When Showtime's addictive gay soap Queer as Folk kicks off its second season Sunday (10 pm/ET), don't expect a resolution to what has become one of the show's most disorienting plot inconsistencies: How could Hal Sparks's Michael character have been reared by such a liberal, pro-gay mother (Sharon Gless), and yet still remain closeted at work? Turns out, it's a question Queer producers apparently asked themselves, as an episode from last season was to have featured the thirtysomething department-store manager coming out to his colleagues. But a funny thing happened on Michael's way to full disclosure his portrayer slammed the closet door shut.
"I refused to do it," Sparks tells TV Guide Online. "I didn't think seeing all seven of us on a pride march every week would serve the audience. There are too many people who are in the closet living this double life, and we lose touch with part of our audience if we're all out of the closet and everyone's okay with it. That's not how life is.
"We're trying to reach people who aren't already close to the community who aren't accepting," adds the heterosexual thesp, who raised eyebrows last year by comparing busses with his male co-stars to kissing a dog. "When you're trying to bridge a gap, you need to bring people in, and Michael is one of the ways we bring people in. Straight people can maybe relate to this guy."
For her part, Gless believes strongly that her TV son needs to start mixing business with pleasure. In fact, she hints that her forward-thinking alter ego may be the one to blow the whistle on him. "We're going to deal with that [during season two] where Michael is going to come to me and say, 'You have to keep your mouth shut. It isn't your business.' And she's going to have to take it and back off.
"I still believe that [my character] Debbie is who she is, and she's going to hold her position and say, 'I know who you are and I'm proud of it, and if you're ashamed, that's your problem.' They haven't written it yet, but I'm going to fight for it. But Hal feels very strongly that Debbie has overstepped her bounds. And we're having these little tiffs with the producers about... these issues."
Regardless, don't expect Sparks to back down. "I'd like [Michael] to stay closeted for as long as possible at least in his workplace," he says. "It gives more depth to the character. If we all come out, what would the last season be? All of us attending the GLAAD Awards?"