CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With Cast of "Queer as Folk"
Aired April 24, 2002 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: 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.
But we're going to begin with Harland Braun. He's on the phone. He's the defense attorney for Robert Blake. He announced today that two former "Baretta" stuntmen apparently will be witnesses for the prosecution. In what capacity, Harland?
HARLAND BRAUN, ROBERT BLAKE'S ATTORNEY: Well, I didn't sort of announce -- I confirmed their identities. So they're going to be claiming that Robert solicited them to kill his wife.
KING: And are they going to have any kind of testimony other than them saying it? Do they have recordings?
BRAUN: Not that we're aware of. I mean, these are sort of typical kinds of witnesses that come forward in high-publicity cases. They don't have anything to corroborate what they have to say and they have a story that puts them right in the center of a case. I'm somewhat skeptical because if someone ever solicited me to kill someone, I'd call the police. I wouldn't just sit around.
KING: Did Robert tell you that they're lying?
BRAUN: He told me that never occurred. In fact, I just got off the phone with him about 20 minutes ago.
KING: And what does he say? Was any conversation between them? Was anything misinterpreted?
BRAUN: He said that, you know, he would be grousing with various friends at various times bemoaning the circumstance that he had living with Bonny and what she doing and the kind of person she was. And he said, you know, these are a lot of rough and ready guys, these stunt people and all of his friends. And so, once in a while, someone would almost say in, you know, jest, well, you should kill her with a bad word. But he said, you know, no one ever seriously said anything like that. They were using it in a different context. And I certainly never asked anyone. So he's sort of perplexed with what this is about.
KING: Harland, would you describe yourself as confident?
BRAUN: I think any time you have a capital murder case, you've got to be scared. I haven't looked at all the evidence. Robert was a little shaken up today...
BRAUN: By the fact that Deli (ph) went into court yesterday to try to get temporary guardianship of Rose and the judge turned her down. That's really sent him into a very depressed state because, you know, Rose is the most important thing his life in addition to his other two children.
And right now, there's a situation where he can't sign for her if she got injured and Rosie can't. And I'm sure the court will straighten it out eventually next month. But right now, he's very concerned that the judge didn't just at least sign a temporary order giving Deli guardianship over Rose.
KING: And the hearing is next...
BRAUN: Next month, I think, on the 19th.
KING: Thanks, Harland, as always.
BRAUN: OK, thank you for having me.
KING: Harland Braun, the defense attorney for Robert Blake.
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 magazines 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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "QUEER AS FOLK")
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No matter how long they're together, even if it's forever, they can never do it raw.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Neither have we.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, but we could if we wanted.
(END VIDEO CLIP) 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 Debby (ph) Novotny, the mother of Michael. Debby is overwhelmingly supportive of her gay son. In New York is Gale Harold, who plays Brian Kinney (ph), 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 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 PAIGE, ACTOR: 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.
PAIGE: It's true. That's exactly why. It's true.
KING: When did you come out?
PAIGE: 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 HARRISON, ACTOR: I took the part because I got it. 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?
HARRISON: 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 GLESS, ACTRESS: 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? GLESS: Because I smelled trouble and I wanted to be part of that.
KING: You like trouble.
GLESS: 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?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
KING: I'm sorry. You're Peter. Hal, as a straight actor, why did you take the role of a gay person?
HAL SPARKS, ACTOR: 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?
SPARKS: 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 HAROLD, ACTOR: 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?
HAROLD: 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.
HAROLD: Of course, it's acting.
SPARKS: 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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "QUEER AS FOLK")
SPARKS: I'm taking you home. Where do I turn?
HARRISON: He's going with me.
SPARKS: Oh, no, he's not.
HAROLD: 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?
SPARKS: None of the above. He's going home.
HARRISON" I'm going with him.
HAROLD: Good boy. You get an A-plus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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?
PAIGE: 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?
PAIGE: 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."
KING: Is realism just more coming to the fore?
GLESS: I'm sorry, what?
KING: Is that what this is about, that television just gets more real all the time?
GLESS: 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?
GLESS: 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?
HARRISON: 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?
SPARKS: Oh, yes.
KING: And what do they say?
SPARKS: 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?
SPARKS: 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.
PAIGE: He's really out there.
KING: He's sort of swishy as you might say.
PAIGE: You could say swishy. I wouldn't, but you could.
KING: Danger in stereotyping there or do you know people like that?
