Internet culture was still nascent in 2000 when the US Queer As Folk series launched. Television was still the dominant way that we saw culture in the media. Now everybody has a voice, but in 2000 the most visible people were straight, white, and on TV. Queer As Folk was a key cultural stepping stone in bringing gay representation to the mainstream.
Now, 18 years later, Entertainment Weekly brought the cast and producers back together to look back on the show with an oral history that offered a reminder of just how different and politically charged the show was for US television at the turn of the millennium.
It wasn't just TV - it was political
"We, gay people, didn’t really see a true reflection of ourselves on TV very often. Back then, you couldn’t get married. There was Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the Army. In 14 states, there were still sodomy laws on the books. It was a very hostile atmosphere.”
- Ron Cowen, Showrunner
“We had meetings where they told us we were going to receive hate mail and threats and we had to be prepared” - Michelle Clunie, 'Melanie Marcus'
It was difficult to cast
"Some actors would come in and the first thing they'd say is 'Oh, my wife dropped me off downstairs.' They were so nervous"
- Daniel Lipman, Showrunner
"My agent and manager at the time presented this script to me like they were wearing hazmat suits"
- Hal Sparks, 'Michael Novotny'
Once cast, the actors got to know each other very well
“I can tell you what everyone here’s genitals look like. I won’t, but I could.”
- Randy Harrison, 'Justin Taylor'
"I think we were the first television show to use c--k socks"
- Hal Sparks
"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"
- Michelle Clunie
The show is resonant
“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 [nightclub getting bombed.]... They were just very teary, and I feel that there are so many aspects that have stayed current.”
- Robert Gant, 'Ben Bruckner'
“You can see a lot of seeds, I think, in a lot of the movements in society going forward. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I think some of those came directly from this show’s existence.”
- Hal Sparks
The fans are still here for the show
"Surprisingly, our greatest fans - and our most loyal fans over all these years - have been straight women"
- Rob Cowen
“We do fan conventions and things like that all over the world, and that’s a pretty unique thing for a relationship-based drama. There’s no lasers, and there’s no guys with capes flying… well, there were some guys with capes.”
- Scott Lowell, 'Ted Schmidt'
"God knows the clothes and the hairstyles have changed, but the emotional stories are eternal. I often say people came for the queer, but they stayed for the folk"
- Peter Paige, Emmett Honeycutt
Queer As Folk is available to stream anytime at SBS On Demand: