Gale Harold



Hal Sparks



Peter Paige



Randy Harrison



Sharon Gless



Gale Harold






Peter Paige



Gale Harold






Hal Sparks



Gale Harold






Peter Paige



Randy Harrison



Sharon Gless



Gale Harold



Gale Harold



Gale Harold



CNN: Larry King Live
Interview With Cast of "Queer as Folk"
Aired April 24, 2002 - 21:00 ET

LARRY KING: Tonight, too hot for TV? Showtime's hit series "Queer as Folk" steams up the screen. It's not another "Ellen." It's graphic, raw and controversial. And while it's produced by gays about gays, most of its stars are straight.

We've got all the key players and they'll answer your calls and criticisms. The full scope on the show that's stirring up a major fuss, next on Larry King Live.

They were supposed to be with us last week. It's good to have them back tonight. We're going to have the complete cast of "Queer as Folk" as our guests and a major discussion about that.

[King holds up a stack of magazines]

KING: Now, this is what we've been talking about and is our bulk of the show tonight. And if you've seen any magazines, New York Magazine with Randy Harrison -- he'll be with us in a little while -- on the cover. All these magazines -- "OUT," et cetera, et cetera, regular magazines, gay magazines, straight magazines have been talking about a television show. That show is "Queer As Folk," the most successful show on Showtime.

What's it like? Here's an example.

[Video clip from QAF is played]

JUSTIN: No matter how long they're together, even if it's forever, they can never do it raw.
BRIAN: Neither have we.
JUSTIN: Yes, but we could if we wanted.
[Video clip ends]

KING: We begin with, here in Los Angeles, Peter Paige. He plays Emmett Honeycutt. And he's out as a gay man in real life. In Miami is Sharon Gless. You know her very well. She plays Debbie Novotny, the mother of Michael. Debby is overwhelmingly supportive of her gay son. In New York is Gale Harold, who plays Brian Kinney, a successful ad executive unapologetic about his feelings. Also in New York is Randy Harrison, who plays Justin Taylor. Justin is a teenager who lost his virginity to the much older Brian. And here in Los Angeles is Hal Sparks who plays Michael Novotny, the son of Sharon Gless. Michael is smart but somewhat naive.

[The cast members are shown individually as they are being introduced by King]

KING: The only two actual gay characters on the show are Peter Paige here in Los Angeles and Randy Harrison here in New York. Why did you take this part, Peter?

PETER: I've always been drawn to controversial projects. I thought there was something really exciting, really dynamic here. What I think has caused so much of the controversy around this show is this combination of being about a group of gay men and women and its unapologetic use of sexuality as part of the dramatic storytelling. And I just think those are really human, human components.

KING: It's true.

PETER: It's true. That's exactly why. It's true.

KING: When did you come out? PETER: I started coming out as a teenager. It's a life-long process. I, you know, still am, I guess.

KING: And Randy is the only other actual gay person in the show. Why did you take the part?

RANDY: I took the part because I got it. (LOL) You know, I was excited to do it. I wanted to work. I just graduated from school. And it was a great way to begin my professional career.

KING: Did you have any doubts about displaying the character this way?

RANDY: Not really. I mean, I felt the sexuality especially in Justin's case was a really important part of his development as a character. So, you know, I was actually excited to do it and ready to do it.

KING: Sharon Gless, how did they get you involved?

SHARON: Well, a friend of mind sneaked me the script. And I called Showtime and asked if the part had been cast. And they said no, nothing had been cast. And I said, well, I'd really like to have that part. So, they sent me to the producers and it was one of the most fun interviews I've ever been on.

KING: Why did you want it?

SHARON: Because I smelled trouble and I wanted to be part of that.

KING: You like trouble.

SHARON: Yes. And, actually, there's been very little trouble around this show. I was surprised. But it was very shocking, very graphic. I'd never read anything like that on television and I wanted to be there.

KING: Peter Paige -- let me go to Peter. We want to get everyone established. Peter, who is a straight actor, right, Peter?

HAL: No, he's Peter.

KING: I'm sorry. You're Peter. Hal, as a straight actor, why did you take the role of a gay person?

HAL: Well, the script was excellent. And the character was something that I really felt like I could resonate to and find a heart for. And, frankly, a lot of other actors I heard were afraid to do it, gay and straight. They just wouldn't take a lot of the roles that were offered in the show. And any time I can be 200th choice for something and actually get the part, I'm there.

But truthfully it was part of that. It was like other people wouldn't do this. And it felt important. It felt historic. And I felt like I could really bring something it.

KING: You liked the script you got?

