay youth, Franzese became an influential voice in the LGBTQ community.[39][40] When he became an official ambassador for the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, organizations such as GLAAD invited Franzese to host their 2015 gala in San Francisco.[41] He also presented the GLAAD playbook on HIV and AIDS to MSNBC on behalf of the organization.[42] His reputation as an activist grew after he was awarded the role of Eddie, an HIV-positive activist for a non-profit organization, in the HBO series Looking. During his time on the series, Franzese used his celebrity to promote messages of acceptance and understanding for people living with HIV[43][44] at special events, through media appearances, and a speeches at college campuses, including the University of Wisconsin in April 2016.[45]

Franzese is also an ambassador for LAMBDA Legal,[46] which is dedicated to decreasing the stigma associated with people living with HIV, and changing current HIV-related laws.[47][44]

In September 2019, Franzese was an ambassador and the host for the AIDS Walk Atlanta & 5K Run,[48] a fundraising and awareness campaign that raises funds to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and to provide critical social services and healthcare for people living with HIV. He was also the captain of his team for the event: Team Glen Coco.

In addition to his advocacy on behalf of HIV patients, on March 22, 2019, Franzese partnered with Lonely Whale and Bacardi in their efforts to stop pollution of the oceans with discarded plastic. They generated #thefuturedoesntsuck campaign to persuade the Unicode Consortium to remove all single-use plastic straws, which endanger marine wildlife, from drink icons in its emoji catalog.[49][50]


"Daniel Franzese in Lights" Photo by Tommy Agriodimas
Film and television
Year Title Role Notes
2001 Bully Derek Dzvirko
2002 Hometown Legend Abel
2002 Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat Altar Boy
2003 Party Monster The Rat / Dallas MC
2003 Queens Supreme David Episode: "Pilot"
2004 Mean Girls Damian Leigh
2004 Stateside Danny Tripodi
2004 Soleado Bar Friend
2005 War of the Worlds National Guardsman
2005 The Comeback Mr. Hollywood Episode: "Valerie Relaxes in Palm Springs"
2005 Cruel World Claude Markham
2005 Bristol Boys Jake
2006 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Dean Harden Episode: "Fannysmackin'"
2006 Whirlygirl Big Clive
2006 The Iron Man Valeah
2008 Bar Starz Big Mikey
2008 Killer Pad Doug
2009 The Missing Person Agent Craig
2009 On the Inside Paul Warren
2009 Kill Theory Freddy
2010 Party Down Ziggy Chorofsky Episode: "Cole Landry's Draft Day Party"
2010 I Spit on Your Grave Stanley Woods
2010 Burn Notice Dougie Episode: "Noble Causes"
2011 Foodies Danny Domenica
2012 Electric City
2012 Foodfight! Twinkleton (voice)
2015 Looking Eddie Series regular (season 2), 8 episodes
2015 Mind Puppets
2016 Recovery Road Vern Testaverde 10 episodes
2016 Looking: The Movie Eddie Television film
2016–2017 Conviction Jackson Morrison 7 episodes[citation needed]
2018 The Con Is On
2020 RuPaul's Drag Race Himself Guest Judge, Episode: "Snatch Game"
2022 RuPaul's Secret Celebrity Drag Race Donna Bellissima Season 2
Year Title Brand Role
2023 Walmart Black Friday Deals: Jingle Bell Rockin'[51] Walmart Damian Leigh
2023 Walmart Black Friday Deals: Cady's Wednesday[22]
2023 Walmart Black Friday Deals: Karen's Wednesday[52]


