Peter Paige Opens Up, Lets It Out

It’s a proud day here at Queerty headquarters.

After months of toiling behind the scenes, our intern, young Raymond, finally spreads his wings and files his first interview.

And, appropriately, it’s with a man who’s no doubt helped shape the contemporary gay landscape, Peter Paige. While most of you may recognize Paige from his role as Emmett on the seminal Queer As Folk, this actor’s far more than a character. Well, he is a character, but not in a one-dimensional, televisual way.

After the jump, see what Paige has to say about being out in Hollywood, why he’s a bit sore with Barack Obama and how lesbian tennis players made him the man he is today.

Raymond: So, how are you? What have you been up to recently?

Peter: I have all sorts of stuff that’s keeping me busy. Regarding business, my writing partner and I have been crazy. We just sold a movie to the producers of Being John Malkovich and also a TV Movie to ABC Family. The movie I directed last year, Leaving Barstow, is out on the festival circuit. It has won five awards so far and is being received really well creatively, so I’m very excited about that. I just sold my house, so am looking for a new place to live in LA, and I’m going to act in a movie later this year. So, I have a fair amount on my plate!

Raymond: How did you become interested in writing/directing?

Peter: I realized very quickly on Queer as Folk that as an actor you are really just a part of the machine and if you want to play a role in the real storytelling, you need be involved as a writer or a director. For me, I used Queer as Folk as “graduate school” to learn as much as I could about what happens on the other side of the camera. I would never just sit in my trailer when I wasn’t filming. I would always go on the set, sit by the director, ask questions, and visit every department and learn about what they did and how it contributed to the overall production.

Raymond: Queer as Folk was such a revolutionary program for the gay community. Were you ever worried about the messages it sent to the gay community or uncomfortable with any of your story lines?

Peter: We knew that the show was going to be something very new and important for the gay community, and we knew that we carried a sort of responsibility for being one of the first multifaceted representations of the gay community on television. For me, the most important thing about the show was that it was real. Whenever I saw a new story, I would ask, Is this true? Is this real? Could this really happen? And I’m proud to say I could always answer yes. I really think we never did a story that wasn’t real. Of course, sometimes things were sensationalized, or components were dramatized, but basically everything that happened on the show either happened to me or someone in the cast or crew.

Raymond: Really? So have you ever dated a closeted pro football player?

Peter: I’ve never dated a pro football player, but I did date a famous actor who was in the closet and not interested in coming out. I had to decide how I wanted to deal with that and proceed with the relationship.

Raymond: And I’m guessing it didn’t end well?

Peter: No, it didn’t.

Raymond: Hollywood is full of closeted gay actors. As an out actor yourself, how do you feel about this trend? Do you ever feel like you lose out on roles because you are upfront with your sexuality?

Peter: I don’t want this to sound bitter or resigned, but honestly, yes. I think the combination of me playing the gayest character in the gayest show on television and being an openly gay actor has made it really difficult for a lot of people in the industry to consider me in other types of roles.

Raymond: Is it worth it to you?

Peter: Oh yeah, it’s totally worth it. I think it is so important to have unapologetic images out there in the media. It’s such a great thing for the younger gay generation to be able to see images of themselves on television in shows like Queer as Folk, on the internet, and in the media in general. I think it’s really important to feel validated and represented in that way, and I’m glad that I can be seen not only as an openly gay character, but also as an openly gay actor. I didn’t have any of that growing up. But thank God I’m having a really satisfying career as a writer and a director. If I didn’t, I might be sitting around waiting for the phone to ring!

Raymond: Who were some of your role models growing up?

Peter: Billie Jean King. Martina. Lots of lesbians, apparently. I also admired really strong, talented entertainers. But I didn’t really see any gay men in the media that I wanted to emulate. I didn’t see many, period. I mean, growing up I never saw a guy who made me think, “Wow, this is what I want my life to be like.”

Raymond: Can you describe your coming out process?

Peter: My coming out process was pretty good. I dated some guys in high school and a few of my friends knew about it. I think coming out is really an ongoing process, though. For me, the bulk of it occurred during college. I was lucky–my friends and family were supportive and I never lost a friend or anything like that.

Raymond: What advice do you have for gay men who are still in the closet? What would you say to all those guys who view QAF as their only connection the gay community?

Peter: Coming out is the single most important thing you can do for yourself and the community at large. It is the most powerful social and political statement you can make. Come out to everyone you know, because when you come out, you challenge all the lies and stereotypes that people have attached to our community. Coming out is never easy, but it is the best thing you can do for yourself. You deserve it. You deserve to live in a world where you don’t apologize for who you are, so claim that for yourself. It is not anybody else’s job to give you the life you deserve.

Raymond: What are your goals and aspirations for the next ten years? What will Peter Page, year 2018, look like?

Peter: I think it’s going to look a lot like it does now. Hopefully I’ll have a bigger house with a pool and maybe an award or two on the mantle. Just kidding–I’m not in it for the awards. But a pool would be nice. More seriously, I’d love to have a TV show that I helped create on the air and be directing my tenth feature. I’m getting more and more selective about the acting work I do, but I really want to continue that as well. I’ll always enjoy acting.

Raymond: And personally? Do you see the potential for marriage in your future?

Peter: Marriage? Yes, I definitely think about it. Oh God, I hope in ten years I have a partner! And I love kids and plan on having some, so who knows, maybe I’ll have an 8 year old running around, too! That would be nice!

Raymond: If you could change any aspects or dynamics of the LGBT community, what would you change?

Peter: I wish that people in our community were more politically involved and aware of what’s going on in the world. I was at a party in LA last weekend thinking in my head, “Are we really going to have another conversation about sunglasses?”

Raymond: What do you think is the biggest problem facing the gay community?

Peter: I think crystal meth is the worst thing to have happened. Ever. It’s so awful and I think it presents a lot of challenges. I’m not sure we can have dialogue about it across the community as a whole, since some gay guys in, you know, Kansas, might be more worried about just going to the fucking General Store without being harassed than they are about crystal. But really, it is a huge, huge problem in LA – just terrible. It has to be addressed.

Raymond: Are you endorsing anyone in the Presidential race?

Peter: I’m supporting Obama, although some of his answers about same-sex marriage of late have not sat well with me. What’s worse is, I don’t believe him. I think his real opinions are much closer to mine. But he’s trying to win an election by being “centrist.” At the expense of my rights.

Raymond: Are you involved with any of the movements to protect gay marriage in California?

Peter: Yes. We’re doing our best. But we’ve got a lot of work to do. I think some people think it’s in the bag, but it’s not. We’ve got to change a few minds before November.

Raymond: If you could pick one word or phrase that best describes yourself, what would it be?

Peter: Under construction.

Raymond: Fill in the blank. When I hear the word gay, I think…

Peter: We’ve gotta come up with a new word.

Raymond: Who is the gayest person in the world?

Peter: Johnny Weir. Emmett. You.