HAL: Yes. Yes. It was impressive. And it had a lot of intelligence to it.

KING: In New York, Gale Harold, who is also straight. We have to point that out because it is unusual to have this kind of a complete program dealing with the gay lifestyle, male and female, and everyone but two on it is straight. So, Gale, why did you take it?

GALE: Because it was a very interesting, challenging part and compelling for those reasons initially. And the more I thought about it and considered what the impact was going to be, I think socially, it just was a challenge I couldn't really pass up, to at least pursue, you know. And when I got the job, I got the job.

KING: Was it tough, Gale, and also we'll ask Hal the same thing, was it tough to play scenes out of natural concept for you, that is, having to make love to a man?

GALE: It was new and different, but it wasn't -- I wouldn't say tough. I mean, the implication there being that -- I wouldn't want to say that it was anything other than a challenge. I mean, that is the character that I signed on to play. And very much a part of his persona, his personality is his sexual life. And so, I had to be committed to that. I knew that from the time I decided to go and test for the part. And that's just part of the job, you know.

KING: In other words, it's acting.

GALE: Of course, it's acting.

KING: Hal?

HAL: I took the part knowing full well what would be asked of us. But I also wasn't necessarily prepared in any way for what it would take. And for me, it is difficult. And I have no qualms about saying that. But it's still worth doing. So a lot of things I've done in my life are very hard to do, but they're important to do.

KING: I want to get everybody's thoughts and I wanted to establish everybody. We'll have everybody correctly identified, too. I'm Larry King. The show is a hit on Showtime, a major hit, in fact.

Later, we'll be meeting its executive producers and one of its critics. Don't go away.

[Commercial Break]

[Video clip from QAF is played]

MICHAEL: I'm taking you home. Where do I turn?
BRIAN: He's going with me.
MICHAEL: Oh, no, he's not.
BRIAN: Pop quiz, no talking. Here's the question. Multiple choice. Do you want to come home with me? A, yes; B, yes; or C, yes. Tick, tick, tick, time's up. Pencils down. What do you say?
MICHAEL: None of the above. He's going home.
JUSTIN: I'm going with him.
BRIAN: Good boy. You get an A-plus.
[Video clip ends]

KING: You are seeing scenes from "Queer As Folk," the highest rated original series on Showtime, the premium cable network that brands itself with the phrase "No Limits." It is based on a highly successful British series of the same title, "Queer As Folk." Focuses on a group of gay men and women living in Pittsburgh. "Queer as Folk" is shot in Toronto. Returned for its second season on Showtime in January, is a major hit on that network.

Now, you know, Peter, that there are many gays complaining that they don't like the way this lifestyle is portrayed. How do you respond?

PETER: Well, I think they're, A, not watching the show. I think they're only responding to the press about the show which is, oh, it's provocative. There's a lot of sex in it. There's drug use in it, which is true. My mainstay of all is that it's real. This is real. This happened. This is going on.

KING: This is the gay life?

PETER: The people who are complaining about it are either ashamed of their own lives and mad that we're telling secrets or they're looking for some sort of politically correct best foot forward, you know, "Cosby Show" type programming, which is not what this show set out to do. This show set out to tell the story of these people's lives, warts and all. And it is pissing people off. I don't apologize for that.

KING: Sharon Gless, you're a two-time Emmy winner for "Cagney and Lacey." This is not "Cagney and Lacey."

SHARON [laughing]: No.

KING: Is realism just more coming to the fore?

SHARON: I'm sorry, what?

KING: Is that what this is about, that television just gets more real all the time?

SHARON: More real? Well, I hope so. I hope so. I mean, that was the success of "Cagney and Lacey" was that it was so real, first time out for a show like that. And I say the same thing for this show. I mean, you can't get too real. I mean, it's...

KING: Can you understand where it's disturbing to people?

SHARON: Well, it depends on who the audience is. I imagine there's -- yes, there are some audiences that it disturbs. But everyone I talked to loves it because it's -- I hate that expression, ‘pushing the envelope.' But it is taking that next step towards showing the reality of the life of these kids. It is not everybody. It's just this group of youngsters.

KING: Randy, do we know who the audience is? Do we know who's watching?

RANDY: You know, it's a huge audience, a lot of straight people, a lot of teenagers, a lot of gay people, too. I think the fact that the show appeals to so many people on so many different levels sort of is a testament to the legitimacy of it.

KING: Hal, do you know -- do you have friends who watch who are straight?

HAL: Oh, yes.

KING: And what do they say?

HAL: Yes, they're sort of, you know, as friends of mine they are proud of me for taking on the challenge, you know, and doing something that a lot of people wouldn't do.

