Since Showtime's Queer as Folk
debuted, Peter Paige
who plays endearingly queeny Emmett Honeycutt on the spicy gay sudser certainly has weathered his share of controversy.
Remember when his straight castmate, Hal Sparks, inserted foot-in-mouth (and earned a TV Guide Jeer) by comparing kissing men to kissing dogs on NBC's Tonight Show? "That quote is taken out of context," Paige tells TV Guide Online. Besides, he quips, "Hal's never kissed me. He spends most of his time kissing [his on-screen boyfriend] Chris Potter, who's equally uptight about it."
All joshing aside, having to defend Sparks's gaffe clearly has taken its toll on Paige's patience. Laments the actor: "People want to pit Hal and I against each other because I'm the most outspoken and openly gay member of the cast, and he's the most outspoken and avowedly heterosexual. I find that tiresome Hal's work is what needs to speak for itself. If only gay actors can play gay characters, we're in for a dangerous ride. The converse of that theory is that only straight people can play straight, and as an actor who's played straight roles before and intends to again, I just don't buy that."
More recently, loyal QAF fans bristled at Paige's latest storyline, wherein out-and-proud Emmett suddenly joined the so-called "ex-gay" movement. In fact, Sunday's installment found him so bent on switching teams that he bedded egads! a woman. But by episode's end, he had jarringly unrepressed himself and turned back into the old Emmett, who regularly dons sleeveless turtlenecks and vamps about like a male version of Sex and the City's Kim Cattrall. Has the show sacrificed character continuity for the sake of yet another splashy, attention-grasping plot device?
"I understand why people are having trouble with this," Paige admits. "Of all the guys, Emmett's been the most well-adjusted in terms of his sexuality up to this point. But in some ways, he's pretty naive and gullible." Laughing, he points out: "Historically, there are examples of Emmett losing himself in something that somebody else presents to him. Like in the pilot, he meets this Japanese hooker who doesn't speak a word of English, and he really convinces himself he's in love!"
Even so, the actor expresses serious concern about the ex-gay movement, which he calls "an evil cult." Asserts Paige: "It's terrifying. I think they prey on peoples' unhappiness and insecurities. What they do is [arrive at] a faulty conclusion that you need to be straight [to live a happy life]."
While on hiatus before QAF begins taping its second season, Paige is looking for decidedly "un-Emmett-like" roles to play. For one, he'll spend the month of May starring in Secret Agents at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center's Renberg Theater. Previews the actor: "It's a play about the relationship of a brother and sister and their mutual obsession with James Bond and all things secret agenty."