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'Queer as Folk' Team Unpacks Creating a New Community in the Aftermath of a Shooting

Get to know the characters of the new 'Queer as Folk' — but be warned, there are spoilers ahead!
by Amy Amatangelo — 
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Jesse James Keitel and Devi Way in 'Queer as Folk'

Peacock

Warning: This story contains spoilers for Queer as Folk, . Read at your own risk!


When Queer as Folk, which followed a group of gay men and their romances, friendships and families, debuted in 1999, it was trailblazing. Now more than two decades after the British and subsequent American version, a new iteration following a new group of friends premieres on Peacock. 

With New Orleans as its vibrant backdrop, the new eight-episode drama series follows characters that are, as executive producer Jaclyn Moore puts it, messier than their original counterparts.

"Queerness in 2022 is very different than queerness in 1999 and 2000. Or maybe more accurately, the queerness we are able to show on television and people will let you put on television is very different than what you could in 1999 and 2000," Moore tells Metacritic. "I really love that we have stories about messy trans and queer folks who are unapologetic and defiant in their queerness. Allowing the character the dignity of mess is so important."

Series creator and executive producer Stephen Dunn says the British series was his first exposure to queerness. Dunn traveled to England to pitch Russell T. Davies, creator of the original series, his idea for a new version of the show, which was "a community rebuilding after a tragedy." "He saw this as a way to expand on the legacy of the show," Dunn says of Davies.

"So much has changed in the last 20 years and I think the word queer itself means something different now than it did back then and I felt now more than ever we are in desperate need of real, raw, authentic storytelling."

To that end, in the premiere episode, a gunman opens fire in a nightclub during a drag show, which leaves many dead, but even more scarred, both physically and psychologically. The incident is a traumatic event for many characters, altering what they thought their journeys would be and inspiring them to deepen relationships and even embark on new ones. 

"In doing a show like this in 2022, it felt impossible to ignore the realities of what it is to exist as a queer person in America right now," Dunn says. "The reason I included it wasn't because we needed to show more tragedy. I think queer joy exists as a result and as a response to tragedy. Because it is defiant to find joy as a queer person."

But it is not a show about a shooting, Dunn notes. In fact, they made it a point not to see the shooter or tell that person's story.

"This show is about a community and the ways in which they go about building a bigger, better, safer space that is maybe more inclusive than the space that existed before," he continues.

And in honoring the community around the original show, the new Queer as Folk does include Easter eggs and other callbacks to Davies' series. A prime example is when Brodie (Devin Way) comes across Nathan (Charlie Hunnam), a character from the original British series, on a dating app.

While Dunn wouldn't say if there will ever be a crossover of characters from the original series into this new one, he did say fans should look out for "winks and nudges" in almost every episode because he loves the show so much. 

"The original Queer as Folk changed my life," he says.

Here, meet the new characters populating Queer as Folk. But be warned, there are further spoilers ahead.


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Fin Argus as Mingus in 'Queer as Folk'

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Mingus (Fin Argus)

High school student Mingus is in the midst of his debut drag performance when the shooting occurs. With his mother (played by Juliette Lewis) as his constant supporter, Mingus is finding his place in the queer community. He makes a quick connection with Brodie and thinks that could turn into a relationship, but between his young age and Brodie's own personal drama (more on that below), it is not the meet-cute-turned-happily-ever-after he hopes for. However, the two share a special connection because Brodie saves his life by tackling him when he freezes on stage upon seeing the shooter.

The timeline of the first season moves quickly, and Mingus ends up hooking up with others, too. Towards the end of the first season, he tests positive for HIV.

"It's always baffled me whenever we see HIV storylines that they're always period pieces," Dunn says. "It's not like HIV has gone anywhere, but it has evolved. And it's so rare to see a story where HIV is not a death sentence."

Argus says the storyline will tell a whole new generation that "you can live a full, happy, healthy, and sexually fulfilling life while being HIV-positive." 

"We're in a totally different terrain especially medically speaking," he explains. "We're at a place now where there's medicine that can make you undetectable and thus non-transmissible so that's the story that is being told in these episodes. It reminds everyone that it could just be an additional layer to someone's humanity."


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Devin Way in 'Queer as Folk'

Peacock

Brodie (Devin Way) 

Recent medical school dropout Brodie still pines for his ex-boyfriend Noah (Johnny Sibilly) while supporting his best friend Ruthie (Jesse James Keitel) and flirting with Mingus when he first arrives back in New Orleans. But things get even more complicated for him after the shooting, when he briefly romantically reconnects with Noah, who is grieving the death of Daddius (Chris Renfro), a relationship which has been kept a secret from Brodie. 

Additionally, he is the biological father to Ruthie and Shar's (CG) twins, which has him on babysitting duty from time to time, and he is harboring residual feelings for Ruthie, who he has known since (and previously dated during) their school days.

"The first two iterations were so so important for all the people who got to watch it and see themselves reflected," Way says of the franchise. "When you add all the new elements of diversity and gender identities and New Orleans, it's going to be so much more impactful to a broader lens of people. So I'm really excited for the world to see more flavors and more colors of themselves reflected."


