In the current issue of Entertainment Weekly, the cast of Queer as Folk reunited in full for the first time since they filmed the finale of their hit Showtime series in 2005.
From left: Michelle Clunie (48), Thea Gill (48), Robert Gant (49), Hal Sparks (48), Gale Harold (48), Randy Harrison (40), Sharon Gless (75), Peter Paige (48), and Scott Lowell (53).
The Fab Four
“I’d actually seen a good bit of the original on VHS, and I thought it was great. But my first reaction was ‘There’s no way they’re going to do this in the United States,'” Harrison says of seeing the U.K. version of QAF, which premiered in 1999.
Pictured, clockwise from left: Sparks, Lowell, Harrison, and Paige.
“It’s the first time I’d ever read a script where I knew, ‘I’d be really good in this role,'” Sharon Gless (with her on-screen son Sparks) says of wanting the role of Debbie. “I felt so confident that I picked up the phone and called [then Showtime programming president] Jerry Offsay. I said, ‘I’d like to do the mother.’ He said, ‘You know, I like the idea, Sharon. I think you’ll bring a little class to the project.’ I said, ‘Jerry, class is not what I had in mind.’ “
Sex on the first (shoot) date
“I had a lot of self-doubts about being able to execute the role of Brian, but diving in like that, it was kind of like the bells ringing,” says Harold (right, with Harrison) of filming his character’s iconic sex scene with Harrison’s Justin on the very first day of filming the series. “The next day was much easier in every way.”
An open mind
“I’ve always said that this show made me a better heterosexual in a lot of ways, because it opened me up to being vulnerable,” says Lowell (right, with Paige).
The cast shot the series in Toronto — Sparks (crouching) and Harrison (far right) were even roommates for a while until Harrison found time to get a place of his own.
Clunie (left) and Gill took time to get to know one another before their first sex scene: “I remember Thea and I got together the night before our first sex scene, and we actually practiced kissing because we felt it was very important that it was a real, intimate connection between these two women who had been together for so long,” says Clunie.
“God knows the clothes and the hairstyles have changed, but the emotional stories are eternal,” says Paige (left). “I often say people came for the queer, but they stayed for the folk.”
Taking a chance
“My agent and manager at the time presented this script to me like they were wearing hazmat suits. ‘It’s a hit in England. I don’t know. We don’t recommend it, but you get mad if we don’t let you read stuff,’ ” Sparks says of learning of the gig. “I’m no longer with them.”
A role for a reason
“I just wanted to be a part of gay representation on television,” Harrison says of why he was interested in playing Justin. “I was hungry, as a teenager coming to terms with my own sexuality, for media that reflected my experience.”
The dangers of breaking barriers
“We had meetings where they told us we were going to receive hate mail and threats, and we had to be prepared,” Clunie says of how they were warned the show might recieve backlash.
Coming out again
“I’d come out to my whole family years before, but everyone sort of pretended it didn’t happen. Then suddenly we were on Queer as Folk, and I came out in Time, People, Newsweek, Entertainment Weekly. It was over. The doors were blown off the barn,” says Paige. “There was some growing pains, but it got better, and it moved me into the world as a louder, more authentic human being.”
“It was nice to hear that it was being received and people were engaging with what we were doing, but suddenly I wasn’t even myself anymore because I’d become [Brian],” Harold says of the response when the show premiered in December 2000. “It was really exciting, it was really gratifying, but it was f—ing scary.”
The power of sex
“I think the sexuality—and the honesty of that sexuality—propelled us throughout the whole series,” says Gill.
The cast was informed after season 4 wrapped that the show would be concluding in 2005 after season 5.
“The last year, every scene was important,” says Gless. “‘This is the last scene I’ll do with Randy.’ ‘This is the last scene I’ll do with Thea.’ Even though it was sad, it was complete.”
“Two of the survivors of the Pulse attack came up to me and said, ‘We just wanna thank you all for having done that story line about Babylon [getting bombed.]’ They were just very teary, and I feel that there are so many aspects that have stayed current,” says Gant.
“We do fan conventions and things like that all over the world, and that’s a pretty unique thing for a relationship-based drama,” says Lowell. “There’s no lasers, and there’s no guys with capes flying…well, there were some guys with capes.”