News - Archives
2001 - April
'QAFolk's Gale Harold ... landing a role off Broadway'
by Marc Antony
April 28, 2001 issue
By making his New York theater debut at the SoHo Playhouse in Uncle Bob, Gale Harold has accomplished something he set out to do six years ago: “To be on a New York stage.” Probably best known as Brian Kinney on Showtime’s smash series < i>Queer as Folk, Harold had studied at the American University in Washington, D.C., and the San Francisco Art Institute before moving Los Angeles, where he continued his studies and eventually landed parts in film and theater—leading to his role on QAF.
As Brian Kinney, Harold plays a gay Don Juan who is impersonal, icy, selfish and self-centered. In short, he’s a first-rate prick. Yet Harold brings a certain depth and vulnerability to this character, proving that there’s a bit of the selfish, slutty Brian in all of us.
In Uncle Bob, Harold once again brings compassion to a character who isn’t likable on the surface. Harold plays Josh, an openly homophobic young man who crashes at his uncle Bob’s. However, Bob, played by actor George Morfogen (currently seen as Rebadow on HBO’s Oz), has AIDS and is trying to find honor in his situation while at the same time recording this thoughts to be played at his memorial service. The two-character play was written by director/actor/playwright Austin Pendleton, who’s appeared in What’s Up Doc? and Catch 22 as well as Oz. Although the subject matter may seem macabre, the dialogue remains witty and the storyline intense. We recently sat down with Georgia-native Harold between rehearsals and shows to talk about theater, Toronto and queer folk.
First of all, what attracted you to the part of Josh in Uncle Bob? That it was in New York—I jumped at it! At first, I was concerned about the nature of the play. Not so much the content, but the structure of it. It’s not the easiest thing to pull off—there’s really no resolution or catharsis for the audience, nor the characters. But after I re-read it and realized who I was going to be working with, it seemed like an excellent opportunity
Do you feel a connection with your character? Josh is a college dropout in his late-20s who has done nothing but go from low-paying job to low- paying job. The play was written in the mid-’90s, when it was a lot easier to drift. I know I felt like this to a certain degree. It’s unlike today, when so many kids are getting out of college and making so much money. With commercialism in our commodity-driven society, those not making it are glossed over. In the mid-’90s there was a lot more angst on the surface of people’s lives, and I feel that’s where Josh is.
From your point of view, what’s the play about? The parallel lives [of two people] who feel they’ve failed in making an impact on the world. Josh is compelled to make a connection with Bob despite his uncle’s ambivalence toward him and toward life. Their destructive qualities are revealed by their banter. The sad, funny and pathetic nature of these two people’s lives comes out, and you can see everything that’s troubling both of them. Then [the characters take] you on roller coaster ride. There’s existentialism, suicide, sexuality and psychological identity.
You play a gay character on QAF, and now you’re in a gay-themed play. Do you worry about being stereotyped? Definitely not. I’ve met with many different writers and directors for all types of roles.
Has the success of QAF changed your life? Has it opened or closed doors for you? It’s changed my quality of life, but I still have to audition for roles like everyone else. I’m still going in on the first audition with casting directors and striking out a lot of the times. I may have a little more freedom now, but I’m still doing pretty much the same things.
How do you feel about the evolution of your character on QAF, Brian Kinney? I’m very happy with it. In the [original] U.K. version, the creator, Russell T. Davies, never had the time to flesh out or develop the character. He was never sure of the life of the show, so it was written week to week. That’s why I believe Brian came across so harsh. Showtime committed to 22 episodes right off, and that gave the writers time to give Brian an arc and more depth.
I hear episodic television is rigorous? Seventeen-hour days aren’t unheard of, with a seven-day shooting schedule. We taped 22 episodes this season, and it lasted about eight months.
What did you think of your first Toronto winter, compared with living in Los Angeles? Toronto’s a beautiful city with a villagey layout to it. It was cold, but we’re all very happy not to be working in L.A. We’d be stuck on a sound stage with no location shots. But it was the coldest winter I ever had to live through.
What are your plans after finishing the run of Uncle Bob? I plan on staying in New York for a bit. Pending on the writer’s strike, I should start work back on < i>QAF in July. After that, I should start shooting on this movie for my friend [producer] Suzy Landau.
Would you prefer to work in theater, television or movies? I love working on QAF. I never had any idea I’d be working seriously in television. I always wanted to do theater, but then this wonderful opportunity came along. I’m more interested in the quality of the work than its medium.
'Life of Brian'
by David Noh
April 27, 2001
Few television characters have made such an impact on gay viewers as "Brian," played by Gale Harold, on Showtime's Queer as Folk.
Brian is the character audiences love to hate, with his overweening ego, utter self-involvement, and determination to keep going like a Viagara-fueled Energizer Bunny, despite the reactions of anyone around him.
Harold is currently making his New York theater debut with a stage appearance in Austin Pendleton's play Uncle Bob. The two-man show focuses on Bob (George Morfogen), a bisexual man who has been diagnosed with AIDS, as he confronts both imminent death and his homophobic nephew, Josh (Harold). There's an intriguing family plot swathed in the kvetch-fest Pendleton has written, as the two bait and berate each other, attempting to reveal each other's inner truths.
