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MUSIC Jay Brannan: Queer and folk MUSIC Jay Brannan: Queer and folk
Judging from the comments on Jay Brannan's YouTube channel, the Manhattan-based, openly ...

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David R. Guarino With Honors: Queer As Folk's Thea Gill
by David R. Guarino
2004-05-12

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Showtime's Queer as Folk is now in its fourth season. Thea Gill ('Lindsay Peterson') talks candidly about her career, her personal life, her passion for singing, her famous castmates and the recent award bestowed upon her by The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

It has been an exciting year for actress Thea Gill. In fact, it is safe to say that the last three years have provided the lovely young Canadian-born actress with more than her share of excitement. A native of Vancouver, B.C., Gill has been enchanting audiences for the last three years with her superb portrayal of Lesbian Mom and devoted partner, Lindsay Peterson on Showtime's Original series, Queer as Folk. Gill has received an ACTRA award nomination for her portrayal.

But Thea's talents extend far beyond the realm of QAF's Liberty Avenue. Gill made the most of her BFA degree (with Honors) from Toronto's York University and has crafted out a burgeoning career in theater, television, film and as an accomplished jazz singer.

Recently Gill starred in the PAX Movie of the Week, Tornado Warning, alongside Gerald Mc Raney and Joan Van Ark. Thea also appeared in the pilot episode of PAX's Just Cause, with Richard Thomas. She received a Golden Sheaf Award for her role in an episode of Bliss, an anthology series on the Oxygen Network. Thea also appeared opposite Beau Bridges, Miguel Ferrer and Nia Long in the Showtime Movie of the Week, Sightings: Heartland Ghost. On stage Gill has also established herself as an accomplished actress

Recently named one of Canada's 25 most beautiful stars, Gill returned to the stage in 2002 with a successful three-night solo singing act at the world-renowned jazz club, Top O' The Senator, in Toronto.

Gill was recently honored by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force as the recipient of The National Leadership Award. NGLTF annually elevates those individuals who have acted as champions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights. Gill was recognized for her outstanding efforts to help educate and inform as she transcends the lines of sexuality through her on-screen efforts and off. Gill has been raising awareness on pivotal GLBT issues and is an outspoken and well-respected advocate of the community.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Gill, who resides in Victoria, B.C., with her husband, director Brian Richmond, and their four cats.

DAVID GUARINO: Thea, you are now into production for the fourth season of Showtime's Queer as Folk. How does it feel to be this far along?

THEA GILL: Well, it seems bizarre because on one level, it feels like we've just started. But on another (level) it feels like we've been here a lifetime. It's a very odd sensation, it's like time sort of stops. Or time has a different meaning ... I lose track of the essence and the duration of time. Because even on a more recent level, we as a group were apart for about four months of hiatus, yet when we met each other in Los Angeles to do this photo shoot, it's like we just finished shooting the third season last week. (laughs) It's like the element of time sort of stops or stands still. Yet at the same time when you look back and you think about how we started in the first season those many years ago, it's like, wow, we've all grown incredibly too! ... We're all kind of excited and nervous ... there's a part of each one of us that wants to show how much we've changed! It's fun that way, we all have changed.

DG: Isn't that the feeling you get when you are separated from a good friend?

TG: I think that's true and I think (that's what happens) with very good friends.

DG: How did you actually land the role of Lindsay Peterson?

TG: Well I'm Canadian, and I was actually born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, on the West Coast. I attended York University, and I spent about a decade in Toronto, in the city. And I did a lot theater and it was in that year, 2000, that I auditioned (for QAF) in Toronto. The next thing I knew I was flown out to LA to screen test. I think it was about the week after; it happened very, very quickly. That's when I met Peter (Paige) and Michelle (Clunie) and Gale (Harold) and Randy (Harrison). Those are the four (cast members) that I met. And I screen tested, and I think the big thing there for me was, like how was I going to work with Michelle? I think Michelle (Melanie) was already cast, and I think they were still trying to find Lindsay. And so they wanted to see what our chemistry was like. And you know it was just ... natural. Something that just sort of fell into place when I met Michelle. We went in there and it was like ... it was like I had known her my entire life!

DG: Isn't that amazing?

TG: It's a bit bizarre when you have that kind of experience at an audition ... but, hey, it was great! I'm grateful for that. You know, David, you don't get that (kind of experience) a lot. Usually you have to kind of work it through ... to clear up all the kind of awkwardness and little bits of entanglement that you have in a scene. But with us (Michelle and I) it just all sort of flowed very naturally. And then it was just like heaven-sent ... I went back to the airport and checked my messages ... and there was the offer, right there on the table. I was very excited and I knew that this project was something that would transform my life, not only professionally but personally. That was really the bonus of the whole thing, it wasn't just another job. This job not only changed my life, it changed me as a person.

DG: On QAF you portray a lesbian and you are both straight and married in real life. What feelings do you draw on from within that enable you to create the love scenes and emotional entanglements of Lindsay and Melanie that you bring to life with such sensitivity and realism?

TG: That's very nice of you to say, thank you. I've said this many times before ... you know, my first great love was a woman.

DG: Really?

