An executive producer on the series, Underwood knows he has privilege and a platform, which is why he said he sought counsel from people who aren’t white gay cisgender men, including Nicole Garcia, a transgender Latina pastor. In an email, Garcia said Underwood could be a role model, especially to let young athletes know they “can be male, athletic, gay and be successful, loved and respected.”
This being reality TV, Underwood didn’t prepare the people he comes out to on camera — what we see, he said, is their genuine reaction to the news that he is gay. Initially, that didn’t sit well with his mother, Donna Burkard, the first person he comes out to on the show. (Underwood’s parents are divorced but on good terms.)
Burkard said her son’s revelation was a surprise, and she was uneasy with the camera but resigned to it. Then her mama bear emerged.
“We decided if we could help a single family, and hopefully multiple families, by showing the love and support that I believe I displayed, other gay men and women in hiding could see a flicker of hope that their parents are going to respond with open arms,” she said in a phone interview.
Underwood’s biggest protector on the show is his father, Scott Underwood, who said he loves his son — “a strong person,” he called him for coming out on national television. But did he have to get the news while they fished?
“I’m not saying I’m upset about it, but I would have preferred it had been done differently,” he said by phone. But his son is “an entertainer, let’s face it,” he continued. “That’s what he’s chosen to do for his career.”