KING: No one has complained to you? No one has said to you what are you doing?

HAL: No. Some guy friends of mine say, you know, I can't watch that part. I've got to turn that part off. Or, you know, I'll tape it and I'll fast forward through those things because it is hard for me. But they all agree that the storylines are compelling. The flashpoint of the show is the sex and that's what people attach themselves and go this is what it's about.

But if you watch the show, it's really about relationships. And in a lot of ways, it portrays relationships honestly, in a way that even straight portrayal of relationships doesn't do anymore. It becomes part of a cliche. So the first time you're seeing people having real arguments, and a lot of times -- I've said this before -- but I have dialogue on the show where I'm saying -- my character is saying to his boyfriend stuff that my ex-girlfriend has said to me. You know? And that's an interesting place to be in as a man, you know, and really come to terms with having those honest feelings.

KING: You play, Peter, the character you play, I understand, is really out there.

PETER: He's really out there.

KING: He's sort of ‘swishy' as you might say.

PETER [laughing]: You could say swishy. I wouldn't, but you could.

KING: Danger in stereotyping there or do you know people like that?

PETER: I know people like Emmett. I wanted very much -- what I think is so great about Emmett is he's very effeminate. He's out there, He's unapologetically gay and he really likes himself. He's sort of figured out that he was OK. Whether or not you think so doesn't really matter to him. And I thought that was really revolutionary to see on TV.

KING: Randy, as a gay man, does Peter's part offend you in any way?

RANDY: Oh, not at all. Not at all. It's really affirming actually.

KING: Because?

RANDY: Because you can see someone who is so out there and in a lot of ways, is so much of what people assume is negative about being gay or what people make fun of in homosexuality or the way they view potentially homosexual behavior. And you see someone who loves himself and is loved by everyone around them. And, you know, the audience loves him. You know, it is great.

KING: Hal, did you know this show would be as controversial as it is?

HAL: Yes, absolutely.

KING: No doubt about it?

HAL: No doubt whatsoever. You could tell from the initial script, and from being a person out in the world and aware of how things presently are. This show is important because it pushed that envelope, and therefore it couldn't have -- even if the controversy isn't hyperverbal. You know, there isn't a lot of fighting between us and the moral majority going on. What controversy truly is there is between people and their own biases, their own homophobia that they didn't address.

KING: Gale, do you have any regrets over taking the part?


KING: Not at all.

GALE: Not at all. I mean, I've had an amazing experience growing as an actor, growing with my fellow actors. I've learned and...

[Off-camera, we hear Randy whisper what sounds like "I love you" or "I love him"]

KING: What did he just whisper to you?

GALE [grinning]: I can't repeat it.

[Laughter in the studio]

KING: OK. We'll use that as a grabber. We'll take a break and come right back. We'll include some phone calls as well. At the bottom of the hour, other members of the cast and later, we'll meet the producers and a critic of "Queer As Folk." You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

[Video clip from QAF is played]

DALE: There are many pleasures to be found here, places that you are afraid to even think of going. I can take you there. But first you must surrender to me completely. Do you surrender? TED: Yes, I surrender. DALE: Sir. You will call me sir.
[Video clip ends]

[Commercial Break]

[Video clip from QAF is played]

DEBBIE: So how long you been positive then?
MICHAEL: Mother.
DEBBIE: I just like to know.
BEN: That's OK. I'm fine with it. Five years.
DEBBIE: What's your T-cell count?
BEN: About 600.
DEBBIE: Ever been hospitalized?
BEN: Nope, not yet, knock wood.
DEBBIE: Viral load?
BEN: Undetectable.
DEBBIE: On the cocktail?
BEN: Anti-virals.
MICHAEL: What the fuck do you think you're doing?
DEBBIE: This is the reality, sweetheart. And you're just going to have to live with it.
[Video clip ends]

KING: Randy, your character is 17 years old, as I understand it.

RANDY: He's 19 now, but he began at 17, yes.

KING: When he was 17, was there criticism over that since he's a minor?

RANDY: Some, yes, there was.

KING: Didn't bother you?

RANDY: Not really because it happens all the time. And, you know, I was happy to put it out there.

KING: As we saw from that scene, Hal, your lover has HIV.

HAL: Yes. Michael's dating a character named Ben this year and he's HIV positive.

KING: Do you think this enlightens people about this?

