Much of the controversy surrounding Showtime's provocative new gay soap, Queer as Folk, has centered on the character of Brian, a 29-year-old sexual predator who, in Sunday's season premiere (10 pm/ET), seduces a 17-year-old virgin and then discards him like a dirty Kleenex. But it was going to take a lot more than a little statutory rape to scare unknown actor Gale Harold out of taking the role.
"Let's be honest, people are breaking the law in every way, in every state, at every second," Gale tells TV Guide Online, "and it's only a small percentage of people who are getting prosecuted for those crimes or even apprehended by the authorities. My point of view on taking this job is that I'm interested in real work... and it's just something that happens. It's not like we're making it up or doing it to try and say, 'Look at this! Freak out! Feel uncomfortable!' It's a real experience, it's something that goes on. And if people are not aware of it, then it's for a variety of reasons that I can't really be worried about."
Another thing not keeping Harold up nights is concern about Brian being too unsympathetic in the audience's eyes. "I think it would be counterproductive to try and make apologies for Brian in the early stages, because that would compromise his arc as a character," he says. "You don't want to redeem him early because then what's left to do? But I don't think there's any question in my mind that he has redeeming qualities, but those will be revealed to the viewers in time.
"That's one of the great things about the script," he adds, "it doesn't make any apologies. There's no obvious attempts to make him okay to balance out what he's doing that people recoil from, and that's good writing. The integrity of the character is intact it's not being compromised."
Harold who believes everyone has a little Brian in them, but "they just don't want to admit it" has thus far declined to discuss his own sexual orientation in the press. (Randy Harrison, who plays his high school conquest Justin, has acknowledged he's gay, as has co-star Peter Paige.) "It's not that I'm refusing to say anything, it's that I don't have any interest in talking about things that I feel are irrelevant," he explains. "For me, it's just about the job and maintaining the character."