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The craft of acting struck Harold in a way that two-dimensional media didn’t. Waiting tables to support himself, he studied, he says, “to the exclusion of everything else, for a solid year and a half.” A manager who’d seen him in a play signed him. For a year, Harold made the actor’s boot camp round of auditions. Nothing clicked. At one point he asked his manager to stop sending him out for television work, sure that there was nothing for him in that medium. Then, of course, came Brian.
By the time we head over to the QAF production office to continue our conversation, Harold is ready to talk about his controversial on-screen character. “There was an attraction,” he concedes, when asked if the chance to play a sexual hunter-gatherer like Brian Kinney—as far from the “gay upstairs neighbor” as possible—appealed to him. “Another attraction was that it was an interesting story. It wasn’t West Hollywood, 90210, which I would never have been called in for. I’m not that ‘type.’”
Harold’s initial take was that the character would best be played as “a cross between Lou Reed and Oscar Wilde, with a gold tooth, and go completely over the top with it. Now we know that I can’t do that,” he says mischievously, “though I still think that’s how it should be done. It would be a lot dirtier. But he’s not allowed to be that.” Nor does he buy into the notion that Brian is a pure predator. “You have to like your character, because if you don’t, no one else will either. And if the point of the show is to create a character that nobody likes and everybody hates, that would be the way to go. Make him a predator. But I liked Stuart [the character on whom Brian is based]! I liked the guy.”
The thought that he might be typecast playing a gay man never occurred to him when he considered whether or not to take the role. He had asked a gay actor friend whether he should accept the part, not because of Brian’s sexual orientation but because of the show’s merit. “If you want to be an actor,” his friend told him, “then act.”
“There was the creative impulse and the chance to do something,” Harold says honestly, “but there was also $1,400 worth of parking tickets and back registration on my truck.” As he owed money to friends and back rent to landlords, the pragmatist in Harold knew it was time to grow up. “I’d been through the ‘hangdog barely making it’ thing over and over again. Your options run out.” Looking back, he says, he realizes that “the only difference between me now and me then, aside from the experience I’ve gained working on the show, is that I have money. That I’m able to support myself and pay off my student loans. And the ability to make things right with people over time. That becomes a really important thing as you turn 30.”
This brings up one of those boilerplate questions Harold dislikes: Is he at all worried that his role in Queer as Folk might negatively affect his professional future? His answer is swift.
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