No one can deny that gay TV is hot. Today,
there are gay reality series and gay sitcoms and gay talk show
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
The bold, sometimes shocking Showtime series gave
gay TV an edge. And gave Showtime its biggest hit ever.
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.
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
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
“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
Although Harrison has been acting since he was 6
years old, his work on “Queer as Folk” still feels like an overnight
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.
scoffs when people tell him that they’ve seen him naked.
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.”
says that the most difficult part of shooting the intimate scenes
with Harold is that they have a hard time keeping a straight
“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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
getting naked in front of the camera, crew, and a television
audience that includes her family, isn’t easy.
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
“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
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.