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Queer As Folk's Robert Gant

In Australia, Queer As Folk originally screened as the UK version, and now we have the US version - there are significant differences in the show, and the characters - what do you think about the two shows, and how do you feel about the differences, and the added facets to the US series?

Comparing the UK and US versions of QAF is like comparing apples to oranges. I love them both, but they are fruits of very different trees. While the original had the luxury of being almost solely artistically driven and “indie” in feel, the US version had to deal with the mandates of series television. In other words, it had to concern itself with maintaining its audience for the long haul, with commercial viability. The original didn’t have to worry about ratings in the same way, so I think it likely had freer artistic reins with far less, if any network oversight. The US version also had to contend with the inevitable comparisons (such as this one) to the original. It took a bit of time to shake those comparisons and to become its own entity. I think that both endeavors succeeded very well within the parameters that they were given. Given all of that, too much comparison doesn’t really make sense.

Your character, Ben, emerged in the plot lines after the UK versions story lines were finished - was it easier for you to do a role that had not been portrayed by other actors?

I don’t know that it was necessarily easier. I don’t think that any of the actors really looked to the preexisting characters to contemplate the new ones. Like my fellows, even if there had been a preexisting Ben character, I don’t think I would have focused on him at all in my preparation. Again, these shows are very different creations, despite they’re shared title. They represent very different worlds. I don’t think I would have constrained myself by trying to do or not to do something the original character would have done, that is, had there been one.

As an actor - who just happens to be gay, is it easier, or harder to play a gay character?

Other than one episode of Veronica’s Closet, Ben was the first gay character I’ve played, certainly the only one of any depth. I don’t think that there’s really a whole lot of difference one way or the other. I will say that it has been invigorating to get to play Ben. As actors,we draw upon our life experiences to inform the characters we play. So it is freeing and fun to get to immerse myself in a gay character and use my own life experiences to inform him. That said, the difficulty in portraying a character has more to do for me with the depth to which the character is drawn. In many ways, Ben has been the hardest character for me to portray because he is the most textured that I’ve played. A straight character with no depth is not tough at all. So, I suppose it’s not a gay/straight issue at all but rather a simplicity/complexity issue.

Do you feel a sense of duty or burdon when it comes to playing an HIV positive character?

The script writers seem to be very aware of issues relating to positive people - would you have written the script differently if you held the pen? I think the writers have done a nice job with their handling of HIV. The only thing I would love to see explored are some of the other ideas and theories about HIV and its role in AIDS. So much really powerful and intelligent literature challenging some of our current beliefs around HIV has been sent to me. As someone who believes that discussion is always a good thing, I’m troubled by the extent to which parts of the medical community and pharmaceutical community seem so completely unwilling to engage in meaningful discussion about differing ideas and possibilities. A really interesting site I was pointed to is I don’t know what the answers are to this great and painful dilemma, but I feel certain that only through meaningful discussion will we reach them.

As part of the Queer as Folk team - do you or any of the other actors get to have input into the script development?

The producers/writers are very good about fielding our concerns for the characters’ continuity. They often mention that we are keepers of our characters in a sense. With so many different directors on the show,we each keep an eye to some extent on our character to doublecheck that we’re not doing something that’s not in keeping with previous episodes. That said, this really is the baby of the show’s creators, and they are ones who develop the stories.

You are a role model to many gay Australian guys - what are the things you have done in your life that have made you the success you are today?

My life has really been about learning as I go with particular emphasis on the learning. I’m committed to expanding constantly what used to be my very narrow understanding of myself and the world. I think that therapy, self-help reading, and exporation of spirituality have been my greatest keys to growth and “success.” For me, it’s pretty much about the understanding of self and the world around me and the extent to which that understanding affects my actions, usually for the better.

You had a very cool career prior to taking on the role of Ben in Queer As Folk, what was your highlight of your past experiences as an actor?

Most of my experiences were highlights at the time they occurred. I really enjoyed doing a lot of the sitcom stuff (Caroline in the City, Friends, etc.). It’ll be fun to revisit that world once I move on from Queer as Folk. I think I’m ready for some comedy.

Have you been to Australia before?

I’ve not yet been but would love to go one of these days. All I hear are incredible things about the land and the people. Australia really sounds like my kind of place. And just once, I’d like to see what that Mardi Gras thing is all about before I reach a point in my life when it’s just no longer of any interest. To tell you the truth, I’m just about at that point now, so I’d better hurry down! Unfortunately, we always film at the same time, so it just hasn’t been a possibility. Maybe next year.

Do you have any business or acting ventures outside of QAF at the moment?

I’ve started a production company called Mythgarden with actor Chad Allen and producer Christopher Racster.We’ve optioned a number of fantastic scripts that take the storytelling of our community to a new level. We also have several television shows in development. It’s been very exciting, so stay tuned for next steps for Mythgarden. Acting-wise, I’ve been offered some great projects, but, unfortunately, they’ve conflicted with the shoot schedule for QAF. Once we wrap the season, I can turn my attention more to that. I did do a short film called Billy’s Dad is a Fudge-packer that is premiering in the Sundance film festival.

You are one good looking lad - is there ever going to be a Robert Gant workout video???

That’s funny. Umm, not likely in the near future. But maybe at some point, I’ll do something that has to do with one’s total sense of health and beauty. Physical, spiritual, the whole bit.

Are you currently in a relationship? Or do you find the binds of work make it too difficult?

I’m single. I look forward to finding a meaningful relationship. I feel very certain that the universe will provide that and that it will do so in its own time. And I’m okay with that. I didn’t use to be. I believed in my younger years that a relationship was somehow necessary to complete me. I didn’t feel okay being alone. I get now that I’m whole already. Today, I really enjoy spending time with myself. It’s such a nice place to have arrived.

Does your life reflect that of your characters in any way? How do you find inspiration to play Ben?

Sir Laurence Olivier once said,“Ask not who I become to play a character. Ask rather who the character becomes because I play it.” I’ve found that analysis to be very accurate. Any character an actor plays is who that character is largely as a result of the life experiences of the actor. So while Ben and I are not one in the same, while many of his storylines do not reflect my life, his expression is almost entirely me. His expression of emotion must necessarily be drawn from my own personal well of life experiences. If Ben’s experiencing something that I haven’t, then I must analogize his journey in that moment to mine as best I can. Because I’ve lived in his skin for quite some time, that happens much more readily for me.

Do you have a message for your Australian Fans?

I’ve gotten many terrific emails from fans in Australia through my website. I hope I get the chance to visit one of these days and to meet some of the great Australian folks who enjoy the show.

***Queer As Folk Screens on SBS Television.
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