The first season of Peacock‘s Queer As Folk reboot premiered earlier this month, updating Russell T. Davies’ iconic series for a new generation. In 8 episodes, the new iteration of the story introduces a group of LGBTQ friends who live in New Orleans, allowing audiences to witness their rebuilding and rebirth in the wake of a tragedy that occurs in the first episode.
The ensemble of Queer As Folk is diverse in every sense of the word, and the experiences of the characters are seeped in authenticity thanks to a writers’ room dedicated to reflecting the lives of real queer people. The narrative is held together by Brodie (Devin Way, Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19), a med-school dropout who returns New Orleans seeking to mend some fences. Brodie’s circle of friends includes but is not limited to his ex Noah (Johnny Sibilly, Hacks), his best friend Ruthie (Jesse James Keitel, Big Sky) and her partner Shar (newcomer CG), his brother Julian (Ryan O’Connell, Special), and his mother Brenda (Kim Cattrall, Sex and The City).
Screen Rant spoke to showrunner Jaclyn Moore (Dear White People) about what sets Queer As Folk apart as an exploration of queer and trans narratives, and which characters she felt the strongest connection to.
Screen Rant: What was the collaboration process like with Stephen and the writers’ room when crafting the story?
Jaclyn Moore: It was really wonderful. The pilot script had existed; Stephen had written this beautiful pilot that I fell in love with, and [I] was so lucky that he brought me in to work with him in developing the show and breaking and writing the season. We had an amazing writers’ room: Roxane Gay. Ryan O’Connell, Brontez Purnell, Des Moran, Azam Mahmood – and our assistants [Maïa Golden, Sarah Link and Alyssa Taylor], who all got half a script as well because they were wonderful. They all did amazing work.
But honestly, it was such a lovely process of breaking and telling these stories, because I think we’re all coming at it from the same perspective. Our watchword in the room was “messy.” So often, you’re the only one in a writers’ room. And as a result, your job ends up being using your identity as a shield against bad instincts of people who mean well, but are taking the queer and trans characters in bad directions. And in this case, it was this beautiful opposite, where we were a roomful of queer folks getting to tell the stories that only we can tell.
Because the truth is, I am so done with art that only seems to argue that we are humans; that we are worthy of basic [decency]. My humanity, queer people’s humanity, trans people’s humanity? That’s self evident to me at this point. And we’re getting to tell a story where these queer and trans characters are messy and are complicated, and they do f–ked up stuff, and they cheat on people, and they lie, and they are selfish and all these things. I don’t know any queer and trans people in my life that aren’t a little messy, because I don’t know any people in my life that aren’t a little messy.
We allow that dignity of mess; that dignity of complication for cis folks of all races and all genders. We allow our Don Drapers or our Kerry Washingtons [who plays Olivia Pope] in Scandal, or Nancy Botwin on Weeds. We get all these things, but when it comes to queer people, we’re people’s best friend or a villain that’s dropped in from the 90s. It feels like, “I thought we move past this!” Or we’re just simply put upon, saintly people who have to [have] respectability above all to prove that we are worthy of love. I think that we can be messy and complicated, and also worthy of love and worthy of narrative. And that’s what this show was about for me.
Working with Stephen, we definitely saw eye-to-eye on that. It was great. It was a great collaboration in the writers’ room, and I got to bring a lot of myself. Obviously, Ruthie is a character that is a lot of me. A lot of Ruthie’s backstory is my backstory; a lot of speeches Ruthie gives are things that are directly from my life. And also, collaborating with Jesse James Keitel on creating that character was a very special experience. It was a wonderful, a wonderful process.
That’s kind of what I was going to ask, because it’s such a large ensemble cast, and yet it’s so impressive that people don’t get lost in the shuffle. Obviously, Ruthie is one, but are there ever times that you’re fighting for a character to get more screen time or you’re like, “Hey, don’t forget about this storyline?”
Jaclyn Moore: Oh, yeah. There are plenty. Ruthie is, I feel like, a shared baby of mine and Jesse’s and Stephen’s. But I love Shar; I think CG is one of the greatest.
It’s so hard to pick; they’re all so wonderful. I think Shar is such an interesting, complex character. Mingus is certainly somebody at a different point in their gender journey, and I think that’s really exciting too. I feel like we don’t have any token characters. There are shades; everybody’s allowed to be complicated.
We have Marvin and we have Julian – I always say Ryan, because he was one of the writers as well. We have multiple queer characters with disabilities. Not to mention Nyle DiMarco, and Andrew Gurza comes in – there’s so many. [We’re] freeing people from the weight of just being representative, and instead allowing them to be complicated and nuanced. I think that is the secret sauce to all this.
That’s something that I feel like on Dear White People, we also were able to do, and that was something I really wanted to bring to this too. The idea of [having] a bunch of everybody, so that we can let people not have to be, “Oh, I’m the trans person.” I think that’s really special.
Queer As Folk Synopsis
Set in New Orleans, the series is a re-imagining of the 1999 Channel 4 series created by Russell T Davies, which follows a diverse group of friends who find their lives transformed in the aftermath of a tragedy.
All 8 episodes of Queer As Folk season 1 are currently available to stream on Peacock.
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