HAL: Absolutely. I mean, when the episode where I meet him and all that, it first aired, Michael can't sleep with him. And he breaks up with him because he can't handle the HIV element in the relationship. And we got a lot of criticism from that. People picketed us. And then when they finally watched how the story progressed and how this relationship grows, I think it really opens a lot of people's eyes. And I'm really happy that that storyline came into the fore. KING: Peter, there are those who say Pittsburgh was a bad choice to be the city -- no, that the gay communities are more prevalent in San Francisco, Houston than in Pittsburgh.

PETER: Right. You know, I mean, I think you should talk about that with the producers. Obviously, that was their choice. But I think it's about being a real city. It's just about being a city with real people with people who might be neighbors.

KING: Just happened to be Pittsburgh.

PETER: Yes. Exactly.

KING: Tacoma, Washington, hello. Tacoma, are you there?

CALLER: This is Houston, Texas.

KING: OK. I was told Tacoma. I'm on five, but OK, Houston, go ahead.

CALLER: I just wanted to comment about the show. First of all, I love the show. Everybody is great on that show. I'm an African- American female who has dealt with discrimination in her own life and it's great to see how you all have overcome all of that.

KING: Do you have a question? Do you have a question, dear?

CALLER: Well, I just wanted to give a comment. I mean, I love the show. You're all doing great work. Keep it up. I mean, you've helped me and my family bridge...

[King disconnects the caller]

HAL [speaking to the caller]: Thanks a lot.

KING: Thank you. Do you hear a lot of that?

PETER: We do quite a about it, actually. I think the universality of the relationships, I think, it touches people. And, you know, straight people, gay people, people of color, often come up and just say, I get it. That's my relationship. I understand that.

HAL: A big portion of our audience is straight women. And a lot of times it is because they're seeing emotions portrayed that they don't get to see anywhere else.

KING: Gale, do you have any fear that this could typecast you in a way that, oh, he's the guy that's on "Queer As Folk"?

GALE: The only real answer I have to that, you know -- it is asked a lot is that I really wouldn't want to work with someone who would typecast me based on what I'm doing in this job. I mean, we're actors and we want to grow and we want to perform different parts.

So if I'm going to take a part that's challenging to me and that's feeding me as an actor, if someone were going to typecast me because of that -- I know that it has happened. But I really feel like it's 2002. Hopefully we're beyond that.

PETER: Amen.

GALE: My goal is to work with people like I'm working with now that have an interest in pushing forward ideas and issues that, you know, are important and speak to people.

KING: Randy, as a gay man, are you consulted by -- by the way, are the writers gay?

RANDY: Some of them.

KING: Are you ever consulted with questions like, does this happen?

RANDY: No. Sometimes, yes, sometimes.


RANDY: Not all the time. I mean, I think people are pretty aware that this sort of does happen. You know, in the show, it very much represents a small subgroup of the gay community. But you know, most people I know who watch the show are aware of the reality of these kinds of situations and relationships.

KING: Do you ever see a script, Peter, where you have to say, no, that's not the way it happens?

PETER: No. I've seen scripts where I said, I wonder about this. And we engage the producers in a great conversation about it. They're really collaborative and really open that way. And the only question I've ever been asked by other actors on the show was do you really do it like that?

KING: And what do you say?

PETER: Harder.

KING: Sharon, I know you've never shirked controversy. Did you expect what you've gotten out of this?

GLESS: I'm sorry, Larry. I couldn't hear you.

KING: Did you expect the controversy this has gotten?

GLESS: Yes. That's sort of reason I signed on because I thought -- I mean, I was up for the fight. But that's what's exciting about this show to me. There's never been anything like it. I've been getting trouble from that scene you just saw, from people writing me and talking to me on the street, how could you?

KING: There are conservatives, Hal, who are saying it glorifies a lifestyle.

HAL: I think TV has an opportunity to be a window. And that's what it is in this case. There are a lot worse lifestyles to glorify than a young man falling in love with a man who has HIV and persevering through that relationship, or a character such as Emmett who falls in love with a much older man and really has an enduring relationship with him. If that's what we're promoting, then, tough.

PETER: You know, it ain't glorifying what. These characters are flawed. They struggle. They have problems. It is drama. That's what it is.

GLESS: They're real people.

KING: It's a show.

PETER: It's a show. To say we're glorifying something I think is really inaccurate.

KING: Any script coming going deal with the Catholic church?

HAL: Boy, we've been really prophetic throughout. And, yes, that actually is addressed.

KING: Thank you all very much. We'll break and meet other members of the cast, four more coming. We thank Peter Paige, Sharon Gless, Gale Harold, Randy Harrison and Hal Sparks, all of the hit show "Queer As Folk." More to come and more phone calls. Don't go away.

[Go to Page 2]

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