Peacock’s Queer As Folk executive producer and writer Jaclyn Moore spoke with The Queer Review’s editor James Kleinmann about her relationship with Russell T Davies’ original series, overcoming her initial reservations about becoming involved in Stephen Dunn’s reimagined version (now streaming on Peacock), her approach to writing the beautifully-crafted episode 6, “Bleep”, and her conversations with actress Jesse James Keitel about performing in that episode.
“The original British show meant so much to me as a closeted kid in Ohio”, shared Moore, “then as I grew older it stayed a meaningful part of my past. When the opportunity came to be involved in this version, I will admit my first instinct was, ‘No, thank you’, just because I was like, that show exists twice already. But my agent pushed me and I read Stephen Dunn’s pilot script and fell so hard in love with these characters and the setting and it became self-evident why reimagining the show made so much sense. It felt really great to get to be a part of telling a story about what queerness looks like today. The original was defiant in its time, but it was also a pretty homogenous view of queerness. As much as I saw parts of myself in it, I was a baby trans girl, so getting to include that kind of storytelling now means so much to me.”
In “Bleep”, co-written by Moore and directed by Ingrid Jungermann, we see a high school aged, pre-transition Ruthie, portrayed by Jesse James Keitel who told The Queer Review, “I cried reading the script for the first time. I think Jaclyn Moore wrote an absolutely beautiful, touching script that felt very true to my own lived experience. I think a lot of queer people, specifically a lot of trans women, will be able to look at that and see a small part of themselves reflected. The flashback scenes were challenging and I was definitely nervous about doing those, but I fought for it. It’s something I actively wanted to do. It pushed my boundaries as an actor and my own comfort level so much. I learned so much throughout that process, and I’m shook that it all came together the way it did.”
“The flashback story in that episode is very autobiographical”, offers Moore. “I went to an all-boys Catholic high school that we recreated in a lot of ways down to the JUG card for detention—Justice Under God—that was a staple of my high school, along with the uniforms and everything else. I will admit that I was hesitant about Jesse playing that part at first, but not because I didn’t think Jesse could do it. She’s one of the best actresses I’ve ever known or worked with—and she’s obviously a dear friend and collaborator at this point, and my sister—but I wasn’t sure I wanted to see Jesse like that. It was really painful for me to come to set and produce that episode and see my beautiful friend look a lot like what I looked like. That character is styled the way I was; my hair and how I dressed at that time. And the music that they listen to was the music that I listened to at the time. So it was a really hard thing to do.”
“We had talked about maybe having a younger nonbinary actor play that part” recalls Moore, “but then Jesse came to me, just girl-to-girl, friend-to-friend, and was like, ‘If you don’t let me do this, I’ll murder you!’ She said it nicer than that, but only a little bit! We had a really great conversation about it and at the end of that conversation I knew she was the only person who could do this. Telling before and after stories of transition is a dicey thing, mostly because it’s the story that cis people have told about trans people the most, and usually casting cis people to play the parts and with a cis lens.”
“It was very important to me to tell that story because that’s my story,” continues Moore, “The monologues in that episode are my youthful experience. That’s what my life is and was, and as trans artists it’s our duty to tell every aspect of our story. That’s all fair game and that’s all worthy of narrative. As Jesse rightly said, ‘They never let us play this part, they never let us do this.’ As soon as she said that, I was 100% in and became her fiercest advocate in making sure she got to play that part. I’m so proud of that episode. It’s very close to my heart and getting to tell that story with Jesse the whole way through is honestly the greatest moment of my career to this point, it just means so much to me.”
Watch our full interviews with Jaclyn Moore, Jesse James Keitel and her Queer As Folk co-star CG:
All eight episodes of Queer As Folk are streaming now on Peacock.
Queer as Folk will be available to stream in the UK from 1st July on StarzPlay through Amazon Prime Video, with two new episodes dropping weekly.