The Bedroom Interview with Peter Paige

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The Bedroom Interview with Peter Paige

is acting career began with The Wizard of Oz (he played the scarecrow in grade one), and given that film’s queer cult following, it seems entirely appropriate that actor Peter Paige is, career-wise, not in Kansas anymore. Geographically, it’s just Toronto (standing in for Pittsburgh), but the twenty-something, classically-trained actor has a role as flamboyant as anyone in Oz — proud mary Emmett Honeycutt in the Showtime re-think of Queer as Folk, the British television series that, among other delights, introduced rimming to Her Majesty’s subjects. The American version does the same for the democratic populace. He’s having a great time mucking with these TV taboos, Paige tells me, comfortably scrunched up at the pillow end of his bed (I’ve claimed the foot) and casually revealing, thanks to a loosely buttoned shirt, a rather appealing touch of tummy. —Gerald Hannon

GH: Are you now, or have you ever been, a slut?

PP: Suffice it to say that I do not necessarily adhere to the puritanical ideals of my forefathers. I have had my moments, and there are people all over the States who might corroborate that! But is it the best thing I’ve done for myself? No. It gets in the way of meaningful relationships, and for me that’s most important.

Okay, nice sentiment. Do you at least sleep in the nude?

I often sleep in my “I’m too sexy for my shirt” shirt.

You’re one of only two gay actors in the cast. Are you called on to coach straight guys on how to be gay?

I occasionally feel like a consultant, being asked, “If we were doing this, would that make more sense?” But as an actor you relate to a role based on its emotional journey, not on who you’re kissing, and the actors who’ve chosen to do this project are all very connected to the people in this show. As a gay actor, I’ve kissed lots of women and it’s never been a big issue for me. What’s more likely to come up than gay sexual stuff is gay cultural stuff — would two guys really just pick each other up on the street and go home and have sex? There are things accepted in gay culture that, for better or worse, straight people just don’t know about.

So they’ll learn something. How is the gay community reacting to Queer as Folk?

I think some are going to be outraged by the show because it doesn’t pretend to portray the entire gay community. It’s not everyone’s experience, nor does it intend to be. It’s a small segment, a bunch of guys in their twenties who hang out in bars. I overhear guys say things like, “I don’t see me there; I don’t see who I am represented on this show,” but I think if you look at the emotional responses of these people, you’ll find that they’re really universal. I certainly understand people’s desires to see themselves represented, but I think you have to look beyond just the physical or just the sexual or just the gender to the emotional experience.

Can you describe your character?

Emmett’s the most outrageous of the boys, the most effeminate, the most fabulous and the least self-loathing, which I think is staggering — because as a rule, the more effeminate a character is the more self-loathing he is. I’ve got in touch with my inner Emmett, my inner raving queen, and that’s a great thing. I’ve learned to love that part of myself in ways I never really did before.

Let’s get to the nitty-gritty. You’ve talked about the show being controversial. What are we going to see?

It’s nothing you haven’t seen straight people do. But it has gay sex you’ve never seen before on television. No regular American television network would touch it. There’s rimming, there’s anal sex, there’s blow jobs, there’s the whole nine yards. And it’s excitingly and dynamically shot — the camera work is extraordinary! Very muscular, very energetic.

Do you have groupies yet trying to get you into bed?

No. Not yet. But I’m in a relationship so I’m not looking for the groupie fuck. I’ve been in this relationship for over a year now. He’s a wonderful man, a writer and an actor, and a little bit older than I am. And groupies are just not what it’s about for me. It’s about the project, extraordinary, edgy storytelling and not just because of the sex but because of the layers these people are allowed to have.

What’s your bedroom like at home in Los Angeles?

It’s a dark sort of nest, on the backside of the building so it doesn’t get a lot of sun. I’ve got a mid-century, retro thing going on in my whole apartment. Clean lines, fifties stuff. Whenever anyone comes over who hasn’t been there before they always say, It’s so you. So retro. So tired!

What’s the oddest thing that’s ever happened there?

I had sex with a deaf guy once. He was very nice and very sweet, but I had roommates who
were asleep in the next room. I kept whispering, “We have to be quiet,” we’d be fooling around and then suddenly through the thick silence he’d bellow out, “Ooh aah uugh!,” at the top of his lungs. I studied sign language at college. It was just fascinating to me. I’ve always loved languages; I speak English, Spanish, some French and some sign. And the deaf world is such a separate culture. It’s a very strong, tight community.

It has been difficult career-wise, being an openly gay actor. Is that changing?

It’s changing. But I don’t think it has changed. I certainly know that I’m in danger by being on this show, playing the character that I’m playing and being openly gay. That’s a three-shot to lock me right down to doing one thing for the rest of my career. But I couldn’t imagine doing this show and not being out of the closet. It was never really a debate. I mean, this is how I am. This is how I live my life, and let the chips fall where they may.

© 2000 Gerald Hannon and Nerve.com, Inc.