How the Cast of Queer as Folk Used Representation to Find Their Power

·3 min read

The cast of Queer as Folk knew they were creating something special.

The series, which premiered on Peacock June 9, tells the story of how the queer community in New Orleans is impacted following a mass shooting at one of the city's most beloved LGBTQ+ bars. What begins in tragedy turns into a celebration of resilience, sexuality and the diversity of representation.

The on-screen queer diversity—trans, non-binary, deaf and differently abled characters and actors from those communities playing the roles are featured—takes tokenism casting and throws it out the window. In exclusive conversations with E! News, the cast and creator of the show explained why that matters so much.

"I feel like we're at a place in queerness and popular culture where it's no longer the gay best friend giving advice to a girl over a chopped salad," Ryan O'Connell, who plays Julian, said. "It's exciting, creatively, just to be able to explore all the nuances of queerness and actually be full-fledged characters, rather than holograms of our suffering and identity."

Jesse James Keitel, who plays Ruthie, said the representation didn't just make for a comfortable work environment—it also impacted the overall product.

"Queerness is not just being put on screen. It's truly in the thread of the show," she said. "It's in the make up of the show. Having queer creators behind and in front of the camera—I mean look at the final product. There's a reason it feels authentic."

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Queer as Folk

Indeed, Queer as Folk doesn't just boast an almost exclusively queer cast, but queer writers, directors and almost an entirely queer production crew.

"It felt like queer summer camp," said Johnny Sibilly, who plays Noah. "I really felt like a child again just getting to be with people who were like me, but also so different from me. A lot of times as queer people, we talk on set and we feel like the guest. But we were the hosts. It felt like a utopic vibe on set every day. It was like, ‘This is how it should be.'"

Devin Way, who plays Brodie, didn't realize how long he had been holding his breath on less-welcoming sets prior to their Queer as Folk experience.

"It was just so cool because I didn't realize my body and brain had been in fight or flight," he said. "When you get into an environment that's completely safe, it's disarming. You realize what it's like to live completely as yourself without worry."

Queer as Folk

Creator Stephen Dunn knows that Queer as Folk, a reimagining of the original UK series of the same name that aired from 1999 to 2000—which was later rebooted by Showtime from 2000 to 2005—presents the opportunity for underserved individuals within the LGBTQ+ to be seen on screen, perhaps for the first time—just like the original did for him.

"The queer community is really as diverse as the entire world," Stephen said. "We exist everywhere, in every community and every culture. For me, in reimagining the show, I didn't just want to get the rights to Queer as Folk as a cash grab or whatever. This show changed my life. It has the power, I think, to change a lot of other people's lives."

All eight episodes of Queer as Folk, also starring Kim Cattrall and Juliette Lewis, are available to stream on Peacock.

(E! and Peacock are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)

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