After months of hype, in which gay men had been promised that they were going to get the sexiest, taboo-shattering show on television—that even starred openly gay men—people tuned in ready to be disappointed. Right there, in super-saturated hues, we saw Brian Kinney and high school blonde Justin Taylor get naked and begin to go at it. After plenty of deep kissing, we saw a tongue between ass cheeks and then anal penetration that looked the way it felt: The show thrived for five seasons joined by the lesbian version, The L Word , growing its fan base to include a majority of straight women.
Many remained cycnical because they had watched bootleg VHS copies of the original, U. Davies and loved the dark irony and gritty cinematography. Over the past 10 years, however, something changed. Every TV show seemed to have a gay character, men and teenage boys kissed on network television, and people seemed more interested in engagements and wedding ceremonies than they did about the things that happened in the bedroom.
And it meant a lot — because we were doing it when it was a career-ending threat. Surprisingly, all of them still love their involvement on the show, taking pleasure in remembering it all these years later, and seemed to have no regrets. Although viewers who are just finding the show for the first time, or returning for a repeat experience, should be forewarned that its not quite the show you may remember. Despite these changes, the show remains a bellweather for much of the progress of queer representation on American TV in the years that followed.
I mean, I got frustrated with shooting sex later on in the series but, at the beginning, I just remember I was desperate for those images when I was a gay kid growing up. Especially to me as an adolescent it was — Oh my god, life-changing. So I was really excited that I was going to be a part of that for other people and telling a gay story that was going to be on television. Not terrified by the subject matter but terrified that we were so exposed. It was Randy and myself and a room full of men.
It was kind of like being under a microscope. It was very strange. We were looking at each other and trying to find a way to hold it together. And similarly with all the other characters and how it effects them emotionally is critical. I noticed his ankles on his shoulders and I was like, 'Oh, well I guess that makes sense. I wanted gay couples and gay individuals who were watching the show, were told by everyone around them that their sexuality was a lifestyle choice or just physical, to see the love in the sex.
To see the physical connection compounded by love. What I wanted them to see was two gay men together, not two homosexuals. To some to degree, what you were seeing in the Brian sex scenes—from an outside perspective—was two homosexuals: By contrast, I thought it was my responsibility along with the character that I was in the scene with, that we had to deliver the answer to that. I made a very distinct choice about that because his relationship was about eye contact, about love, about the bonding of two human beings.
It was very loose and we were very frank with one another. We could ask any questions that we had, but the biggest hurdle for me was the psychological one. In terms of figuring Ted out, I figured that we both were hopeless romantics, being that he loved the opera and he was always searching for the perfect guy—and he had this unrequited crush and I felt that familiarity with him.
I think I got lucky, too, because I got some pretty boys to make out with and that made it easier. What I mean is that it was more athletic and contrived. What we were expressing on [Queer as Folk] was in a loving setting.
We were really mindful in our scenes, but we did have our rough scenes as well. More than half our audience were straight women. It was interesting for some of these women viewing these characters that they could see having a relationships with, but were viewing them having sex with men. There was an educational factor for us.
One particular incident with Hal, where we literally were talking about if he was going to have both legs up, or have one leg up… [laughs]. It was mainly to make the guest stars comfortable at the end of the day, but it was incredibly useful for all of us. And these were lifelong gay allies. So it was definitely educational. I also loved doing the football storyline, that was the most fun that Emmett got to be and those are probably two of my favorites.
It was for every fabulous outfit, I was in sweat pants in another scene. It was like, 'How can we stitch this back to the real human being underneath all this? But we fought through a couple storylines that I hated. It was like a season-and-a-half later, I think. I think it did tie in with HIV and his holistic focus on living his life. He was much more focused around the prospect of a healthy relationship and more about what that looked like. Ben also represented a character that was involved and grounded.
I liked that he was more balanced and offered a grounded approach to a lot of situations. I appreciated the exploration that we made around steroids, as well. There were so many different expressions of gay cultures, what people struggled with, the desire to feel beautiful was an important story.
The steroid thing was powerful extension of that because it was a bolstering of that wall to protect myself and create that facade that is going to make me lovable. He certainly had his fears around the HIV issue but he decided to bolster himself with focusing on his body. She comes to his rescue, and I think that for me is something that had a really long life that we never really had a chance to get deep enough into it.
We did play with it and Sharon and I found a way to put maybe enough of it out there to really start to paint a picture but — that canvas is somewhat blank. I would have loved to go deeper into that. I just wanted to go deeper into that, you know? Sometimes I think about what it would be like if Debbie and Brian would have gotten into just horrible, difficult financial difficulties and go on some Bonnie and Clyde run, you know?
I was like, 'This is the most hetero-normative relationship ever, more than any of the straight couples on television. Not just like sexual versatility but also like the power dynamic. There were conversations with execs about him coming out of the closet in year two, and my problem with it was it would be a Pride March after that. You could have told me; I would have understood.
And I felt like she would have been a great straight ally. And as a straight person on the show, I kind of felt that we had a lack of straight allies. Although they turned out to be closeted sometimes. Like, wait a minute: Brian had some kind of tractor beam in his penis that could make anybody gay. I mean, it will be awkward to see his dad do sex scenes in general.
I hear almost every day that people just watched it with their kids. The clothes are a little dated, the hair styles are a lot dated, but not the stories. The emotional stories are eternal. Emotional stories are the same stories that Shakespeare told, and the Greeks.