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Pink Tube : Hal Sparks & Gale Harold
365Gay.com TV - 2001 - by Meg Allen

Toronto's Church Street was a beehive of activity throughout the fall as "Queer As Folk" shot season two of the hit Showcase series.
This week we get to see what happened to Justin, beaten with a baseball bat by a queer bashing fellow high school student after Brian showed up at the prom.
Sparks (Michael) and Harold (Brian) relative unknowns before the series began, are now instantly recognized around the city, even getting buttonholed by fans at airports.

Hal Sparks "Most of the people who recognize me up here are women, and interestingly enough most of them are young girls, like in their late teens or early 20s, which is an odd kind of demographic for the show. But it’s true, it’s there."

Gay men don't stop you on the street?
Hal Sparks "Rarely.  I think maybe it's a gay thing; to respect other people's privacy."

How is the community in Toronto, as far as the taping of the show? Have you had any problems?
Gale Harold "No. No, it's been great. The people here are very, very cool. I had never even been to Canada before I got this job."
Toronto is a great city. It's great to be off on location, I mean, I know it's not the same for everyone on the cast. But just in terms of being away from home, it's harder on some than it is on me to be away from home, but for me, I enjoy being on extended location, and I really like it here, even though it's F-ing cold, it's great!

Who’s the most famous person who ever recognized you?
Hal Sparks "My press person overheard Mike Myers say that he thought I was funny about 10 feet from me. I didn’t hear it, but my pressperson was like, ‘he just said you’re really funny.’ That was huge because I respect him a lot and I think he’s tremendously funny and talented so that was great.

There has been some criticism of the show in Pittsburgh.  After all Liberty Street isn't anything like Toronto's Church Street. Pittsburgh only has a couple of gay bars, and the locals say you would never see people walking on the street holding hands or in full leather. Is there a reason that the show is set there— rather than say, a more cosmopolitan city?
Hal Sparks "I think if they made it New York or Los Angeles, there’d be too much of a support community around to make it more like the broader experience of what gay people are like. Because you’ve got huge— for lack of a better phrase— gay ghettos in LA and New York.
You’ve got these places where there’s governmental support and there’s social support and it makes everything too handy. If we set the show in Los Angeles and we lived in West Hollywood, there’d be a gay pride march every week and there wouldn’t really be any drama— other than our relationships with each other getting in a wrinkle.
That is interesting to a certain point, but gets boring after a while if you’re not 16. There are a lot more issues you can deal with— how characters feel about being in or out of the closet, those kind of things. I think it’s set in a more mainstream town like Pittsburgh that could be in many ways Cincinnati, Ohio or Atlanta— well maybe not Atlanta— but secondary big cities, not the main ones.
I think Pittsburgh gives that. I’ve never been there; as I understand it— we really make Pittsburgh’s gay community look like West Hollywood, like it’s a big deal there and it isn’t. So to all the gay people who might be watching the show, young people who are just deciding that they’re gay and they want to go somewhere where they’ll be supported and loved, Pittsburgh is not necessarily the place to go. Just ‘cause we make it look so sweet."

Did you know any of your co-actors before getting together to do QAF?
Gale Harold "No, I didn't. Of course, I knew who Sharon was. And I had seen Hal. It all kind of started to come to me after we read together. After we read together, it was like another kind of amnesia thing. I had seen him on "Talk Soup," I just couldn't remember where or when.

Brian is a complex character. Did you or do you know "where he is" as a person before filming, were you told, or did you find the character yourself?
Gale Harold "I had a few conversations with the writers about that, but very minimal, in terms of the time or the depth. And to be honest, the way that things worked, from the time that I got the job, I was told that I had the job, which is on a Thursday around noon, I was in Toronto shooting on the following Tuesday. So in terms of preparation, it was whatever I could figure out, between packing, traveling, wardrobe fittings, etc. I have ideas now. It's strange, because trying to go back in time to those early episodes in terms of where I was as an actor and where Brian was by watching those episodes and now, trying to go back and piece in the bits of his life that I didn't have a chance to comprehend at the beginning of this project, it's really surreal. It's like recovering from amnesia, kind of, and trying to use the scripts, and what we have already shot as clues to build it, because I feel like I kind of "woke up," and was running through a hospital, or having sex with Justin, and then the pieces of Brian's life that you don't see on the show are still sort of arranging themselves."

Hal, how is Michael like you— or to rephrase this, is Michael like you? What kind of challenges do you face in playing this character?
Hal Sparks "Well, no, he’s not like me— and not just in the fact that he’s gay and I’m straight. There are other things, such as his naiveté.
I don’t have that and one of the hardest things as an actor is to wipe away your worldliness and kind of come at it from a blank slate point of view, which is very much what Michael is, and it’s very hard. He’s very forgiving and I’ve been through enough where I’m a little more like a raised eyebrow going through life and that’s tough because I want him to have that purity. And sometimes he’s just in rotten situations that I, as Hal, really know the solution to— but I can’t let him know that, I can’t make it look like I know that, so that’s pretty tough.
There are moments where he can be dumb, and I don’t want him to be that. I just want him to be filled with hope. The love scenes are very difficult, but I think that’s no surprise to anybody. I think they’re very difficult even if its just a straight love scene. I haven’t had one, but I’m looking forward to finding out."

What can you tell us about season two?  I hear there are a lot of changes?
Gale Harold "Well, we can't spoil too many of the surprises, but I will say that Justin survives but his recovery will long and hard.
Hal Sparks "And, Brian gets an attitude makeover (laughs)"
Gale Harold "And you get a new boyfriend."
Hal Sparks "But, that's all we're going to say.  You'll just have to tune in"

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