Queer as Folk
A seminal LGBTQI+ drama resets for a new generation with a fabulous cast and a new crisis for its universe.
Audiences were shocked by the opening episode of Britain’s Queer as Folk in 1999 when 15 year old Nathan (Charlie Hunnam) learnt all about rimming.
Russell T. Davies’ seminal drama only ran for 10 episodes but it was ground-breaking for gay audiences and ignited a US adaptation which ran for 83 episodes.
But while the show was essentially about family, much has changed since then: same sex marriage, social media, gay families, non-binary teens, Grindr, #metoo, Black Lives Matter, COVID-19, Ukraine war…
Television has also unleashed a wave of LGBTQI+ content, including the affirming teen series Heartstopper, defiant trans series Pose, HIV-AIDS drama It’s a Sin, period drama Gentleman Jack, plus Looking, Schitt’s Creek, Special, Please Like Me and more.
The challenge for a new Queer as Folk is finding its role as much as its voice but the new version by writer / director Stephen Dunn (with Davies as an Executive Producer) gives this a red hot go.
Relocated from Manchester and Pittsburgh, to New Orleans, it’s still about family but with a more inclusive brush. The central character is Brodie (Devin Way) a sexy, mixed-heritage young man who fathers twins to two lesbians, Shar (Candace Grace) and Ruthie (Jesse James Keitel), who also happens to be M2F.
The irresistable Brodie catches the eye of skateboarding non-binary teen Mingus (Fin Argus) at Babylon nightclub -there’s a nod to that controversial sex scene when the two collide.
Brodie, who is returning home from Baltimore, also has history with hunky Noah (Johnny Sibilly) who is keeping secret his relationship with a mutual friend, Daddius (Chris Renfro). Meanwhile his wealthy parents -who presumably adopted him as a child- played by Kim Cattrall and Ed. Begley Jr. can’t keep their son in check and brother Julian (Ryan O’Connell) barely maintains any relationship with him.
There’s also Juliette Lewis as Judy, mother of Mingus, Armand Fields as drag queen Bussey Horewood, bilateral amputee Eric Graise as Marvin and Brandon Gilpin as a high school friend to Mingus.
It would be easy to try to correlate the new characters to originals (Brodie is clearly Brian / Stuart and Mingus is Justin / Nathan for example), but Stephen Dunn has also upended things by shifting or possibly deleting characters. I suspect Kim Cattrall to adopt the maternal role played by Sharon Gless, but I’m struggling to pinpoint who is Michael / Vince, previously the centre of the QAF universe.
What he has retained is the sense of family that pulls these characters together which was richly life-affirming in a time of HIV-AIDS. But there are new crises to contend with in America and one real world incident appears to be the inspiration for a major plot point in episode one….
There’s also in-your-face sex scenes, hints of nudity, and punchy dialogue such as “The best way to get over someone is by getting under someone else.”
New Orleans serves as an eclectic, colourful backdrop to high soap, with Devin Way magentic as the gorgeous, self-centred Brodie, Fin Argus bold as the identity-proud Mingus and Ryan Connell solid as the shy but grounded Julian. Jesse James Keitel is also one to watch in her constant anarchy.
This Queer as Folk resets its world, which could be challenging for rusted-on fans, but it deserves a chance to light a fuse for the next generation.
Queer as Folk premieres Friday June 10 on Stan.