It’s the year of cons at Head Over Feels, with three new-to-us events making an appearance on our schedule. First up: ATX, an Austin television festival that’s grown exponentially in popularity in its short history. I hit this one without Kim, though I also wasn’t the only HOF representative in town. (Oooohhhh…SUSPENSE.) ATX is a quirky con, programming-wise. And the events are staggered and in several different buildings, which alleviates the “I LIVE HERE NOW” insanity of your standard multi-day geek gathering. The eyes were clear, the hearts full, and Austin even more fantastic than I expected. Texas forever.
Queer As Folk 15th Anniversary Reunion Panel
To be perfectly honest, it was the announcement of a Queer As Folk reunion panel that got my wheels turning about ATX to begin with. QAF is the first series that I consumed entirely on DVD. (In other words: baby’s first binge watch.) Over five seasons and dozens of discs, I fell madly in love with the denizens of this fictionalized and vibrant Pittsburgh, PA; Babylon, the gay club of my dreams; and Brian Kinney: man, myth, legendary lay.
The final tally of cast members on the panel totaled less than half of the show’s main ensemble. But they were all represented by Robert when he reported that a revival of some kind has been discussed…and that each and every cast member is up for it. Petitions started circulating immediately on the internet. I don’t know how feasible a full-scale relaunch is. But at the very least, Showtime should pony up for a mini-series.
More highlights from the QAF panel!
- The panel started off with a five-minute montage of the triumphs, great loves and crushing tragedies of my beloved characters. There was much hand-waving and a few stray tears. They lived, okay?
- Scott Lowell (Ted) is currently starring in The Elephant Man on The West End and so sent an adorably dorky “hello” video from the show’s motherland. I’d been complaining to my friend Becky about Gale/Randy shippers, but then they leaned casually on each other to see the screen properly and I ate crow.
- Showrunners Ron Cowen and Dan Lipman were also in the house. They recounted the history of their involvement in the show, which began when another Showtime project fell through. They knew that they’d have to “match or exceed” the graphic content of the British version to make the remake even worth doing. I’d say they succeeded.
- Casting was a horrendous process, because the major agencies refused to send their clients in to read. Many of the cast, including Randy and Gale, were without representation at the time. Sharon Gless was the only actor considered for the role of Debbie Novotny. She flew herself in on her own dime from Chicago, where she was doing some stage work. And, as every QAF devotee must know by now, they reiterated that Peter originally read for Teddy and was asked to submit for Emmett as well.
- The production’s start date was pushed repeatedly because Ron and Dan could not find their Brian Kinney. They got a call at their office from their casting director the day that Gale came in. “He’s here. Come over right away.” I can’t imagine anyone else playing that part.
- On the day of his screen test, Peter was sent a 21-page nudity rider. Its content, paraphrased: “This is the kind of show this is. If you are not down to do this, do not take this job.” His manager got cold feet and told him to walk, but Peter couldn’t. “I’ll kill myself if I have to watch anyone else do this show.”
- When asked about how they’d considered the potential impact of the show, Randy said, “I was excited to do it, because I knew what it would mean socially and politically if it worked. And Gale: “My primary concern was not to let down friends of mine who I’d grown up with.”
- The first few days on set were weird for some, as Queer As Folk refused to play it safe, right from the start. Not for Gale. “Randy and I dove in so deep, so soon.” Peter: “Good choice of words.” Gale: “I was teaching him some wrestling moves…and that’s all.”
- Part of the process of putting the show out there was for the actors to decide if they’d go public with their own sexuality. Scott and Gale (both straight) decided to avoid the conversation, as they thought it would bring on unnecessary scrutiny. Peter thought the idea of his keeping quiet while playing such an out-and-proud character was ludicrous; “I can play coy with the best of them, but…I don’t know how Sean Hayes did it all those years.”
- Robert was in his own coming out process when the series started airing, so it was incredibly significant to him personally to join the show.
- “The first thing you need to know is that it’s all about sex,” are the first words spoken in the pilot. Ron took this opportunity to clarify Michael’s voiceover and the role sex plays in the show. It’s not an entirely surface one. “It’s about how sex relates to all of our lives.”
- Peter addressed the chilly and sometimes angry reception his character received from some of their audience. “I forgave myself for something in playing Emmett,” he said, explaining his theory that viewers’ dislike of Mr. Honeycutt’s flamboyant personality had to do with their own shame. “We stopped apologizing for the stereotypes. We started owning them and transcending them.”
