Millions of television viewers were enthralled with Gale Harold, the handsome and magnetic star of the groundbreaking Showtime series called Queer As Folk.
The show ran six seasons and was a landmark in television history for it’s realistic, humorous and quite sexual look at the lifestyles and friendships of a group of gay men.
It’s been five years since Queer As Folk went off the air. Yet the show still retains its popularity to new audiences around the world.
For gay men everywhere, Harold still ranks as part of television’s favorite gay couple for his role as Brian opposite Randy Harrison as Justin in Queer As Folk.
Since 2006, Gale Harold has been managing a successful career as an actor who has done both television and film work while balancing important theatre roles in between.
The Rage Monthly wanted to shed new light on this intelligent, articulate and thoughtful actor and learn more about just what he’s been up to, his memories of the experience of being part of such a successful show and his thoughts on the acting profession as it relates to his craft.
Gale Harold along with Jennifer Beals are being honored for their contribution to the LGBT experience for their roles in Queer As Folk and The L Word on June 5 at The Center Orange County 2010 Gala Celebration.
Whether it is on the stage in recent productions of two plays by Tennessee Williams or guest starring on television in Desperate Housewives and CSI: New York, how does Harold feel that he has grown as an actor over the past few years?
“Well…it’s a constant process of growing. It depends on the type of roles that you are playing and whether you are live or in front of the camera. But also just with studying, you know. It’s hard to look back over a couple of years and say this or that ‘has or hasn’t changed’ but I did my first role singing and playing guitar in front of a live audience [in Orpheus Descending] which was terrifying so…that was certainly a new thing.”
Gale Harold is quite familiar with playwright Tennessee Williams. He has recently starred as Valentine in Orpheus Descending and also as Dr. Cukrowicz in Suddenly Last Summer. Harold explains what captivates him about Williams’ work as a playwright.
“It’s very simple. The work is so extraordinary. It’s beyond any normal observation or conviction of passion. He’s got so many different veins of lifeblood, if that’s a way to describe it. I would love to do anything he’s written.
It would be an honor to do anything he wrote because he went deeper and was more revealing than most at a time when it wasn’t very safe to do so. And he did it so lyrically and beautiful that it comes through to a reader or an audience and his message keeps coming across long afterward.”
The impact of his role as Brian in Queer As Folk made a lasting impression on LGBT audiences. Asking Gale to reflect back on the show, he shares one of his most vivid memories of that time in his career.
“There are so many. There are hundreds of specific memories but I think in terms of an overall memory that comes back to me…is how invigorating it was to be working on the role. It was frightening to me taking on that part because I had seen Aiden Gillen in the original by Russell T. Davies.
I’m glad that I did but it was such a strong performance, I wanted to bring something that could stand up to it. It was such a bold character and a bold performance…I needed to let everything happen as it should and try to be honest at all times. That’s one of the things I really remember. Stepping off the bridge into the void…you know?
It was also incredibly fun and stimulating. It was a little touch and go at first because I just had to make choices and not let myself be swayed by my own self-editing or nervousness. It was very clear to me that I was taking on a very important responsibility, but I didn’t want myself to get bogged down by trying to do ‘the right thing.’
I didn’t want to live up to a bunch of expectations that would be unrealistic to the life the character was leading. He [Brian] represented a dynamic of social reality and issues that you had to honor. Most of the artists that I love, have or had a secret and it’s a difficult thing to tell the secret in a new way. You know what I mean?”
Harold didn’t always dream of being an actor when he was younger. He explains, “My story is that I didn’t start out dreaming to be an actor. I always understood playwriting as more of a literary thing.
I read plays but I didn’t see any theatre as a kid. I wasn’t raised in the theatre. That wasn’t the way I was raised. When I made that sort of change and started studying what it was actually like…the method of putting a character across, I studied three years straight before I went on an audition.
It wasn’t like I was selling ice cream and the next moment I was on television…you know? (laughter) I moved to Los Angeles and was fortunate to meet some really great people and started studying. It just grew very naturally. I was very lucky.
Not only to get a break but to be able to work around some people who I really loved and trusted who were good teachers for me.”
Asking Harold about the recent Newsweek article by openly gay Ramin Setoodeh in which the writer questioned the ability of gay actors to play straight roles (Sean Hayes for one), Harold weighs in by saying, “I think that was ill-conceived, and a little strange for someone who should be supporting his comrades to take a shot like that.
But, hopefully he’ll learn a lesson when he goes to “Glee” school and understand things better. To take a shot at Sean Hayes who has a really established career on stage and on screen. Someone who now is a successful, out, working actor and to take a shot at him in Newsweek just seems so petty, you know?”
Gale offers up an additional memory of Queer As Folk that still resonates with him today regarding actress Sharon Gless. “There’s a scene that Sharon and I did in my loft smoking a joint. It’s probably one of my most favorite scenes. I feel it’s some of the best work that I did in the show.
It’s a moment where Brian is so alone! He actually gets to jack into someone in a way that’s just about love you know? It’s about what he couldn’t get from his own family; he got it from his best friend’s mother. I think that’s a beautiful thing. It’s kind of how life is more often than not.
Sometimes we have to take love where we can find it. He was fortunate to have Michael [actor Hal Sparks] as a friend and then to have Michael’s mother, Debbie [Sharon Gless] give him some heart. He didn’t have a lot of it in his own home.”
The whole cast of Queer As Folk contributed so much to the exposure and visibility of gays and lesbians on television. Gale Harold describes the impact of being on the show and says, “I think as an ensemble, or as a production, that whatever your sexual orientation is…if you happened to see it, hopefully you enjoyed it (laughter).”
“First of all, it was some sort of a calling card or announcement. This is where it gets difficult for me because I never want to play the part of tooting our own horn.
The stories were told by these characters who lived their lives and we as actors were just given the opportunity to portray them. People who had seen the show and were able to relate to the story and to the characters were contacting a lot of us.
A lot of young kids that I met when we were out there, were very happy and excited to have the opportunity to watch a story that was like theirs. To have those tables turned and be able to find yourself or some part of yourself, your own dreams or struggles that you have gone through…we were very grateful to be a part of that.”