"Hot Debate Guy" Speaks: Gregory Caruso on Instant Celebrity and His Filmmaking Career

Screengrab/CNN

The son of billionaire Rick Caruso, who became a trending topic just for sitting behind GOP debate moderator Jake Tapper, has a new documentary on the American Man (and reveals his relationship status).

Gregory Caruso says a random "coincidence" is the only reason he ended up sitting directly in the line of live TV cameras during Wednesday night's Republican debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. 

"I just happened to take that seat," the 24-year-old filmmaker and son of billionaire Los Angeles real estate developer Rick Caruso explains to THR of getting placed right behind moderator Jake Tapper, while the rest of his family who attended the debate — father, sister and brother — took seats off camera. "My dad was a big supporter of [Ronald] Reagan back in the day and we've gone to a couple of debates there in the past." 

This debate is likely one Caruso, and his family, will never forget.

Not only did he get the hot seat and lots of screen time, his coiffed hair, crisp style (gray suit, striped tie) and steamy glare caught fire on social media. By Thursday morning, the hashtag #HotDebateGuy was trending on Twitter. During a phone interview with THR, Caruso was open to discussing the overwhelming attention and his relationship status (more on that later), but what he really wanted to chat about is his film career. 

He's promoting a new documentary titled Making the American Man, a project he started during his days at USC (he graduated in 2014 from the School of Cinematic Arts with an emphasis in production). He and his partners filmed the project off-and-on for about a year before wrapping post-production on Thursday. Caruso and his crew are hosting a private "friends and family" screening Sept. 18 at The Grove, the L.A. retail extravaganza developed by his father. 

"It's about makers of American-made goods from denim and leather goods to boots, watches, belts, grooming products, baseball caps, everything," he says of the film, which they will be submitting to festivals soon. "It's also about the resurgence of manufacturing. We interview about 40 makers across the U.S. and it's been so awesome to meet these people. We got a really good group."

Caruso served as the director and produced along with two friends from USC. Aside from the doc, he has other film projects lined up through his production company, Bristol Pictures, including two short films and a feature he hopes will head into production "in the next year or so."

His passion for film dates back to childhood when he would watch black and white films on weekends with his father. "I would stay up late with Westerns, (Alfred) Hitchcock or Billy Wilder," remembers Caruso, who does not maintain a Twitter or Facebook account. (His Instagram is private). "I fell in love with film and the golden age of cinema. That's why I'm interested in making period pieces."

As the dust settles on the debate, the public is now interested in knowing if the #HotDebateGuy is single. "I'm uncomfortable answering that question," he says, "but I will say that I'm dating and that's as far as I want to go." 

He'll go further on his thoughts on the GOP debate in general. "There are four candidates I'm interested in," Caruso admits. "[Carly] Fiorina did a great job and is the clear winner to me. But I also really like [Jeb] Bush. I like [John] Kasich — he's one of those guys to look out for in the next couple weeks and months. And [Marco] Rubio did a great job too."

Caruso himself seems to be doing a respectable job of managing the attention, which he first became aware of during the commercial breaks of the debate when his sister showed him a Buzzfeed article on her phone and texts started streaming in. "I've enjoyed it," admits Caruso, who was flying to New York and will appear on Good Morning America. "It's also a little awkward and weird and somewhat shocking but also a lot of fun. I feel lucky to be in this position and I'm going to make the most of it, but it's important to remind myself that I didn't do anything to receive this attention."

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