- Soon after getting started, the main cast were already perfectly comfortable throwing off their clothes and rolling around in bed together. Still, some tricky situations with guest actors resulted in the enactment of a required “sex meeting” with the actors, writers, and director so concerns could be addressed before anyone got it on. The process took time to perfect. Randy: “It took them a while to figure out cock socks.”
- “Hi, I’m Peter, you’ll be blowing me.” Peter, on guest stars.
- Moderator Lesley Headland from the Hollywood Reporter asked the panel to talk about one of the show’s most difficult storylines: Justin bashing. “I have a story,” Randy began. “But you’re not going to like it.” And that’s how the conversation turned to the line of cast and crew members waiting to smack Randy Harrison in the head with a Nerf bat instead of a grave discussion of the season one finale’s social impact.
- When the topic of a revival came up, Robert championed “the Dallas approach” or the integration of a new generation of characters. It would be an efficient way of launching into some new themes, since the landscape of the LGBTQ looks a lot different 15 years later. Also, Baby Gus would be about Justin’s age in the pilot by now, which ought to strike fear into the hearts of his mothers.
- Would Brian and Justin be domestically together in that dream revival? Ron and Dan weren’t confident of that. Their goal throughout the series was to show different kinds of relationships, none less important for being non-traditional. Brian and Justin have a bond. They’ll always come back to each other, even if they’re physically apart or even with other people. To help us understand this, Ron read us Shakespeare’s 116th sonnet. Don’t look at me.
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
My only complaint about the panel paralleled a complaint that many had with the series in general. Where were the lesbians? I believe that Michelle Clunie was on the panel list at some point before ATX actually rolled around, so it’s a shame we didn’t actually get her perspective on the portrayal of that relationship. But still, the male-heavy dais could have at least mentioned Lindsey and Melanie. It was an uncomfortable reminder that the ladies’ storylines were usually less compelling than the guys’ and almost always revolved around marriage, motherhood, and that one time that Lindsey turned straight. Any potential reboot needs to address this imbalance.
The Friday Night Light extras casting agency used to have a MySpace page back when that sort of thing was necessary, and I spent many an afternoon that I should have been working looking at album after album of regular humans standing next to Tim Riggins in his home jersey and pads. I really feel like I fulfilled some portion of my destiny in Austin on this night.
The show filmed in Austin and the surrounding areas throughout the course of its five seasons, so many of the actors still consider the town home. For the third year, ATX hosted a free FNL tailgate screening in the lot behind the Hotel San Jose. Leading up to the event, fans were able to vote for the episode that would be screened. The winner, by a landslide, was season one classic “Mud Bowl.” Let’s get dirty.
Cast members in attendance included Derek Phillips (Billy Riggins), Stacey Oristano (Mindy Collette Riggins), Humanoid Goddess Adrienne Palicki (Tyra Collette), Angela Rawna (Regina Howard, Vince’s mom) Katherine Willis (Joanne Street, Jason’s mom), Steven Walters (Creepy Glenn before Matt Weiner’s son was Creepy Glenn), and Louanne Stephens (GRANDMA SARACEN, THE WORLD’S BEST NAN). There were tacos and cheap beers for sale; Delta Spirit, whose “Devil Knows Your Dead” soundtracked the final montage of the series, played a few sets; and the cast gamely mingled and posed for pictures.
I do not recommend standing next to Adrienne Palicki if you can avoid it. She is sweet as anything, but who would not pale in comparison TO THE SUN? Stacey Oristano liked my dress. Derek Phillips is like, real life man handsome. Still, it was Louanne Stephens who won this round. She held court at a folding table, hugging each and every fan who came over to meet her, signing the glossy photos of her and Zach Gilford posing at a Panthers home game; and proudly displaying the #7 supporter pin that she MADE HERSELF. Grandma Saracen always reminded me a bit of my own grandmother. She passed away two summers ago, so I’m very grateful that Louanne made a sincere effort to connect with everyone she met. I needed that hug.
The muggy Texas heat just made that asphalt lot feel more like Dillon as we sat on folding chairs and blankets with beers and ice cream and watched the Panthers earn their spot at State. As if I deserved more than the privilege of an 10-foot-tall Tim Riggins, the tailgate also afforded me the opportunity to meet blog friends Molly and Traci, the hilarious ladies of Cookies & Sangria. Make sure you hop over to their site to read their recaps of the weekend (like ours, but with 200% more Gilmore Girls!) and then to subscribe, because they are the shit.