Gale Harold will forever be one of the “People We Love” for his portrayal of charismatic Brian Kinney in Showtime’s Queer as Folk. With his new role as serious law professor Julian Parish on the CW’s Hellcats putting him back on our screens, MetroSouurce Magazine checked in on him to find that the ghost of Brian is still haunting him, even after all these years.
Tell us a little bit about Julian.
Julian’s a law professor. He’s teaching a pre-law class, and that’s where he runs into Marti, [but] he doesn’t take her seriously because — where he’s coming from — pre-law students aren’t cheerleaders.
Would you say this is a slightly more cerebral character for you?
Well, all my characters are cerebral; it’s just nobody knows about it.
Okay, how about slightly more cynical?
I think that might be the challenge a little bit, because I’m a slightly cynical person. That comes pretty easily for me and I do think he has quite a bit of cynicism, but I don’t want it to stop the story. You know what I mean? I don’t want it to prevent me from allowing other things to come through. I think his cynicism and idealism are an interesting mix.
He’s a cynical idealist, then.
That’s a great way to put it. And I think for him, someone on a cheerleader scholarship is not gonna be with him on that.
Is there a potential romantic relationship between Julian and Marti?
People who come up against each other and butt heads for whatever reason: they’re going to be in the same circumstances, the same room, over and over again. And if they have similar interests, there’s always going to be that potential for a spark. Romance is a part of drama and a part of life, for that matter, but I don’t know how that’s going to play out.
How does it feel to be back on a series again?
It feels good. It feels good to be working and to have the kind of material that keeps you interested — in the sense that this character is very different for me.
You had a serious motorcycle accident in 2008 that prevented you from working for a while. How are you doing now?
I’m perfectly perfect. Actually, I’m 99.9 percent perfect. I was very fortunate. It’s good to know that you can survive a little blip to your well-being and come back.
How long was your recovery?
I recovered pretty quickly. I was sort of back to functioning in a general sense in three months, but ... I had to play a lot of mind games with myself just to test my cognitive functions and my memory and make sure that I wasn’t going to have any gaps. If you’re an actor, you have to be able to memorize lots of material, and then just be able to let it go; so that was my main concern. To go on stage and to be hit with a light, how would that affect me? What would my balance be like?
Did the accident affect your acting in any way?
I definitely think it changed it. Whether it improved it or not, I wouldn’t be so presumptuous, but I think an event like that is so emotional and affects your emotions for a long time. ... I get angry at certain things now much more quickly than I did, but on the other hand, I’m a bit more understanding and accommodating. It was a gift and a blessing at the same time. Perhaps it had to do with learning that new part of life that comes with survival, and all the fear that comes in with that. Maybe that sank down into my bones and my heart and hopefully it comes out in the performance.
We can’t get away without asking about Queer as Folk. What the show’s legacy for you?
I was terrified of taking on this sort of sexual/political stance. There’s always, in my mind, this hesitancy to speak as Gale Harold about the life of this man, Brian Kinney, that I’m playing and how that relates to society and the gay community at large.
It seemed at the time that a lot of people couldn’t differentiate between Brian and Gale. Well this is the thing: When you’re an actor and you get a big break and you’re young — I mean, I had just turned 30 when I started the show ... Nobody knew me, which was amazing, in a way, for the show, because you see that person for the first time when they’re playing that character so you believe it more. ... The legacy of the show was having all these people come up to us over the years and thank us for giving them characters to watch and to relate to. They saw themselves. That’s kind of overwhelming to hear that. It’s very meaningful, and it’s heartbreaking, and it’s inspiring, but ... it was a heavy and awesome responsibility and I wanted to get it right.
And now more from Gale Howard's exclusive interview:
ON HIS HELLCATS CHARACTER DEALING WITH LIARS…
He can’t help but notice that he deals with liars; he deals with different kinds of charlatans all the time. But he still believes that justice and social issues are the most important thing and he has a responsibility to take them on because he has access to the court system and power there.
ON GETTING TURNED ON BY LEARNING…
I remember being a student and I remember being around people that were so much on your mind and they were so brilliant, you know? And I thought “That’s what I want to be.” It’s very, very seductive. I think when you’re watching two people in that situation, your minds going to go there.
ON THE PITFALLS OF HIS CHARACTER ROMANCING A STUDENT… I think the last thing he would do is squander his position by doing something inappropriate. He doesn’t want to put himself in that position, but more importantly he does believe that his students are his charges and he’s responsible for their well-being, as well as their education. He wouldn’t do anything that would undermine that. On the other hand, who knows? For drama, those could be some great circumstances for everything to go wrong.
ON PLAYING POKER FACED CHARACTERS…
I don’t want to come across sort of one-note cynical; I don’t want to come across totally disengaged, so finding those moments of connection between myself and other characters … a lot of the characters I’ve played have been so kind of poker-faced and sort of one step ahead. They always seem to know more than anybody else so you can’t get a grip on them. I really feel with Julian, because he’s an academic and an instructor, you really have to feel and understand what he’s saying without it being obvious. It’s the key to that part.
ON THE RESPONSIBILITY OF PLAYING BRIAN KINNEY…
I wanted to get it right. And that feeling only increased as the show went on. That I was not part of this world, and yet I was responsible for portraying it. And the thing about Brian was, he was great to play because he did not give a shit about what anybody else thought of him. He had to find a way to survive. This is how I’m going to live my life and you can take it or leave it. I don’t care. And he loved it! He loved that feeling. He scared the shit out of me the first couple of years. I really didn’t think I was pulling it off.
I’m starting to feel a little bit more like I can believe that. That I can trust that what I did was honest and good. My attempts were honest, but I’m never quite comfortable saying “I pulled it off.”