PAIGE: 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?
HARRISON: Oh, not at all. Not at all. It's really affirming actually.
HARRISON: 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?
SPARKS: Yes, absolutely.
KING: No doubt about it?
SPARKS: 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.
HAROLD: Not at all. I mean, I've had an amazing experience growing as an actor, growing with my fellow actors. I've learned and...
KING: What did he just whisper to you?
HAROLD: I can't repeat it.
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "QUEER AS FOLK")
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I surrender.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir. You will call me sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "QUEER AS FOLK")
GLESS: So how long you been positive then?
SPARKS: Mother. GLESS: I just like to know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's OK. I'm fine with it. Five years.
GLESS: What's your T-cell count?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About 600.
GLESS: Ever been hospitalized?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nope, not yet, knock wood.
GLESS: Viral load?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Undetectable.
GLESS: On the cocktail?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anti-virals.
SPARKS: What the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) do you think you're doing?
GLESS: This is the reality, sweetheart. And you're just going to have to live with it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Randy, your character is 17 years old, as I understand it.
HARRISON: 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?
HARRISON: Some, yes, there was.
KING: Didn't bother you?
HARRISON: 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.
SPARKS: Yes. Michael's dating a character named Ben this year and he's HIV positive.
KING: Do you think this enlightens people about this?
SPARKS: 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.
PAIGE: 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.
PAIGE: 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...
SPARKS: Thanks a lot.
KING: Thank you. Do you hear a lot of that?
PAIGE: 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.
SPARKS: 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"?
HAROLD: 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. PAIGE: Amen.
HAROLD: 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?
HARRISON: Some of them.
KING: Are you ever consulted with questions like, does this happen?
HARRISON: No. Sometimes, yes, sometimes.
HARRISON: 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?
PAIGE: 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?
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.
SPARKS: 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.
PAIGE: 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.
PAIGE: 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?
SPARKS: 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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "QUEER AS FOLK")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: This card entitles the bearer to one year off to take care of the world's most beautiful baby.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I crunch the numbers.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: But how?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Doesn't matter how. I made it work.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I don't know what to say.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: You don't have to say anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The subject is "Queer As Folk." And naturally lesbians play a part as well. Let's meet our next panes, here in Los Angeles Scott Lowell plays Ted Schmidt. Ted is a gay, low key, down to earth accountant. And by the way, he's also a straight man.
SCOTT LOWELL, ACTOR: Not a lebian.
KING: Not a lesbian. In New York is Robert Gant, he plays Ben Bruchner. Ben was not part of the first season. He is a professor of gay studies, also is HIV positive, also is straight.
Two straight ladies here in Los Angeles; Tea Gill, who plays Lindsey Patterson, a university professor in a committed lesbian relationship and Michelle Clooney who plays Melanie Marcus. Melanie is a tough lawyer in that committed lesbian relationship.
Why did you take this part, Scott?
LOWELL: Mostly because of the character reminded me so much of myself in a certain stage of my life. Especially moving out to Los Angeles from Chicago. The gay club scene that's portrayed in "Queer As Folk" is exactly what Los Angeles is like. A world where youth and beauty and wealth is prized, and if you don't have those things, then you don't quite fit in, much as my character does. You end up on the rejected end of the post.
KING: Robert, you know there are some people who are complaining that heterosexuals shouldn't have been cast at all. It should have been an all-gay cast. How do you react to that?
ROBERT GANT, BEN, "QUEER AS FOLK": Well, at the end of t day, it is about who best portrays a part. The reality is we know that Rock Hudson had been playing straight roles for how many years. This has been happening back and forth since the beginning of time. It's just -- I guess now that the tables are turned, people are -- I don't know.
KING: A good point. Tea, why did you take it?
THEA GILL, LINDSAY, "QUEER AS FOLK": I thought it was a lovely role. I felt very fortunate enough to be offered such a role. I love the emotional aspects of Lindsey and her relationship with her family. And the traditional qualities.
KING: Was it hard to play that scene we just saw, making love to a woman when I presume that you prefer men?
GILL: It was a breeze. Every time I'm working with Michelle it's a joy.
KING: Are you in love with Michelle, now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are going to elope after this.
KING: No, was it hard to play that?
GILL: No, not at all. Not at all. It was very simple and it was very rooted for me. And every time I work on any scene that I am in with Michelle and anyone else in the show (AUDIO GAP)
KING: No conflicts for you.
