While Closet Monster writer-director Stephen Dunn was developing his reimagined Queer As Folk, now streaming on Peacock, he flew to Manchester to meet with Russell T Davies, the creator of the original series. “One of the greatest gifts Russell gave me, aside from the title”, Dunn shares with The Queer Review’s James Kleinmann, “was after reading and seeing the pilot, he was like, ‘It’s so new, it’s yours, run with it’. That was such a gift because I knew that he loved it, but I also knew that he saw what we were doing with it and trusted us. It’s such a surreal honour for me. I admire him so much.”
“My first exposure of the franchise was with the American version, alone in my basement when I was 12” recalls Dunn, “but then when I was a teenager I started renting the British DVDs. I had never seen anything like it. It was so unapologetic, so queer, so punk. If you squint, you can notice that there are character dynamics, love triangles, and some storylines that are pulled from the British series and the American one as well.”
“Music is such a huge part of Queer As Folk“, reflects Dunn, “and it’s also super important to me in all of my work. A lot of the music in the series was embedded in the scripts from the get-go. I had a vision for what I wanted the show to sound like, but then our composer, Jasha Klebe, fought so hard and did such an amazing job on our score. Jasha sent us a sample of how they saw the show and it had that propulsive, unapologetic, percussive sound to it. I wanted the score to drive our characters forward, because we don’t waste any time in the show. Our characters are making some messy decisions, but we are not being judgmental about it, we are driving ahead with them. I think that the music brings an energy and an unapologetic nature to these characters.”
When it came to the selection of songs and building an eclectic soundtrack for the series, Dunn offers, “We wanted New Orleans Bounce and some Sissy music in there, and Big Freedia is at the beginning and the end of our show. We have a budget on this one, so we get some Gaga, we get Bowie, we get Liza, we get BROCKHAMPTON. So we have the names, but what I was really excited about—and something that was really important to me when working with Jen Malone and Nicole Weisberg our music supervisors—was to create an iconic soundtrack of new music as well as iconic favorites. I described the ideal soundtrack to them as ‘a queer roller disco night from Hell!’ And that’s what they gave me!”
One of groundbreaking aspects of Davies’ original series was the depiction of gay sex on screen, and it was a part of this new incarnation of the show that was important for Dunn to get right. “Sex is synonymous with Queer as Folk and queerness”, shares Dunn. “We approached sex in a way that was always pushing our story forward. It is hot and fun, but it can also be complicated, and messy, and moving. I’m really proud of our sex scenes in the show because I think we’re getting to experience sexuality from characters that very rarely get to be able to be empowered in that way. To have the centre of episode four be a Crip rave, a disabled sex party, is one of the most exciting things. That, for me, is the reason to make this show.”
Watch our full interview with Stephen Dunn:
All eight episodes of Queer As Folk debut on Peacock on Thursday, June 9th 2022.
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.