River Gallo in Ponyboi
River Gallo and Keith Allan in Ponyboi
River Gallo in Ponyboi
River Gallo Runs Deep
The writer, co-director and star of the short film Ponyboi — about an intersex runaway — makes history and leads representation.
"It's just like the wildest dream come true," says River Gallo, whose Ponyboi can be seen on demand via Showtime beginning June 12 as part of Spotlights: A Showtime Short Film Series — a new episodic anthology series showcasing the work of emerging filmmakers.
The short film, which Gallo wrote, starred in and co-directed with Sadé Clacken Joseph (Good Trouble, Rap Sh*t), tells the story of an intersex runaway working at a laundromat and as a sex worker in New Jersey while yearning to find love and happiness.
A master's thesis project produced when Gallo was a graduate student at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts, Ponyboi is executive produced by Stephen Fry and Seven Graham and coproduced by Emma Thompson. The short film premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival and is the first narrative film in cinema history created by and starring an out intersex person.
"I didn't set out to make history," says Gallo, who was born and raised in New Jersey by parents who immigrated to the United States from El Salvador.
In fact, Gallo, who uses the pronouns they, them and theirs and identifies as non-binary and trans, only came across the term intersex and realized they fell under the intersex umbrella while doing research for Ponyboi.
"Ponyboi really came out of this desire to just be myself in a work of art with the hopes of it being a springboard for the rest of my career," reflects Gallo, who is currently developing the short into a feature film.
Since graduating from USC, Gallo, whose education also includes a BFA in drama from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts Experimental Theatre Wing, is currently playing Cordelia and Fool in a production of William Shakespeare's King Lear at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles (running through June 5). They have also acted in an episode of Hulu's Love, Victor and directed a documentary-style National Coming Out Day campaign for Facebook as well as starred in and directed an autographical short film for dating app Badoo about dating as an intersex person.
An advocate for the intersex community as well as an artist, Gallo is hopeful their presence and work will lead to more intersex representation onscreen. "There are definitely other intersex people in Hollywood, in media, in the film and TV industry," they note. "But they're not out, out of fear. It's just not something that has been part of the conversation."
Spotlights will premiere on Showtime on Sunday, June 12 at 7:30 p.m. ET, with a new episode following every week for five weeks. (Ponyboi is featured in episode five.) All of the episodes will drop at once on June 12 on streaming and on demand for Showtime subscribers.
Gallo is represented as a director for commercials and content via production company Hey Wonderful.
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