The iconic LGBTQ+ drama is revived and reinvented for a new generation

In 1999, British screenwriter Russell T. Davies broke ground as the creator of the U.K.’s first LGBTQ+-centric series, centring on three gay men in Manchester. A year later, in 2000, the U.S. version, which followed an LGBTQ+ community in Pittsburgh, hit screens in North America, leaving its mark on a generation of viewers that can still be felt to this day.  

One of those forever changed was Canadian filmmaker Stephen Dunn who, two decades after secretly consuming the U.S. version as a boy in his native Newfoundland, has crafted an updated version to reflect the new generation of queerness. Dunn, now 33, wanted to set his version in New Orleans, a city that—not unlike the queer community—remains ever-resilient in the face of ongoing adversity. 

Queer as FolkShowcaseAll that remained was the blessing of Davies, to whom the rights of the property had reverted. “This was actually the first time I’d been approached about reviving Queer as Folk; I think everyone imagined, if ever it came back, I’d be the one to do it,” Davies explains. “But then Stephen broke through the door! And he’s a phenomenon. He pitched a brand-new version of Queer as Folk with so much imagination, insight and—crucially—joy, that I simply couldn’t resist.” 

Ironically, the launching pad for this joyful new Queer as Folk is a tragedy, inspired by the events at Florida’s Pulse nightclub in 2016. For Dunn, that shooting served as a moment in recent history where the LGBTQ+ community came together to support and rebuild. And yet, while rising to the occasion, these characters can’t help but remain their imperfect selves. “Stephen’s vision is crystal-clear. He has built such a beautiful show, even just in how these characters he’s written ebb and flow into magic and tragic,” says Jesse James Keitel, whose character Ruthie is a trans, semi-reformed party girl who struggles to embrace her impending parenthood. It was, in fact, Ruthie’s personal challenges that drew the Big Sky actress to this role. “I’ve seldom gotten the chance to play a queer character who messes up left and right and is deeply flawed and lies, but is trying her best.” 

Queer as FolkShowcaseRuthie’s not alone in her inability to keep life on track. Her best friend Brodie (Devin Way) has just returned from Baltimore after dropping out of medical school. Noah (Johnny Sibilly), Brodie’s ex, is a successful lawyer whose life is rocked by the clubbing incident. New to the group is Ruthie’s 16-year-old high school student Mingus, portrayed by Fin Argus, introduced to the audience as a wannabe drag performer who makes his debut the night of the tragedy. “For me, the fact that Mingus was expressing themself through drag, I related to that in how I express myself through music and live concert performance,” says Argus, who last starred in the Disney+ musical biopic Clouds. “I’d never gotten to play a character that was bouncing off the walls. I’ve always played a very calm, collected boy-next-door type. Mingus is a little punk rascal.” 

Queer as FolkShowcaseAlso getting to dig deeper into his box of tools is Ryan O’Connell, known for creating and starring in the Netflix series Special. On Queer as Folk, O’Connell plays a pop culture nerd with cerebral palsy whose sexual exploits come as a surprise to his brother Brodie. “Julian’s a dry, spiky b****,” says O’Connell. “The character I played in Special was boy-next-door, kind of plucky, optimistic, naïve. And Stephen really wanted this character to feel completely separate from that and me to lean into the fact that this is a character who uses humour as a way to keep the walls up. It was really fun to play a character that could be really salty but had a big heart underneath.”  

Equally exciting for O’Connell was playing the onscreen son of Canadian treasure Kim Cattrall. “Like any self-respecting homosexual, she’s an icon to me,” he says. “I devoured Sex and the City. Kim playing my mom felt like a gay fever dream brought to life. I was so overjoyed meeting her because she is so warm. And she’s smart as a goddamn whip. She’s amazing. I felt honoured to be her TV son... The adoption papers are being filed right now, and if all goes to plan, we’ll be a real family!” 

Queer as FolkShowcaseAs their series sets out to forge its own path, the effect that the original had on both pop culture and the actors’ own lives is not lost on this cast. “Queer as Folk had such an iconic impact on queer storytelling that we felt the ripple effects growing up no matter what,” Keitel reflects. “If you look at how groundbreaking the previous versions were, they really paved the way for the storytelling we’re doing on this show. Hopefully our show will have half as much of a legacy as the previous iterations had: Queer as Folk led to The L Word, Noah’s Ark, Pose and Looking. I can’t wait to see what our version of Queer as Folk does.” 

Queer as Folk airs Sundays at 6 p.m. on Showcase