We are extending our personal stories and journeys in our Pride series beyond the month of June. Tom Prior is shot by Morgan Shaw and styled by Chalisa Guerrero in Ben Sherman, Boss, Gant, Kuro, Jekeun, and more in this Fucking Young! exclusive.

I was approached to play the lead in “Firebird” back in 2014. I had no idea it would have such life-changing consequences for my life.

It was a story that ticked all the boxes for me. I grew up infatuated by the stories of James Bond, Jason Bourne, and Tintin. “Firebird” was a Cold War era story, playing a soldier amongst the heat and intensity of a real airforce base defending the Soviet Union, but with the twist of adventure – not saving the world, but following love and truth. Embarking on a clandestine forbidden love affair was the mission at hand! It was a true hybrid of a romance and a thriller, and I was sold. After I was offered the role, I gave Director Peter Rebane some suggestions on how I believed the script could be improved, and while we shot a few scenes to ‘prove the concept’ of making the film and raising the financing, he graciously took the feedback and this lead to us co-writing together for two and a half years; diving deep into the political and social context of the time. And that took me to Russia to meet the real man behind the story…

When meeting Sergey Fetisov, for the first time in May 2016, Moscow was on full-scale rehearsals for the annual Victory Day parade, where tanks, missiles, and thousands of soldiers line the streets and parade to ‘celebrate’ ‘winning’ the second world war… It was a crazy insight into the military might behind Russia. When I met Sergey, I realised quickly he was a beacon of light, even at a time when love (between same sexes particularly) was so heavily restricted and controlled. He was such a sunny man and was ever positive and hopeful in his demeanour. He had followed love in the most dangerous situations. Embarking on a same-sex love affair, as we show in “Firebird,” could have gotten him thrown into a hard labour camp for five years (the survival rate of these camps was not remotely healthy either). However, during one of our interviews with him in Moscow, he casually flirted with a male waiter in a restaurant in a pretty dodgy looking suburb of Moscow while I was getting to know him. He was unfazed, yet wise.

Looking over the young photos of Sergey and speaking to him, I chose to portray him in the way in which he showed up in the world – as someone determined to go after their bliss, no matter what. Watching the film back in hindsight, I believe it was the right decision. The only trouble was, this behaviour ended up having quite a contagious effect on my overall life and inspired me to look radically at my own dreams, my own calling, identity, what love means to me, and how I too show up in the world.

I am a believer in demonstrating the behaviours of change in the world. And just as Sergey was inspired in action, so too am I, more than ever. When we demonstrate the behaviours of change around us, it gives permission for others to do the same, and we can change the world that way, and even more so through showing it via filmmaking. That is the core of why I told the story of “Firebird” and poured almost seven years of my life into it. I trust and hope that the film can bring a little more courage to audiences, as it has for me, but also have them ask of themselves, how to be even more authentic in their lives.

Since the film emerged I have been endlessly asked about my personal life in addition to how I identify. But ‘identifying’ a certain way has felt restrictive or the opposite and can come with expectations about one area of my life, or worse, can make one feel ‘other’ or different. My truth today, is that I don’t identify any particular way. It is not in naivety that I say this, as I am grateful and venerate the progression of what identifying has allowed through decades and centuries of struggle.

But today is about being authentic; having authentic connections and following the calling of my heart, that is how I will identify. I have always believed that sexuality is all on a spectrum, and now is time in history to allow the lines to blur. I am who I am – always learning, growing and changing and I will fall in love with, who I fall in love with.

I am forever grateful for the journey which making “Firebird” took me on.


Photographer Morgan Shaw @morganshawphoto
Stylist Chalisa Guerrero @chalisaguerrerostylist
HMUA Larisa Moldovan @larisa.mua
Assistant Nicole Tabalba @ntabalba