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Ryan O'Connell in 'Queer as Folk'

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Julian (Ryan O'Connell)

At the start of the series Brodie's brother Julian still lives at home with his parents (played by Kim Cattrall and Ed Begley Jr.) and spends most of his days at the mall. O'Connell, who headlined 2019's semi-autobiographical Netflix series Special, is also a writer on the series. 

"I don't know how to just do one thing," O'Connell says with a laugh. "I'm a Virgo control freak from hell so I loved to do every aspect of this." 

As the first season progresses, Julian, who like O'Connell has cerebral palsy, embarks on romance he wasn't expecting. First there is Leo (Nyle DiMarco), a setup by his brother that Julian doesn't know is a setup, but then there is a much deeper connection with Noah. Both cause friction with Brodie as the details of them come to light.

"He's just a very specific character," he says. "He's a mall loving, airplane enthusiast who loves hooking up in random bathroom stalls across New Orleans, and it was really good to inhabit that psychosis." 


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Jesse James Keitel in 'Queer as Folk'

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Ruthie (Jesse James Keitel) 

High school teacher Ruthie, who counts Mingus as one of her students, is a trans woman whose partner Shar gives birth to twins in the premiere. 

"The two of them are in this beautiful, loving and complicated relationship," Keitl says, adding that, to her, the show represents how "really there's no one way to be queer."

"There's so much room for growth and opportunity in expanding what queerness means to you," she explains.

Ruthie struggles with her new responsibility as a mother, even though it is something she really wants, in part because of the trauma she experiences during the shooting: She was at the club while Shar was being whisked to the hospital in labor. After, there are still times she sneaks out at night to hang with her friends, straining her relationship, as Shar worries they and the babies are not enough for Ruthie. But Ruthie has fears, too, and they are around how she will be as a mother.

Ruthie and Brodie have been close since they were kids, a relationship explored in full flashback detail in the sixth episode of the season, titled "Pretend You're Someone Else," in which Keitel portrays Ruthie both pre- and post-transition. Although in flashbacks Ruthie is referred to by her deadname by other characters, it is always bleeped out for the audience.

The episode, which takes place when Brodie and Ruthie attend an all-boys Catholic high school, is based on Moore's real life. 

"That school is a recreation of my actual high school down to the uniform," Moore says. "If the bleep version of me who was going to that high school saw that episode I think maybe I wouldn't have waited until I was in my early 30s to transition. And I think especially at time when trans kids are so under assault, and the idea of helping trans kids and giving them the support they need and the gender affirming care they need is being criminalized and transness is being criminalized, you can't just come out and say that that's wrong. You have to show it, and I think this is a way of showing it. This is the message I would have needed when I was 16."

For Keitel, playing the younger version of Ruthie offered a unique opportunity. "It definitely wasn't comfortable diving into a pre-transition self and I was definitely scared of it," she admits. "But it was that challenge that I knew would help me grow as an actor and as a person and I finished that experience feeling closer to not just Ruthie but closer to myself."


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CG in 'Queer as Folk'

Peacock

Shar (CG)

Becoming new parents tests Ruthie and Shar's relationship and Shar, who, like CG, is nonbinary, finds a connection they weren't expecting with Brodie and Julian's mom Brenda (Cattrall).  

As they worry about the distance growing between themself and Ruthie, they begin texting with Brenda, bonding over the babies, and even hang out at a bar together. Brenda opens up to Shar about her own marital and familial concerns, and the two hook up, which leads Brenda to leave her husband and announce she is now a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community.

"There's some kind of vulnerability that is taking place that is sexy," CG says. "Vulnerability is sexy. For you to be in front of someone and they see you and you see them. It's a turn on. I feel like that goes on a lot in this show because these people really do see each other." 


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Johnny Sibilly in 'Queer as Folk'

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Noah (Johnny Sibilly)

Noah is a lawyer who previously dated Brodie, but after they broke up he began dating Brodie's friend Daddius.

Their relationship was often fueled by drugs, he admits, which causes him to spiral after Daddius dies, a victim of the Babylon shooting. The two were on their way out of club to hook up outside when the gunman entered. Noah made it out unscathed physically, but Daddius did not. 

As Noah struggles with survivor's guilt and keeping the secret of the depth of his relationship with Daddius from Brodie, who is back in town, he ends up getting involved with Brodie's brother Julian. So much so that he even introduces Julian to his overbearing father, a rarity for his boyfriends. Over the course of the episodes, he also shifts his professional focus, in part because his erratic behavior after the shooting pushes him off the partner tracks.

Sibilly says starring in the show is a "full circle moment" for him. 

"I do remember watching the first Queer as Folk under the covers scared for my life," he says. "I was enthralled with what was happening on screen, but also deftly afraid that anyone from my family was going to catch me. But now they are going to watch me in all of my shades and layers of clothing and what not. It is such a special little heart to my younger self."

While he is proud to be a part of the franchise, he acknowledges that there is still a "need [for] different stories that are much broader than the Queer as Folk spectrum."

"I hope people can watch this and write their own stories and make their own art that represents where they come from and the queer stories that they deserve to tell. I hope this gets everyone excited to be more damn queer," he says.


Queer as Folk is

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