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Queer as Folk reboot creator reveals how he got Russell T Davies' blessing to continue show's 'legacy'

Season one of the drama is available to stream on Starz Play now

queer as folk interview stephen dunn
Eve Crosbie
TV & Film Writer
July 2, 2022
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Back in 1999, Queer as Folk came along and changed gay representation on television forever - and now, over 20 years later, Stephen Dunn's revolutionary reimagining is going to do the same.

MORE: Queer as Folk's Jesse James Keitel talks sweet bond with co-star

Speaking exclusively with HELLO! about the new series, the creator, writer and executive producer opened up about remaking the iconic series for modern times, getting original creator Russell T Davies' blessing and whether a second season is on the cards...

WATCH: Queer as Folk season one is available to stream on Netflix now  

For Stephen, a Canadian-born filmmaker best known before now for his 2015 queer horror film Closet Monster, rebooting Queer as Folk, a show which he first watched and adored as a young closeted teen, was a dream come true.

"It's one of my favourite shows. I think Russell and his team did such an incredible job capturing this defiant, joyous queer spirit of people in the late 90s," he says of the original, which exploded onto screens back in 1999. "It was really my first exposure to a queer community."

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As for how he came to remake the show - which got its first US reboot in 2000 from creators Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman - he revealed that it all came down to getting returning the Doctor Who showrunner's blessing.

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In the 17 years that have passed since the first US follow-up ended, the rights to the show had reverted back to Russell, and during a trip to the UK a few years back, Stephen decided to pitch him a new, modern-day take on the show.

"I set up a meeting with him and hopped on a train to Manchester where we meet in this glass office building literally underneath the iconic Babylon nightclub sign," he says. "It was so intimidating, but he was so lovely and so warm."

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Of course, Russell gave him the green light after coming to understand Stephen's vision for the series. "I think he really saw this version of the show, which is about a community that is more inclusive than the space that existed before, and he saw this as a way to expand on the legacy of this series."

While the basic structure of the show remains the same - it follows a group of LGBTQ+ friends, their love lives, careers, friendships and everything else in between - there's no denying that Stephen's version is more political and urgent than the iterations that have come before.

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Instead of Manchester, Pittsburgh (where the two other versions were set) or even obvious choices of New York and California, his reimagining transplants the action of the show to the vibrant New Orleans, which he says "has the most distinct, punk, resilient queer community" and is his favourite city in America. 

However, the decision to set the show there was imbued with a deeper appreciation of how the city reflects the story he set out to tell in the first season. "So much of our show is about rebuilding and that is something that New Orleans does, unfortunately, more than anywhere else when you think about everything that it has been through - hurricanes, natural disasters, the list goes on," he explains. 

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"And in spite of that, its' spirit is so celebratory. You can't step out into the French Quarter without walking into a parade and it's that resilient, celebratory energy is what fuels Queer as Folk. It just seemed like the absolute only city that we could set the show in."

As fans will have seen from the opening episode, the series' first season centres around a gay nightclub shooting and the repercussions it has on the community as a whole, including characters Brodie, Shar, Ruthie, Noah, Ali and Mingus.

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The fictionalised tragedy has unmistakable echoes of the 2016 Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting which saw nearly 50 people lose their lives and dozens injured, and Stephen says that he actually ended up drawing directly on the experience of survivors who were keen to have their story told.

"I went to Orlando to meet some of the survivors a few years ago, as I was developing the season and we had a lot of conversations about not only what the experience was like, but also what was important in depicting it as a part of the show."

"One of those things was that I never wanted to show the act of violence we never in the series actually see any violence towards queer people because that's the story that we unfortunately hear all too often," he continues. 

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"So it was important for all of us to really centre the show on how we rebuild our spaces to be bigger and better and more inclusive because that is where we find our strength, that is where we find our joy that is where we find our resilience and that is the story of Queer as Folk."

As for the show's future, Stephen confirms that conversations about season two have already begun. "We are definitely in talks about what season two looks like," he teases. "We end this season on quite a cliffhanger and so I'm very excited to continue to tell these stories for what I hope is a long time."

Queer as Folk is available to stream on STARZPLAY now.

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