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Yes, the ‘Queer as Folk’ reboot has lots of sex — and that’s for a reason

“We’re going full throttle into an authentic queer experience that is relatable to us,” creator Stephen Dunn told TODAY of the show, which lives up to the sexual authenticity of its predecessor.
/ Source: TODAY

The LGBTQ community has never been so visible in pop culture. Still, it seems sincere portrayals of queer intimacy are often omitted in order to make the works appeal to a wide audience.

Not so in "Queer as Folk," the reboot of the Showtime series streaming now on Peacock. The series follows a multi-generational group of queer New Orleanians, ranging from a transgender high school teacher who is about to become a mom to a med school dropout who returns home to reconcile his relationships with his family and former lovers.

Within minutes of the premiere, two sex scenes unfold, showing gay couples engaged in the act in different ways: One problematic and rough, the other a more intimate and sensual.

Creator Stephen Dunn said that less racy LGBTQ shows are "important" and "serve a purpose" by getting through to audiences — but that it was equally important for "Queer as Folk" to take a less trepidatious approach to sex.

"We hope that our audience will dive into the waters of 'Queer as Folk,' but also we’re not here to educate. We’re not here to be apologetic about our existence. We're going full throttle into an authentic queer experience that is relatable to us — and that I think is what is so exciting about our show," Dunn said.

Queer as Folk - Season 1
Johnny Sibilly as Noah and Chris Renfro as Daddius.Peacock

For the actors, this approach was an adjustment. "I've definitely filmed sexy scenes before ... but that was a straight sex scene," Johnny Sibilly told TODAY via Zoom.

The 34-year-old actor first rose to prominence on Instagram, going viral for his hilarious characters. From there, he began booked roles in "Pose" and "Hacks," playing Marcus' (Carl Clemons-Hopkins) boyfriend. In "Queer as Folk," Sibilly's biggest role to date, he plays Noah, a successful lawyer struggling to balance the rekindling of an old flame as he mourns the loss of a loved one.

"So ("Queer as Folk") felt like a coming home of sorts. It was just really nice to be able to talk with the creators and really want to tell these stories in a way that felt like authentic to what queer sex actually looks like and not the same position that you see on every other show. It was really fun to experiment," he added.

Many LGBTQ people used the original American "Queer as Folk" — a reboot of a British series, which ran from 2000 to 2005 on Showtime — as a how-to guide on learning about the ins and out of same-sex relations (myself included.)

The reboot may serve as another kind of sex education for today's adolescents, since it provides one of the few frank depictions of sex in media. Sure, there's porn — but unhealthy sexual behaviors can be learned there. In "Queer as Folk," the spectrum of sex is fully realized in a safer way, in a manner that's reminiscent of the original.

"When you take on a role of reimagining of 'Queer as Folk', you have to take on the importance of what the sex means to the lifeblood of the show," Sibilly, 34, said. "So when I got the audition, I was like, 'Oh, I’ll probably be naked for this.' And spoiler alert: we’re naked."

"When I got the audition, I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll probably be naked for this.’ And spoiler alert: we’re naked.”

Johnny Sibilly

For Devin Way, who plays the central character Brodie, Noah's ex finding his way after leaving med school, "Queer as Folk" marked the first time he simulated sex of any kind on camera. Way was happy that the intimacy coordinator, Hanna Hall, respected his boundaries.

"I've never been a part of anything quite as intimate as what we got the privilege of doing on screen," the 32-year-old actor told TODAY. "I was so grateful that we had an intimacy coordinator and she really created a really safe environment for me to express my boundaries and things that I was comfortable and not comfortable with. She also really helped with the choreography — because there was a lot."

Queer as Folk - Season 1
Devin Way as Brodie and Johnny Sibilly as Noah.Peacock

Sibilly said filming the scenes also helped the cast bond. They connected through conversations about their sexuality, asking questions like, "Wait, would you do it like this?" and answering with replies like, "Oh, I don't do it like that."

He added, "It was exciting to explore that."

It's one thing to talk amongst the cast — and another to share this intimacy with the world. Knowing how explicit the show gets, are the actors encouraging their parents to watch?

"I love to ruffle my mom's feathers. So I'm like, 'Oh, yeah, I just thought I shot a sex scene today. She's like, 'What, are you shooting a porn?' No, we're just having sex like everyone else and every other show, but hotter," Sibilly said, laughing. "So she probably won't watch it and that's fine, but I'm excited either way."

Way said, "There's zero percent chance my family's going to watch this. I was talking to my grandma and she was like, 'Oh, well, I saw you naked when you were a baby!'"

His response? "Things look a little different now."

But the show's actors can attest to the value of pushing the limits of what you're comfortable with. The process of "Queer as Folk" prompted them to challenge any pre-conceived notions of queerness they may have held going in.

Queer as Folk - Season 1
C.G. as Shar and Jesse James Keitel as Ruthie.Peacock

"I expected to just have all the answers about what queerness meant to me, because I've been out for so long, and I've known so many people," Sibilly said. "But getting to work with these creators and these other actor really showed me another layer of myself of who I am as a human being and as a creator, and the importance of showing up authentically as myself. I know we use that word a lot, but this was just another reminder of how special it is to do this and to be in this world."

Way was nervous about being around people outside of the cisgender experience. Jesse James Keitel, who made history as the first nonbinary actor to play a nonbinary series regular on primetime TV, plays a trans woman in "Queer as Folk."

"I've never been exposed to nonbinary friends or transgender friends or people with any other differences other than myself," he said. "I came from very straight world in Texas, and so something I was really nervous about was messing up and offending people on accident, having foot-in-mouth syndrome."

Way said his nerves melted away on set, which he described as being "safe for everyone."

"People were so gracious in teaching and not teaching with their mouths, but literally just showing up in their lives and the way they were living. Their freedom informed me on how they needed and wanted to be treated, and it was so amazing," he said.

To celebrate LGBTQ prideTODAY is sharing this community’s history, pain, joy and what’s next for the movement. We will be publishing personal essays, stories, videos and special features throughout the entire month of June.