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That’s so ‘Queer’ :
Randy Harrison on being a role model; Thea Gill on being naked; and Scott Lowell on being melancholy
Friday, April 09, 2004

No one can deny that gay TV is hot. Today, there are gay reality series and gay sitcoms and gay talk show hosts.
But when “Queer as Folk” premiered four years ago, the landscape of gay TV consisted of the safe and comfortably asexual “Will & Grace” to the occasional gay character here and there.
The bold, sometimes shocking Showtime series gave gay TV an edge. And gave Showtime its biggest hit ever.
Almost instantly, it was both praised and vilified, becoming a show that people either loved or hated. Graphic sex scenes, and what some decried as a narrow look at gay life, meant the series initially had a hard time being taken seriously.
But it endured, and in the process “Queer as Folk” has come of age.
Most of the cast of “Queer as Folk” descended on South Beach March 26, the first stop on a national tour to promote the show’s fourth season. Actors Randy Harrison, Thea Gill and Scott Lowell took time to talk about their roles, the challenges facing the show, and how “Queer as Folk” has changed them.

Randy Harrison: No role model
The public’s lack of separation between actor and character has been hardest for Randy Harrison, the young gay actor who plays the coming-of-age character Justin Taylor on the show.
The public widely perceives him as the face of gay youth in America, but Harrison will have none of it.
“I’m not a role model,” says Harrison. “I know people confuse Randy with Justin, but sorry, it’s not my problem. Randy feels no obligation to be a role model, and is never going to be one.”
Although Harrison has been acting since he was 6 years old, his work on “Queer as Folk” still feels like an overnight success story.
The young actor was only 23 and fresh out of college when he landed the role of Justin, the 17-year-old newbie. who falls hard for sexual player Brian Kinney, played by Gale Harold.
The scenes between Justin and Brian have been the graphic centerpieces in a show full of explicit moments.
Harrison scoffs when people tell him that they’ve seen him naked.
“When people say that, I just think, ‘No you haven’t,’” he says. “You don’t know what it’s like to be naked in a room with me.”
Harrison says that the most difficult part of shooting the intimate scenes with Harold is that they have a hard time keeping a straight face.
“Now we start laughing in the middle of it because it feels so stupid to be pounding against each other for no reason,” he says.
His greater concern is exploitation, and how much nudity and sex is integral to the plot, the character and the show.
In the upcoming season, Thea Gill, who plays Lindsay Peterson on Showtime’s ‘Queer as Folk,’ goes to some extreme measures to woo an artist to her gallery.
“It’s clearly what brings the show attention, so naturally they’re going to play it up,” Harrison says. “It gets frustrating because you’re always worried that you’re going to be taken advantage of. And you know that there’s a quota about how much sex they need. It’s stupid but you will accidentally overhear, ‘We need more of Justin’s ass in this episode.’”

Thea Gill: Liberated by Lindsay
Before “The L Word,” Thea Gill and Michelle Clunie were the L Couple. As the lesbians in love on “Queer as Folk,” Gill and Clunie portray one of the few lesbian relationships on regular, episodic television.
For Gill, that has been liberation. The Vancouver-born actress credits “Queer as Folk” for helping her overcome some of her personal and professional insecurities.
“The show has allowed me to open up in a way I’ve never opened up before,” Gill says. “It’s given me a lot of courage to speak my mind.”
“Queer as Folk” has also liberated the actress physically. Although Lindsay and Melanie represent a stable force in “Queer as Folk,” they still get their share of juicy love scenes.
For Gill, getting naked in front of the camera, crew, and a television audience that includes her family, isn’t easy.
“There’s still a great pressure for actors to feel comfortable in front of the camera,” she says. “To expose yourself physically and to show your skin in it’s entirety without any clothing, it’s a pretty intimidating factor. For me, that’s been a big hoop to jump through. It’s actually liberated me physically and I feel better about myself and my body than ever .”
Now that the character has helped liberate the actress, Thea Gill would like to return the favor.
“I would like her to overcome all her complicated insecurities, settle down, finally know what she wants to do with her life,” Gill says. “I want to see her do something she feels passionate about.”

Scott Lowell: Honest portrayal of addiction
Perhaps more than any character on “Queer as Folk,” Ted Schmidt, played by Scott Lowell, has weathered the most ups and downs.
Ted has suffered an accidental drug overdose, a coma, the loss of his online porn empire, and the consequences of a downward spiral into drugs, booze and sex.
“If there’s a wringer to be wrung through, Ted’s been through it,” says Lowell. “I feel honored that the producers have entrusted me with such stuff, especially last season with the drug addiction.”
Scott Lowell, who plays Ted Schmidt, treads carefully when telling fans that in real life, he’s straight. Not only is he not gay, he says, he is downright melancholy.
Lowell’s honest portrayal of Ted’s plunge into addiction got him nominated for a Prism award, given by the Entertainment Industries Council, which recognizes accurate depictions of drug, alcohol and tobacco use.
“It’s such a dangerous problem, especially in the gay community. It’s the people like Ted who fall into it easily: People with self-esteem problems who want to be liked and feel beautiful.”
Lowell understands Ted’s pain. When he lived in Chicago, he felt attractive and did well in the dating scene.
But when he moved to L.A. six years ago, everything changed. In a city of ultra-beautiful and powerful people, Lowell was viewed as a geek, was cast as a geek, and worst of all, began to feel like a geek.
“Los Angeles is like a big gay club,” he says. “It’s a world where youth and beauty and wealth are things that are prized, and if you don’t have those things, you don’t rate.”
Through that experience, he is able to empathize with Ted.
Lowell deals with the question of his orientation as a straight man with humor, by telling people that not only is he not gay, but that he’s downright melancholy.
In addition to giving him a chance to inhabit an interesting character, “Queer as Folk” has brought Lowell a kind of notoriety he says he never dreamed of, including a web site dedicated to him and an annual convention for his fans, called Sco-Lo Con.
Although Lowell is impressed and flattered by the way fans have embraced both him and the show, he is still incredulous over people’s reactions.
“I’m part of this juggernaut, but it’s hard when people are shaking and crying when you meet them,” Lowell says.

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