BY ANDREW DAVIS
The groundbreaking, award-winning HBO series Six Feet Under kicked off its fifth and final season June 6. The show continues to chronicle the lives of the Fisher household and the goings-on of the family's funeral business, Fisher & Diaz.
Among the show's talented cast is Mathew St. Patrick, who portrays Keith Charles, the love of David Fisher ( Michael C. Hall ) . St. Patrick, who is heterosexual, recently talked during a media conference call about several issues, including the challenges he faced playing a gay Black man and what he will miss most about inhabiting this character.
On portraying a 'different' gay character ( in general ) : 'I just felt that gay characters are often portrayed as stereotypical, if you will. People have never really talked about love. If you're going to be honest, which was to paint a whole human being, the center is love.'
On portraying a trailblazing Black gay character: 'The entertainment industry realizes that it's important to include everybody. It's important to portray the lives that we actually live; if we don't do that, we're not being honest. But look how long it took for my character to show up; in the past, Black men [ on TV ] have been quite flamboyant.
'Keith's a good guy. He worked in law enforcement. Keith and David met in church. He's got a good job and he's committed to the relationship. When you're in a relationship, you're going to fight. [ But ] you have to fight to keep that relationship. [ That being said, ] I would've been equally as happy if we had times where [ David and Keith ] got along. However, what was amazing was that we didn't go overboard with the sexual aspect of the relationship.'
On dealing with the love scenes: 'Initially, love scenes were difficult because I was working on a new show. You have to make sure everyone's on the same page because of taste.'
On his own future: 'I'm heading off to Vancouver in July to work on a show called Reunion that will premiere after The O.C. this fall on Fox. It's about six friends from middle school and there's a murder that takes place during our reunion. My character is a detective who's going to try and figure out who committed the murder. There are also other things that are in the works but the deals haven't closed yet.'
On the evolution of David and Keith's relationship: 'I think that David and Keith, being white and Black, were in a groundbreaking relationship. Then you have [ the fact that ] Keith was out and he didn't care if someone didn't wish to participate in his life. David, on the other hand, lives within a culture that is more receptive to homosexuality—yet he's in the closet. So you had this extreme pressure-cooker relationship in the beginning.
'So you had one character trying to convince the other to take that next step so his life would be so much more rewarding. According to letters I've gotten from the gay community, a lot of people have trouble coming out to their families. I think the show has done an excellent job of showing how difficult that can be.
'I think that Keith and David have evolved in so many different ways. They've been through so many tough situations. The first time you see Keith is at David's father's funeral; Keith tries to be supportive but David doesn't want it; he was burying his feelings. So you go from that point to self-acceptance to the family's acceptance to the acceptance of 'OK, we're a couple.' That's a huge statement and I think the show's handled that really, really well. The show has opened many eyes of those who are not in the gay community; many heterosexuals are cheering for Keith and David's relationship to last and work.
'I must give a lot of credit to the gay community for embracing me and allowing me to do the best that I can in terms of [ portraying ] the honesty and integrity of such a complex situation and individual.'
On what playing Keith has brought into his own relationships: 'I had a great understanding of [ portraying Keith ] because I have gay and lesbian friends and I know of the struggles of dealing with the realities of living this life. People have to be able to distinguish my character from myself; people are not always able to do that.
'This is part of the reality that I live in: I'm a Black man and I'm discriminated against every day of my life. It would be different if I were a white gay guy. If you're walking down the street, no one says 'Oh, there's a white gay guy.' When they see me walking down the street, they say 'There's the Black guy.' I know discrimination so I can relate to a lot of the things that the gay community has to deal with in terms of acceptance. It's important that we all support each other.'
On same-sex families: 'Raising kids and loving them wholly and supporting them wholly and educating them wholly has nothing to do with you being heterosexual or homosexual. Many heterosexual families are injuring kids and doing all sorts of things to them. Love is something that you can't buy. As long as a child can come up in a loving environment ... then why in the hell are we complaining and separating people?'
On what he'll miss most about the show and Keith: ' [ What I'll miss most is ] the fact that it's groundbreaking; it's new and it's never been done before. The role does a great bit of educating and that's one of the things I'm proudest of.
'The creative writing has been amazing. From the beginning, the entire cast was blown away by the writing of the pilot episode. Where do you have the opportunity to receive such in-depth, smart, educating and edgy writing? You get all of that in one place; that's an honor. It scares me when I read other material, trust me. People want me to get excited about their writing, but it doesn't do anything for me. I think it was an amazing opportunity to be so blessed to be part of the writing of this show. The characters; attention to detail; camaraderie of the show and characters; and the love and respect that I have for everyone are all aspects that I'll really, really miss. This type of show comes once in a lifetime and I've been blessed to be part of it.'
On what gay couples can learn from Keith and David: 'Keep it moving. Keep trying; you're going to have difficult times. If you find some of the fundamentals in a person that are really important to you and [ you see ] great possibilities, then you hang in there.'