KING: Michelle, what about you?
MICHELLE CLUNIE, MELANIE, "QUEER AS FOLK": Conflicts?
KING: You are heterosexual?
CLUNIE: Yes, yes, yes.
KING: Any difficulty?
CLUNIE: No. It's just a part of the job. And to me, I see love as love. I don't think that -- I relate very much to the love that Melanie and Lindsey share. And it's very beautiful. And I think at the end of the day, you just -- it is wonderful to get to play a character that has such a strong point of view and is feisty and you don't get to see on TV very often.
KING: How do you react to all the attention it's getting?
CLUNIE: I think it's wonderful.
KING: Even the bad, even those who are critical?
CLUNIE: Well, you know I don't really listen to those voices very much. When people are critical, I think that if you listen to that how do you get out of bed and create in the morning? I hear so much positive reinforcement that critical voices, I don't know what you're talking about.
KING: Is it hard, Scott, to plaY love scene with a man?
LOWELL: No. I mean, although I do apologize to any woman I've kissed and given razor burn to over the years. That's the hardest part of it, I suppose. Is needing a good moisturizer afterwards.
KING: What's the hardest part, Robert, for you, about playing a gay person?
GANT: You know, I think at the end of the day, acting is acting. And you know, our lives -- the whole point is that there's no real difference, that we tend to focus on how we're not the same.
And what people are noticing about the show is they're starting to see our similarities. They're starting to see how we're the same. About how people at the end of the day, love the same. They argue the same. They have sex very similarly. And so really as an actor my job is to take my life experiences and to put them into, you know, into the scene that I'm playing.
You know, there was -- when I was having a love scene with -- a romantic scene with Leah Thompson or Lisa Kudrow, kissing them, it is no different than kissing Hal in that I'm not in love with any of these people. I am looking inside of myself and finding those places where I remember being in love and bring that into the scene.
KING: Thea, the first time you had to kiss a woman, was that hard? Assuming it is something you've never done.
GILL: No, same thing that Bobby was talking about. It's another human being. It's another...
KING: Feel different?
GILL: Softer and more gentle.
KING: Oklahoma City. Hello.
CALLER: Yes. My mom and I are fans of the show. We were wondering for the straight actors, do they have appreciation for gay people now that they've portrayed them.
KING: Good question. Has it changed your thinking at all, Scott?
LOWELL: No, I've always appreciated gay people. I've known many. I have some in my family. They're people just like any of us. As has been mentioned earlier, the only thing that "Queer as Folk" has taught me is how much we're all alike and that all the fuss and the nonsense people make over the differences is absurd. We're all human beings.
KING: Bob, has it changed you at all, feelings towards gay people?
GANT: I'm just really proud to be a part of this. It's revolutionary. There was a time when there was a show that for the first time was about people of color. And it was controversial and caused people to talk and argue. And this show is doing exactly that. It's historic. And I'm just so glad to be a part of it and to watch the world changing. People don't realize this is opening minds and hearts and souls and you know, in the wake of September 11, I think we're all taking a look at love and life.
KING: Affected you in any way, Thea?
KING: Michelle, I'm sorry.
CLUNIE: To be part of it? Yes, absolutely. I think the emotions that Melanie goes through as a character and being shut out of the hospital room and not being able to be with my baby and the woman that I love and having to go through that as an actress, it's made me even more compassionate where there already was compassion, it is so much deeper.
KING: Given us all a better understanding of the parts you play and I thank you very much. We'll meet the executive producers and a critic of this extraordinary program. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "QUEER AS FOLK")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Oh, my god.
GILL: Say hello to your son.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, go on.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: When did it start?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Around 7:00. UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Six hours later there he was.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I wish I could have been here. How often do I get to see...
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Looks just like you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Joining us now here in Los Angeles are Ron Cowan and Daniel Lipman. They are the executive producers of "Queer as Folk". they were creators, executive producers and writers of the emmy winning network series. They earned an Emmy for writing the TV movie, "An Early Frost."
They've won a Peabody Award as well. Both gentlemen are gay and have been personal as well as professional partners for more than 30 years. In New York, is Robert Peters. Robert is president of Morality in Media, a nonprofit national interfaith organization working through, it says, constitutional means to curb traffic and obscenity and to uphold standards of decency in the mainstream media. Before we get Roberts thoughts, how was this show conceived, Ron?
