An Interview with Robert Gant
by Richard Kravitz
"Queer as Folk" hunk Robert Gant recently sat down with us for an in-depth interview to discuss the new season, his real-life love life and, of course, those persistent rumors about Kyan!
The new season of "Queer as Folk" started on April 18 and everyone is very excited. How many episodes will there be this season?
Same as last season: 14 episodes.
What's in store for Ben this season?
Lots of fun stuff. [Laughs.] I don't think that his life will be as tumultuous as last year, with the steroids and whatnot. A lot of things develop around parenting for him -- that'll be coming up. A gay parent of a very different sort with this foster kid that they are kind of taking on.
There's a really nice storyline through the middle of the season where Ben experiences something very disappointing in his career, and it really gets into the competitive dynamic that can exist in same-sex couples. Particularly male-male couples, I think, can be pretty competitive. It gets into issues with respect to who's the breadwinner and challenging some of those roles a bit.
How much involvement will Ben and Michael have with Melanie's baby?
Well. [Laughs.] We won't know until next season, really.
By the time the baby comes, we're pretty much done. [Laughs.]
I didn't think the pregnancy was going to last that long. I thought the baby would be born within the first couple episodes.
Interesting. They're going to extend it out that long.
It's happening in large part in real time. It's going to be a great season -- a lot of really interesting stuff. We'll be dealing with some issues around what you might call gay vigilantism. Something reminiscent of the Pink Pistols in New York back in the mid-'60s. You know, getting people to stand up for themselves physically.
And really interesting and somewhat controversial stuff. We get into a bit about "bug chasing," which is obviously a big issue for our community. We definitely get into gay marriage. That's all I can say about that.
Ben's relationship with Michael is different from Brian's relationship with Justin in that they appear to have an open relationship, while Ben and Michael seem to have a monogamous relationship. Was that done on purpose?
Yeah, I think it was very much done on purpose. I think that, without being able to speak for the writers, my guess (and it's somewhat more than a guess, from having heard them talk about it) is that they are trying to show opposite sides of gay culture. That you can have two very strong, passionate relationships and they can look very different. What's nice about it is that it doesn't create this judgment on what the right choice is, because obviously so many of us are making one choice or the other, or vacillating even. And I think it is reinforcing the idea that you get to choose your path, to pick what's right for you. Certainly what's right for Ben is to be in a committed, monogamous relationship.
That's what's right for Ben. What's right for Robert?
I would say the same, yeah, when it ultimately presents itself. I'm very open for that to occur. At the same time, I'm not needing for it to occur, which is a really nice shift for me. I think much of my life was spent feeling that I needed a relationship, and I've woken up to the fact that that's not true.
I have to say that I'm not so much interested in having a boyfriend as I am in having a partner. So there's not a lot of urgency to it, you know? [Laughs.] At this point I've had plenty of boyfriends, and if it's going to be something of substance, something that's going to last, then it's going to reveal itself in its own time.
I would be remiss if I didn't ask about Kyan Douglas from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." There's been a lot of talk. What is the relationship between the two of you?
Kyan and I are just friends.
Oh, you've ruined a lot of fantasies.
[Laughs.] Well, I think the truth is better than illusion. At least for me, the truth is better. Kyan's a terrific guy, and we're friends and have fun hanging out together. He's actually just dating a really great guy who I got to meet when I was in New York. We all hung out a little bit; it was nice.
Speaking of fantasies, who would Ben's fantasy date be? Not Robert's, but Ben's?
I think Ben's fantasy date would be a guy about 5'10", dark hair, brown eyes, youthful, exuberant, smart, into comic books.
A little more specific. What actor, singer, celebrity, would be Ben's fantasy, if Michael were out of the picture.
Michael is the picture.
Who would Ben's movie-star fantasy date be?
You know, I honestly can't imagine him with anybody other than Michael. So I don't know. You'll have to fill in the blanks for that one.
What's happening with you and your production company with Chad Allen?
Well, I just got back to L.A. on Thursday, so, aside from unpacking, I really have to hit the ground running. I just read the latest draft of the first feature we are putting out. Chad's actually getting back tonight or tomorrow morning from Central America, where he's been filming a movie about a missionary. We're anxious to all get in the same room together and get going. We happened across something really special here with Chad and Christopher Racster, who's the other partner in this, in terms of the way we want to do business. We have four or five projects in different stages of development.
What's the status of "Save Me"?
Well, you know, like I said, we just got the latest draft. I have to say, I've been a little bit out of the loop because I've been so "Queer as Folk" focused. After tonight, my responsibilities are done, and I get to immerse myself in the garden of "Save Me" and whatnot.
Can you give us a synopsis of "Save Me"?