  1. ^ Rosen, Christopher (August 11, 2014). "This Mean Girls Reunion Is Not Like A Regular Reunion". Huffington Post.
  2. ^ Scott, A. O. (July 13, 2001). "Film Review: Deadpan Decadence, With a Sneer of Disgust". The New York Times. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  3. ^ Harvey, Dennis (July 6, 2001). "Review: Bully". Variety.
  4. ^ "Mean Girls star Daniel Franzese on coming out and joining season two of HBO's Looking". Entertainment Weekly.
  5. ^ Ciriaco, Michael (April 9, 2012). "Jersey Shoresical: A Frickin' Rock Opera Arrives in L.A., Co-Written by Danny Franzese (aka the Gay Friend in Mean Girls)". LA Weekly.
  6. ^ Rancilio, Alicia (September 2, 2011). "Jersey Shoresical pokes fun at MTV reality series". Today.
  7. ^ Cain, Bryan (June 17, 2014). "The Many Faces of Daniel Franzese". Huffington Post. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  8. ^ "Mean Girls Actor Daniel Franzese Comes Out". ABC News.
  9. ^ "Out100: Daniel Franzese". Out.com. November 9, 2015.
  10. ^ Reynolds, Daniel (March 20, 2015). "Daniel Franzese: How a Mean Girls Teen Became an HIV Activist". The Advocate.
  11. ^ Ska, Claudia (March 22, 2021). "Daniel Franzese "licenziato perché gay" tira in ballo anche il Vaticano, ma non è il solo" [Daniel Franzese "fired because he was gay" also brings up the Vatican, but he's not the only one]. The Millennial (in Italian). Retrieved March 13, 2023.
  12. ^ Cusumano, Topher (August 11, 2020). "Interview: Daniel Franzese Is Blessed and Highly Favored". Werrrk. Retrieved July 1, 2023.
  13. ^ "Daniel Franzese Biography (1978–)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
  14. ^ Brody, Richard (April 30, 2014). "Why "Mean Girls" Is a Classic". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved November 1, 2023.
  15. ^ "Damian From 'Mean Girls' Was Supposed To Be In The "Thank You, Next" Video, According To Daniel Franzese". Bustle. May 1, 2019. Retrieved November 1, 2023.
  16. ^ "The Verdict is in – I Spit on Your Grave 2010 Review". Dread Central. October 15, 2012.
  17. ^ Iannucci, Rebecca (August 27, 2014). "Mean Girls' Daniel Franzese Lands Looking Role — Who Will He Court?". TVLine. Archived from the original on August 6, 2017. Retrieved August 30, 2014.
  18. ^ "Recovery Road: Production Begins on New ABC Family TV Series". TVSeriesFinale.com. April 24, 2015. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  19. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (February 10, 2015). "ABC Family Series Recovery Road Tweaks Cast; Jessica Sula To Play Lead". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  20. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (July 29, 2016). "Conviction: Daniel Franzese Joins New ABC Legal Drama Series In Recasting". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  21. ^ "Watch Mean Girls' Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Seyfried and Lacey Chabert Reunite in Grool Video". E! Online. November 1, 2023. Retrieved November 1, 2023.
  22. ^ a b Walmart Black Friday Deals | Cady’s Wednesday, retrieved November 16, 2023
  23. ^ "Daniel Frances's I've Never Really Made the Kind of Money to Become a Mess to begin 12/19 Off-Broadway". broadwayworld.com.
  24. ^ Bojarski, Jackie (January 23, 2016). "Exclusive Interview with "Recovery Road" Star Daniel Franzese". talknerdywithus.com.
  25. ^ "Introducing The Jersey Shoresical!". perezhilton.com. August 26, 2011. Archived from the original on March 7, 2017. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  26. ^ "GLEE-SIDE HEIGHTS". intouchweekly.com.
  27. ^ "'Jersey Shore' goes from MTV to theater stage". Los Angeles Times. May 24, 2012.
  28. ^ "Daniel Franzese". standuplive.com. Archived from the original on March 7, 2017. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  29. ^ "Daniel Franzese". thecomedystore.com. Archived from the original on March 7, 2017. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  30. ^ "About The Series". logotv.com.
  31. ^ "Daniel Franzese: What To Expect On Logo's 'Gay Skit Happens'". Access Hollywood.
  32. ^ Daniel Franzese Talks about his "Yass! You're Amazing! Comedy Tour", archived from the original on December 13, 2021, retrieved October 9, 2019
  33. ^ "Daniel Franzese's schedule for SF Sketchfest 2019". sfsketchfest2019.sched.com. Retrieved October 9, 2019.
  34. ^ Cooper, Mariah (July 19, 2016). "'Mean Girls' actor Daniel Franzese gives Starbucks proposal". The Washington Blade.
  35. ^ "Daniel Franzese Got Engaged at Starbucks, and His Proposal Stunt Is Cuter Than Latte Art". Cosmopolitan. July 20, 2016.
  36. ^ "Watch Mean Girls actor Daniel Franzeses propose to his boyfriend in Starbucks where they first met". mirror.co.uk. July 21, 2016.
  37. ^ "Daniel Franzese Dishes On His Real-Life Starbucks Marriage Proposal". accesshollywood.com.
  38. ^ Vasquez, Whitney (June 26, 2018). "'Mean Girls' Star Daniel Franzese and Fiancé Call Off Engagement". The Blast. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
  39. ^ "Daniel Franzese Comes Out as Gay in Touching Letter to His Mean Girls Character Damian". US Magazine. April 22, 2014.
  40. ^ Sieczkowski, Cavan (April 22, 2014). "'Mean Girls' Star Daniel Franzese Comes Out As Gay". Huffington Post. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  41. ^ "Daniel Franzese host of the #glaadgala SF, takes a stand against HIV and AIDS". edgemedianetwork.com. November 17, 2015.
  42. ^ "Daniel Franzese on 'Looking,' TV's HIV+ Characters and More". edgemedianetwork.com.
  43. ^ "'Mean Girls' star breaks barriers again as HIV-positive character". MSNBC. March 22, 2015.
  44. ^ a b "'Looking' Star Daniel Franzese Defends Danny Pintauro After His HIV Reveal". towleroad.com. October 19, 2015.
  45. ^ "An Evening with Daniel Franzese". union.wisc.edu/. Archived from the original on March 8, 2017. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  46. ^ Marquina, Sierra (July 19, 2016). "Mean Girls' Daniel Franzese Engaged to Boyfriend Joseph Bradley Phillips — Relive Their Adorable Love Story". US Magazine.
  47. ^ "'Mean Girls' star breaks barriers again as HIV-positive character". MSNBC. March 22, 2015.
  48. ^ "AIDS Walk Atlanta & Music Festival". secure2.convio.net. Retrieved October 9, 2019.[permanent dead link]
  49. ^ Limited, Bacardi. "Bacardi and Lonely Whale Urge Unicode to Remove All Emoji Plastic Straws On Behalf of One Bold Sea Turtle Sydney". www.3blmedia.com. Retrieved October 9, 2019.
  50. ^ "'Mean Girls' Star Daniel Franzese Takes on a New Kind of Plastics in PSA Against Single-Use Straws". Green Matters. March 22, 2019. Retrieved October 9, 2019.
  51. ^ Walmart Black Friday Deals | Jingle Bell Rockin’, retrieved November 16, 2023
  52. ^ Walmart TV Spot, 'Karen's Wednesday' Featuring Amanda Seyfried, retrieved November 23, 2023

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