RON COWEN, EX. PROD. "QUEER AS FOLK": It is based on an English series of the same name "Queer as Folk" which we saw. Showtime called, asked if we'd be interested in doing it. We said oh, absolutely. It would be a tremendous challenge, something exciting.
KING: Daniel, in England do they do it the same way, a cast of people, some straight, some gay?
DANIEL LIPMAN, EX. PROD. "QUEER AS FOLK": You mean in terms of the actors?
LIPMAN: I think that all the factors on that show, the leading roles were straight.
KING: Straight. Are scripts kind of similar stories involvement, lesbians, etc.?
LIPMAN: Actually, our show is more of an ensemble show. It has turned into that. That's what the network wanted it to be. We actually used the British template the first episode or so because it was very very seminal in terms of this Brian and Justin relationship. After that we veered in our own direction.
KING: Where did the title come from?
COWEN: I understand it is from a Welsh expression.
COWEN: Yourkshire expression. It actually means there's nothing as strange as people. There's nothing as "Queer as Folk".
LIPMAN: There's not as "Queer as Folk". There's nothing stranger than people.
KING: You knew you of course you were breaking new ground here?
KING: Any trepidation?
LIPMAN: No, I don't think so. We wrote, as you mentioned, "Early Frost" which in its time was fairly groundbreaking. For us, I think there has been this, not by design, but this arc in our career of writing about gay characters. And where the world has gone, to go from something like "Early Frost" where we could barely have the characters touch each other to something like "Queer As Folk" is simply amazing.
KING: All right. Robert Peterson (sic) in New York, what's the rub? They're presenting a side of life. They're presenting it realistically. That's what life is about.
ROBERT PETERS, PRESIDENT, MORALITY IN MEDIA: Well, I really don't claim to be the whole expert on this program. I was asked to watch the first three episodes of "Queer as Folk" actually before they aired in order to comment on them for a television interview. And I watched them. And I could summarize my concerns with -- to make things simple, three Ps.
And the first P is an old-fashioned word. It is pedorasty. And I think some of your viewers would know that's a high-falutin' word for man/boy love. It's often used, I think, in reference to a practice that was widely existed in Rome and ancient Greece, which is initiating young attractive boys into manhood through having sex with older men. And kind of what really shocked me about watching those first three episodes was not just that this man/boy love relationship was depicted in a very explicit fashion, but it really was the centerpiece.
I mean, my second P is promiscuity. And I don't know how many people understand it, but there is still an AIDS epidemic in the United States of America that is affecting a lot of gay men. And so are -- there's an epidemic of other sexually transmitted diseases that is affecting gay men. Now, I won't go so far as to say that the program is promoting promiscuity, which I think arguably it is, but clearly it's non-judgmental. It is depicting this as the way things are. It's depicting it very erotically, very excitedly. I mean, whether it's promotion or just wallowing in something, it's there. And there was a study...
KING: All right. Robert, hold it one second. Before you get to the third P, I want to take a break and come back, and then you establish what the third reason was, and then Ron and Daniel will respond.
You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "QUEER AS FOLK")
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't get the idea that we're still a married couple, because we're not. We're not like (EXPLETIVE DELETED) straight people. We're not like your parents. And we're not a pair of dikes marching down the aisle in matching Vera Wangs. We're queers and if we're together, it's because we want to be, not because there's locks on our doors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: "Queer as Folk" airs, by the way, at 10:00 p.m. Sunday nights on Showtime. And they repeat it Tuesday nights at 11:00 p.m. All right, Robert Peters, president of Morality in Media, what's the third P?
PETERS: Well, the third P is pornography. And pornography fits into the program in two ways. In one case, a lead character, a primary character, that's what he's into as a lifestyle. Now again, I'm not saying that the program, per se, promotes pornography. But like everything else, it is portrayed in a non-judgmental way. And certainly the sex scenes are, I think, by some definitions of pornography, pornographic.
And I have two articles that were written by openly gay men, one published in the "New York Times," the other in "The Village Voice" where those authors use the term porn in describing how the sex is depicted. I can recall some mainstream television critics saying that in a mainstream TV program, this is the most explicit and prolonged sex that's ever been depicted on television, straight or gay.
And I'm an opponent of pornography, I hasten to add, whether it is gay or straight. I really don't see any difference on that.