It's about an ex-gay ministry in Texas, a place where they help gay people turn straight. Chad is playing a guy whose life is all screwed up and he thinks that this is the answer and goes for recovery. Judith Light, who is co-producing the project with us, is playing the woman who runs the place, which is such a wonderful turn for her, because she's known as such a staunch supporter of the gay community. To play the woman who's helping gay people turn straight is an interesting turn, I think. And then I play the Gen-Xer, or I guess the journalist who works for a Gen-X magazine, who is coming to do an undercover story on this place.
It sounds very interesting.
Yeah, I think it's a great script. And then, you know, Chad's character and my character end up falling in love. It's a lovely story, very timely I think, and we get into some very topical issues also. I'm really excited. Again, I just now kind of landed, in a way, so I've been a bit out of the loop. The rest of the gang has been carrying the producing torch until I finish. That's one of the nice things about having the five of us involved in this: Chad, Chris and I on the creative side and Judith and her manager Herb on the business end. Three of us are performers and two aren't. There was a point when all three of us were working, and the other two have been able to carry the ball. It's a very exciting venture, and I'm looking forward to it.
Where do you hope to see your career go in the next five or 10 years?
I'd really like to see myself making movies, and I'd love to do another show, perhaps a sitcom.
Do you think as one of the few openly gay actors out there that you will be pigeonholed?
What do you think of the state of television these days?
It seems to be in a real transitional phase. I think it's trying to decide what it's becoming, with the influx of reality television, and I don't see that going away. I do imagine that the pendulum will continue to swing back and forth a bit.
What is your opinion of gay and lesbian representation on broadcast television?
As opposed to cable?
I'm probably not the best-equipped to really talk about it. I've just come off six months of focusing on "Queer as Folk" in Canada and have not been privy to network TV in the States. I don't watch a lot of TV as it is. My gut is that at this point the only characters that are really working on network television, that are acceptable en masse, are in the comedic setting, a la "Will & Grace" or "It's All Relative." That's perhaps why I have this sitcom idea.
Cable certainly does the job, and I don't think it's necessary just to look at network television anymore, really, because cable has taken such a huge slice of the pie. I feel like between "Queer as Folk" and "The L Word," we're really covering a lot of ground. And "Six Feet Under" does it in a very small way. There are two shows now, "Queer as Folk" and "The L Word," that get to deal with the lives of gays and lesbians.
Do you find in both those shows, "Queer as Folk" and "The L-Word," that the gay and lesbian community is kind of "ghettoized" from the straight community?
Yeah, I think so in large part. I noticed that was very intentional on the part of our writers early on. Interestingly enough, it's this season that begins to change that. I think it's right on schedule.
[When] the show was the only one, they were really concerned that the time spent be dedicated to dealing with gay people and not with straight people. Now that more venues exist, we are having some straight storylines and straight characters that are beginning to intertwine. I actually think that it shouldn't have happened any sooner than this, though. Yes, it's true our lives are interwoven that way, but also I think we're trying to correct for an enormous disparity, which is our under-representation. So you have to make a choice, and I think they chose they right way.
You play an HIV-positive character on the show. What responsibility do you feel you have to the HIV-positive community?
I feel a definite responsibility. It's interesting, you know, I've read a ton and become very, very versed in the many aspects of what it's like to be positive. One of the things I have been able to do is to really kind of keep an eye out for the stories that are told.
There was a reference that comes up in a storyline (I need to be general about this so I don't give away too much) about whether HIV-positive men can have children. In the script it said that it was a very painful moment and HIV-positive men can't have kids, and Ben -- well, I can't go into that. But the response basically was, "I know, but it's OK," etc. And I had heard from a friend of mine who's an HIV doctor that there were births that were happening. So I called and said, "What's the scoop with this?" And he said that's absolutely false information that's being presented there. In fact, there have been, I guess worldwide, over 3,000 births from HIV-positive men, in vitro or in utero, and no transmission has occurred. I went to the writers and I said, "You can't say this, this gives no hope, and it's just patently untrue." So they changed the line.
So, yeah, the short answer is that I do feel a responsibility. Especially given all the e-mail I get from all over the world. It's kind of been like that since the show brought me on board. I definitely feel a sense of responsibility, which has made it tough as an actor to divorce myself from the role at times, around these issues of gay marriage, all these very topical things that are coming up. I, Robert, have very strong opinions about them, very strong points of view, and I feel a responsibility in saying things, as Ben tends to be a moral voice on the show. I have to remember that I am speaking as a character and not as me. That can be hard sometimes.
Last question: What has been your personal favorite scene on the show that you participated in?
I think the scene I most enjoyed doing as an actor -- really, I was so in the pocket for it, and I remember telling the director, "Keep rolling, let me go through it again" -- was the scene in 306, in the middle of the steroid storyline. Where I've just finished throwing up in the bathroom, and I come out and Michael is like, "That's it, you have to stop." And I just let him have it, from this very angry, rageful place, obviously 'roid affected. From an acting standpoint, it was a very satisfying experience.
I want to thank you for talking with me. It was a pleasure talking with you.