Former cast members from the US version of Queer as Folk have reunited at the ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas -10 years after the series concluded.
The panel included creators Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman, as well as stars Gale Harold (Brian), Peter Paige (Emmett), Robert Gant (Ben) and Randy Harrison (Justin).
Before a devoted audience they discussed how ground-breaking it was to play gay roles in 2000 along with some of the different issues facing the gay community: gay marriage was illegal, Don’t Ask / Don’t Tell, Sodomy laws were in place in some US states.
Adapted from the UK original, but running for 83 episodes, it tackled gay bashing, adoption, coming out, HIV / AIDs, and paved the way for other shows to follow.
It was a time when casting agencies refused to send people to producers. Most of the cast were straight.
Lipman has said, “e had to go to the network to get approval with the cast, and usually you have two people for each role — or more — and you never go in with one. The character of Brian is such a linchpin to the show; if we didn’t have Brian, we didn’t have a show. And we didn’t have Gale [Harold, who starred as Brian] until the day before. We had to go to the network at 7 a.m. … and the night before we had no Brian. Linda called us at 5 p.m. the night before and said, ‘He’s here, come over right now.’ And there was Gale. Gale is very charismatic and enigmatic and read the scene. We both wondered, ‘Is he really fabulous or are we desperate?’ And he was really fabulous. But lot of people didn’t show up.
“I remember at the beginning, Michelle [Clunie, who played Melanie], Peter [Paige, Emmett], Scott [Lowell, Ted], Thea Gill [Lindsay] and Hal [Sparks, Michael] were so passionate about doing this, they didn’t have to have their arms twisted, they wanted to do this. And Sharon Gless [Debbie], we never saw anyone else other than Sharon for Debbie, who was the last part to be cast. [Then-Showtime president] Jerry Offsay called and asked what we thought about her. We didn’t know if she would do this. She was doing a play in Chicago and, on her own dime, flew to L.A. to meet us. She didn’t care that the part was big or small; she just wanted to be part of this.”
You can watch a 70 minute panel video at the Hollywood Reporter.