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Outlook News - 'Queer As Folk' star to visit Columbus June 12 :
by Lisa K. Zellner

Randy Harrison likes the realness of his New York life in lower Manhattan. He hates the superficiality of Los Angeles. And he doesn't personally know anyone in real life who is like his character on Showtime's hit series Queer as Folk.
"I personally don't know any gay people like that either. It's a fantasy," he said about controversy over the show's depiction of gay life. The hit show has been criticized for the amount of sex and drugs written into the lives of a group of friends in a mostly fictitious gay Pittsburgh. "They're hyper-stylized, stock characters created to make really dramatic story lines that keep people interested in watching."
Harrison, who graduated from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, will return to Ohio June 12 as a guest speaker at the Human Rights Campaign Columbus Dinner Gala. For tickets - even seats at Harrison's table - visit www.boxofficetickets.com or call 1-800-494-8497.
Harrison said the show, like HRC, has elevated the visibility of the gay community and exposed the injustice of discrimination that faces gay people.
"I am always surprised by the amount of teens and straight women who watch the show, people who aren't actually involved in the gay community, some who don't even know gay people but are at least moderately familiar with the issues we face through the show," Harrison said.
And while critics point to the lack of reality in many of the characters' lives, Harrison said the show is reaching the higher standard some viewers have set for it.
"People say 'The show is a comfort in my life,' or 'I'm isolated and this is something I can watch with my family,' which surprises me," Harrison said. "I hear from kids who were suicidal that they felt comforted by the show. So it does do wonderful things. I don't know that that's what should be expected from a TV show, sadly.
"No one ever expected The OC or 90210 to drastically change the community of Beverly Hills."
Harrison is pleased that while the characters are dramatized, the show seriously explores the political climate that faces the gay community. In addition to the difficulty of coming out and how that impacts a gay person's family and friends, topics have involved the candidacy of an anti-gay politician, gay bashing, drug abuse and AIDS.
"I think it's really great that the show has gotten us involved in a forum for people to discuss things," he said. "It has brought things out in the public eye more."
This season, QAF's fourth, Harrison's character Justin has turned from taking a stand against discrimination to a more vigilante approach with a group the show calls the Pink Posse.
"That was really hard for me to do," Harrison said. "Justin is always such a very rational character, very empathetic and moral, for the lack of a better word. But I sort of related to it because I understand where the character was coming from.
"I've never had that kind of anger. I've never been bashed. But the writers are mostly older gay men in their 60s and what they faced is drastically different than what I have faced personally," he said. 'I think that kind of anger prevents some gay people from reaching out to people who could potentially be our supporters. There's a sort of self-segregation that comes from that kind of anger that can turn into hating straight people, which is so counter productive.
"That was so hard to play because it's not at all where I come from. I've been out of the closet since I was 15. It was not that much of a big thing to me."

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