Stephen Dunn, the creator of the new Queer As Folk show for Peacock has given a lengthy interview to the Hollywood Reporter about bringing the iconic series back to life. He also gives a glimpse of what we can expect.
Dunn says his storyline for the show, which will be set in New Orleans, was partly inspired by the Pulse nightclub tragedy.
After the success of Dunn’s movie, Closet Monster, at Sundance in 2015, he began talking with producers about the possibility of bringing back Queer As Folk.
However, the rights for the US version had reverted from Showtime to QAF’s original creator, British writer Russell T Davies (It’s A Sin). Dunn flew to the UK to pitch his ideas to Davies.
“I knew what it was going to be about,” says Dunn. “I knew the story. I knew the premise. I knew I wanted it to be about a community rebuilding after a Pulse night club-like tragedy. He [Davies] loved the concept and the energy that I brought to it and felt like this had the potential to expand on the legacy of this series.”
Dunn says he met with several Pulse survivors when planning the storyline, and some of them came on board as consultants on the show. He promises it won’t be “tragedy-porn”.
“Pulse is a specific event that targeted the Latinx community in Orlando. Our show is completely fictional, but the trajectory of our story is inspired by the realities of what that was like — not just that night, but the aftermath and the way that the community of Orlando rebuilt in the wake of that tragedy.”
“What you’ll see in Queer as Folk is the honest truth of what it is like to go through something like that and how it’s not this saintly victim tragedy story. These are real people and they’re not victims. They survived a tragedy, and they are human beings whose lives were completely turned upside down after this.”
The original British series of Queer As Folk, set in Manchester, was commissioned by Channel 4 and ran from 1999 to 2000. The Showtime update, set in Pittsburgh, ran from 2000 to 2005.
Dunn is clear the new show should not be called a “reboot” but a “reimagining”. He also says he was more inspired by the British original than the US remake.
“I didn’t use the Showtime one at all. Using the original source material was a jumping-off point. But because of the time that’s passed between these versions, I wasn’t looking to redo the stories that had already been done so well before. That’s why we’re not using the word ‘reboot’ because this is really a re-imagining of the show and it’s set in New Orleans, as well as within a community that’s rebuilding after a tragedy.”
He adds, “We’re acknowledging the past while fully paving our own way because that was the only way I could approach this. We had to break new ground in order to tell the story and to make it relevant because we have our own generation’s things to say. We have a new story.”
Casting Queer As Folk
Among the cast of the new Queer As Folk are Candace Grace (Acts of Crime), Johnny Sibilly (Pose, Hacks), Devin Way (Dr. Blake Simms on Grey’s Anatomy, Station 19), Fin Argus (Clouds, The Gifted), Jesse James Keitel (Big Sky) and Ryan O’Connell (Special).
Dunn says it was a “no-brainer” for him to cast gay actors in gay roles. He was also asked about casting Kim Cattrall and Juliette Lewis as the parents of LGBTQ kids in the show.
He agrees they might help lure more straight viewers to the show, but ultimately, the show was made with its queer audience in mind.
“I wrote the role for Kim. And I’ve been a huge fan of Juliette’s. Queer as Folk never had stars. They became stars. The world is starting to understand and support and see that queer narratives are not just for queer audiences. It is a new world now where these stories are accessible in a mainstream way. Kim and Juliette both know that a massive part of their fan base exists within the queer community. Those characters do function as a way for other people to see that there are other ways into the show. I made this show for the people who need it. That’s what Queer as Folk has always been and that’s who it’s made for.”
The first season of the new Queer as Folk premieres June 9 on Peacock.