KING: OK, Robert. His points, Ron, on the three Ps are that you're appealing to base elements here, and that I gather -- I don't gather, he does think that you're taking this across the line. Your response?
COWEN: Well, first of all, we're on Showtime. And Showtime has lived up to its promise of "No Limits." I think they've been...
KING: That doesn't mean he can't criticize.
COWEN: Oh, no, not at all. I think -- look, everybody's entitled to their opinion. It makes for conversation. The show is absolutely controversial. But I do think that we are portraying gay people as sexual people for the first time on television. Very few people have ever seen this in their lives. And I think it's very important to show gay people as having sex lives. Up until now, they've been pretty much portrayed as clowns and eunuchs.
KING: How about the non-judgmental that he brings up? LIPMAN: Well, I do want to say that I was hoping that a couple of these would be provocative and pioneering. But as far as non- judgmental, he's correct. We do not judge our characters. You know, this is a creative venture. And being creative, it does not take a politically correct view. That does not mean that there's an intent to harm or offend. It's just our job is to tell the truth about the world of this...
KING: What, Robert, do you want? Do you want the show not to be on or do you want someone to come in and say on the show at various times what you're doing is wrong? I mean, what is your goal?
PETERS: Well, I've been asked to criticize the program or comment on it, I suppose, several times over the past couple of years, and I've done so. I haven't wasted any sleep over the program. I'm thankful at one level that it's on Showtime because for the most part that means it's a consenting adult audience.
Certainly on broadcast television, there are people talking today that whatever goes on on Showtime and HBO should be on broadcast television after 10:00 p.m. And I'd also hasten to add that from my own personal moral perspective, apart from the man/boy love thing, which is a highlight of "Queer as Folk," I don't see much difference morally from "Queer as Folk" which is on Showtime, and "Sex and the City" which is on HBO. If they're going to be on television, that's the place for them.
Would America be a better place without both? In my opinion, yes. I'm not about to start a movement trying to get them off the air. And I haven't done that.
KING: I see. You're just offering your critique.
PETERS: Thank you.
KING: Ron, what about the man/boy critique?
COWEN: Well, in all honesty, I don't see just reason...
KING: They are young boys in the scenes we've seen.
COWEN: When we started the show, Justin was about 17 and a half going on 18. He's a high school senior. I think we all know that a lot of high school seniors are sexually active. Realistically, a lot of gay men have sex for the first time with older men. It happens. Our job to portray -- is to portray this world realistically. We're not making judgments here, but it does happen.
It also happened by mutual consent. Now, when a young man is 18 years old, he is allowed to marry. He can vote. He can go in the Army. He can die for his country. I certainly think he should also be able to have sex with whomever he wants, provided that person wants to have sex with him, that it is by mutual consent and that it's done safely and that's exactly what we've shown on "Queer as Folk."
KING: Robert? PETERS: When I watched these first three episodes, I was writing down what I observed. This is very quick, but this is one of the sex scenes involving the man and boy. A man gets in the shower with boy, man sodomizes boy in shower. Man says to another male friend, we have to take the child to school. They take boy to high school. Boy wants to see the man again. He says, I just saw the face of God.
Boy at school looking at football players in the shower. Boy tells female friend that he's proud and happy that he had sex with a man and that he loves the man. Now, later in this program, that man/boy lover was in the bathroom and another man came in who happened to have -- be married with two children, and part of the reality that was depicted in that episode, the two men, the man/boy lover and the married person with two children, they had sex in the stall.
Now, undoubtedly this takes place, but is this really the kind of entertainment that uplifts the American people and the teenagers that, according to one of your former guests, watch this program?
KING: We only have 20 seconds. Does he have a point? Does it affect people?
LIPMAN: Yes. This is not an Army training film. This is not devised to send out politically correct messages.
KING: We'll do more on this. I promised we've just touched the surface. Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman, the co-executive producers; and Robert Peters, the president of Morality in Media. I'll tell you about tomorrow night right after this.
KING: You know, James Van Praagh, he's been on this show many times. He talks to dead people. They've made a movie about him and Ted Danson plays him. And Ten Danson and James Van Praagh will both be on this show tomorrow night.
Friday night, King Constantine of Greece. Thanks very much for joining us. Now let's go directly to New York, fingers crossed, "NEWSNIGHT", here he is, Aaron -- he's there! -- Aaron Brown, he's on, go.
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