Stage veteran Pendleton wrote the play in 1995, specifically for Morfogen. He says, "I've worked with George a lot, and his work has always fascinated me. It has such darkness, such original humor, such edge. One day I thought of this story and I thought, 'That's for George.'"
Pendleton admits to not knowing exactly what inspired the play.
"The biographical details are from my life -- both characters -- and people I know, but the main idea of the story, I have no idea," he says. "I'd lost friends to AIDS, as we all have. Many of the things both characters say, I have heard said to me."
Harold describes his character in the play as "a bright, but troubled guy from the Midwest. He's definitely got some problems, but there are some great things about him. He comes to Manhattan to try and have some kind of reunion and interaction with his Uncle Bob."
Josh could definitely be perceived as having major, possibly closeted, issues with homosexuality.
"I definitely think that's one of the shadows of the play," Harold observes. "It's a textural thing which almost surfaces. There are allusions to it. Josh definitely loves his uncle but is, at same time, clearly afraid and confused about the situation. His homophobia is more infantile than anything else; he's not a fag-basher, by any means."
This places the role in stark contrast to Harold's part on Queer as Folk -- whatever Brian's other faults may be, he has no problem with his homosexuality.
"I'm pretty lucky to be able to play someone that's got some facets and nuance to him," Harold says of his TV role.
The show's success is particularly gratifying for him because, as he says, "There are so many other projects like this out there, and as far as I'm concerned, this increases access for them and creates more actual understanding."
Harold does admit, however, to a certain hesitation in regard to the series' famously graphic sex and nudity: "Sometimes it's real comfortable and sometimes it's not," he says. "It depends on the day. With Randy [Harrison, who plays love interest Justin], it's really easy because we work well together and we're good friends.
But sometimes, when it's with a stranger, like a day player, you get guys who aren't very comfortable with the subject matter, regardless of whether we have our clothes on or not. And then it becomes tough, because I feel it's my responsibility to connect with them, say 'Hello, how are you, this is what we're gonna do."
Harold is the "test pilot" situation more than any of the show's other actors, given Brian's unceasing horniness, as well as the show's hectic schedule. He observes, "This lack of preparation has been an on-going concern. It's getting better in terms of the production knowing what needs to happen for the actors for them not to just have a complete breakdown. Because when they start breaking down, it starts freaking me out."
'Is QAFolk Too Queer for Queer Folk?'
by Al LaMorges
I eagerly anticipated the American version of the controversial English series, Queer As Folk, on the cable network Showtime. It promised an honest and uncompromising view of a slice of gay life. Most of the character are gay as are most of the venues. I watched the first two episodes after a dinner party with seven other gay men and have subsequently watched the other episodes. Also, I have had numerous conversations with a variety of gay people about the show as well as reading responses in print and listening to reviews on radio and television.
The show, itself, is a fairly typical soap opera. Characters are generally one dimensional, offering us a variety of stereotypical gay men and lesbians. The plotting intertwines the lives of these people, often giving the viewer an issue to ponder regarding the gay experience. Some of the dialogue is snappy with some sharp repartee. The sex is plentiful, but, alas, simulated, with lots of moaning but no glimpses of genitalia. Drug use is taken for granted. A minor pursues an adult until they go to bed, and the minor loses his virginity. All in all, it is much like many other shows found on television with the major exception being that it is about gay rather than straight people.
What has troubled me the most has been the overwhelming negative reaction that I have heard and read about the show. Some typical comments include:
- It depicts gays as obsessed with sex and acceptance of themselves and their
- Straights will never accept us now.
- This is not my gay experience.
- I certainly couldn’t watch this with my mother.
- It’s too real. Straights don’t need to know what we do in bed.
- It just shows a slice of gay life. It’s not typical of most of our experience.
It has led me to conclude that despite all our efforts to be free and open about who and what we are, there is still a tremendous amount of internalized homophobia in many of us. Certainly, Queer as Folk is not my experience now. Gee, I’m over sixty. But I seem to recall that somewhere in my dim past I was as hedonistic as these characters with many one night stands. What was different was the lack of drugs. For many of us in my age bracket it simply wasn’t part of our experience. I remember in my twenties that I wanted sex all the time and wanted to be accepted, i.e., cruised and taken home by someone. I also made sure that my body never deviated more than two pounds from my sexual fighting weight. As for straight acceptance, I don’t understand what the fuss is all about. Are straights so stupid that they wouldn’t recognize Queer As Folk being about as realistic as Days of Our Lives? I would like to believe our straight brethren can distinguish the difference between who I am and what they see on television. Finally, there seems to be a conspiracy about keeping secret what goes on in the bedrooms of gay men and women. Well, if someone is truly interested I would be delighted to go into every minute detail of what we do. I’m certainly not ashamed of it. To tell the truth there are some things that I would still like to try but modesty forbids that discussion in this column. Someone said in one of our discussions that straight people can’t deal with seeing two gay men in bed. Well, whose problem is that? Certainly not ours. After all, I’ve had to suffer through watching straight couples copulating, moaning and groaning on television and in the movies for decades. Let them get over it!!
I certainly hope Queer As Folk succeeds for no other reason that the next series about gay life will be taken more for granted. Hopefully, some day we can have our own Roots that will give a sweeping history of the gay experience with characters, plotting and dialogue that would be worthy of Shakespeare. Until that time I will support Queer as Folk and hope all gay men and lesbian women will follow suit.