TG: It was in high school, and I was at the tender age of 18. At that age of course, our feelings are very raw and intense. I fell head over heels, helplessly in love with a teacher of mine. There you go! And I had a bit of a struggle with that; I didn't quite know what to do with it because I was so young ... so kind of naïve. I went to an all-girls' school, and I really had no guidance or counseling in terms of what to do when you feel so strongly about someone. I felt very lost; I struggled emotionally quite a bit. But I found my way out, I pursued my love of acting and about 10 years after I started to reconcile my feelings about this particular woman because she did not want to have anything to do with me. And that was difficult to deal with in itself. And, during that time I met my husband, and he also helped me deal with those feelings. It was only when I got cast as 'Lindsay' that I felt that I had some place to put my feelings, that the universe was telling me that I now had a place to deal with my feelings. I hadn't really figured it out, I had, of course, fallen in love with my husband. But there was always this other side, this kind-of history to me that I hadn't completely dealt with. And, in a way being cast in this role was sort of a gift being given to me ... now I can deal with it. Now I can sort of put the feelings to work and use the force creatively ... And I did that ... it's very interesting how, in a sense, this job (on QAF) has helped me incredibly in dealing with how I felt about that woman in my life. And how I've kind of come full circle not only in dealing with my own feelings, but also in terms of being a lot more comfortable with my body and in terms of sex in general.

DG: Would you say you are bisexual?

TG: I guess, well I've thought about that a lot. And I guess perhaps I am. Though it's something I've thought about, there's nothing I'm going to do about it ... I'm committed to my husband. And the marriage and the commitment that I have to him is above everything else. But I think the internal core of me as a person probably has an ability to fall in love with either a man or a woman. Probably if I hadn't met Brian, I could easily have gone one way or the other. The relationships I have with people are often more mental; I guess I've always met people on a mental level or I've been attracted to people on a mental level. I guess that's sort of my way in to meeting people. And then the other stuff just sort of follows

DG: Your role appears to be scripted as portraying a somewhat conservative young woman, well you're a WASP ... (Thea laughs) ... you're straight-laced and you have rather aloof parents who are pretty unaccepting of you. Does this role at all compare with your real-life background?

TG: Similar in the sense that I went to a very conservative, strict private girls' school. Twelve whole years. While I am very grateful for what I learned during that time, I think that the traditional aspects of the school were not all too conducive or helpful to me in dealing with the feelings I was having at the time, the feelings for my teacher. And I think that in that sense I can understand how horribly repressed some people can be in their environment.

DG: How do you feel about the issue of gays and lesbians being granted full legal marriage rights?

TG: I'm in full support, 100 percent. It's interesting, you know I have a friend who's a gay woman and she does not support the idea of gays and lesbians marrying ... and I thought that was interesting because I hadn't met anyone who's gay who has not supported the proposition. My friend's opinion is that legalizing marriages for gays and lesbians is merely following straight tradition. And I understand that, but then I will always come back to her and I say, 'Wouldn't you at least want the option to choose?'

DG: I'm very excited about the fact that you're a jazz singer.

TG: Yeah, well I mean I don't even know if I would call myself a jazz singer. I can't really do a lot of the improvising. I would say that I'm more of a balladeer, I can hold on to a melody quite well; I can tell a story with soul! (laughing).

DG: Where can we hear some samples?

TG: People have been urging me to put out a CD or something, but I just haven't had the time. I would like to do it at some time in the future ... it's something that I would have to do properly ... I would have to spend a lot of quality time doing it. When I sing I do so for the enjoyment of it, in a way it's more like a hobby to me. ... I was singing in Toronto at The Top of the Senator about a year ago and that was a pretty heavy-duty venue to be at. I felt very complimented that they asked me to sing there for three nights. It was a fantastic experience; the three nights were full and of course I had all my QAF cast supporters there to cheer me on! It was truly a big step for me in the sense that I overcame a lot of insecurities.

DG: On Queer as Folk, you and Melanie have had a child that you (as Lindsay) had given birth to. But the issue of GLBT's adopting children has again come under fire in our country ... many are saying gays and lesbians are not well suited to raising children. How do you feel about this?

TG: Oh, it's ridiculous! As long as a child has two loving people looking after him/her ... in other words a loving family, that's all that really matters. And I think that this is the point that Queer as Folk is trying to make. I think that that's what so nice about our story line ... Michelle's and my (Melanie and Lindsay's) story line ... at least there's this part of the show that really is focusing on what the nature of family is. And the nature of family is support and care and love. Actually I don't know if you know the writer Ann-Marie MacDonald, she wrote Fall On Your Knees? She's a Canadian writer ... . She recently went to California with her partner and adopted a little baby and is just in high heaven. She had all of the support that she could possibly want throughout all of that, and it was a blessing that they got the baby so quickly.

DG: Can you give us your predictions as to how long Queer as Folk will run?

TG: Who knows? I mean, we never have any idea. We are always kind of going year-by-year, never knowing. This year Showtime has a new president, Robert Greenblatt. And apparently he was at HBO and he was one of the creators of Six Feet Under. And, he apparently, through the grapevine, really loves our show ... and who knows what that means?

DG: What is the most important thing you have learned from your experience?

TG: If I can come out of this show with anything, it would be to continue dealing, speaking, interacting with young people. Even though I have chosen a straight lifestyle, I have now with this show (and the experience I had when I was young) been given a little bit deeper of an understanding of how utterly confusing the GLBT lifestyle can be, especially to the young. It's something that I can now talk about.

E-mail: david.ronald@earthlink.net


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