Joey magazine

February 2000

By: David Beebe
Edited by: Marcy
Gallery: Joey magazine
"You’re always reading about everyone saying that the American version is not going to be as extreme. That’s bullshit, absolute bullshit. It’s going to be just as [extreme], if not more," says Randy Harrison when asked about the amount of sexual content in Showtime’s provocative new series, Queer as Folk. This December, you can see exactly what Randy is talking about as he plays the role of 17-year-old Justin in the edgy series that is filled with boys, sex, parties, clubs, hard bodies, loud music and late nights. Based on the widely popular British series, the story line centers on the everyday lives of seven gay men and women, and is a mature, truthful and often explicit exploration of the gay experience. Randy’s character is often the target of controversy because of his age, and because of the explicit acts that happen in the course of his character discovering his own sexuality.

Most likely this is the first time you’ve heard of Randy Harrison, but the blonde cutie has been acting since seven. "Acting is the first thing I remember doing, and I just never stopped," recalls Randy. Born in New Hampshire, Randy and his family moved to Atlanta, Georgia when he was ten. It was there, at 16, that he made the tough decision to tell his parents and close friends that he was gay. "It went pretty well, and it was pretty ideal, but difficult as well, just like it is for everyone else I imagine." After high school, Randy left for the University of Cincinnati’s Conservatory of Music College, where he studied theater and performing arts.

After graduation, he moved to New York to work in theater, where he had already landed an acting job at The St. Louis Municipal Theater and performed in many plays, including 1776, Grease and Anything Goes. "I just started pursuing theater, I assumed that’s what I would do, since that was where I had all my experience," he says.

But life as Randy knew it was about to change, and quickly. After being in New York for only a month, his agent sent him to the Queer as Folk audition in L.A. About two weeks later, and in the middle of his theater work, Randy got the call that he had been picked to play Justin. "I was so excited," says Randy. "It took a while to sink in." He realizes that it all happened pretty quickly for him and how fortunate he is. "I really didn’t have the typical ‘New York-starving-actor’ experience."

In the series there are three main characters, which are nothing alike, all different ages, and all at various points in their gay life. Gale Harold, plays Brian, an arrogant 29-year-old advertising executive who is self-absorbed and filled with attitude. Hal Sparks, who is one of the most recognizable names in the cast, plays Michael, an assistant supermarket manager in his late 20s, who is also Brian’s best friend. And then enters Justin, the naive 17-year-old who's just coming out and loses his virginity to Brian, only to fall in love with him, but doesn’t find the same feelings coming from Brian. Through the twenty-two episode series, we follow the twists and turns of the trio's lives as they spend their nights in the blue collar Pittsburgh gay scene and their days trying to figure out what being gay is all about. "Of course, the characters are in no way role models," says Randy, "but I think that Justin’s balls-e-ness, un-bashfulness, and complete lack of shame are something that young people will cling onto and learn from."

As lucky as Randy is, he’s not quite sure of the impact that this role will have on his acting career or life. "Before this, I really had no acting career, and it’s exciting to be part of something different. It’s a great job, I just graduated, and this is the hand I was dealt. I’ll have to deal with the repercussions of it afterwards." The down-to-earth actor seems to have control of everything so far though, and is only really looking to pursue a successful career without having his sexuality become a major part of it. "I’m totally willing to talk about it, but I’m not marketing my sexuality," asserts Randy. "I just want to play really good parts and work with people I can learn from."

Randy isn’t much like the character he plays, though. "Even though my character is gay and I’m gay, he’s still really different from me. I’m not a club boy and really never have been. I’m a homebody," admits Randy. "I like to sit around and read (his favorite author is William Faulkner), go to movies (his favorite being Fight Club) and go out to eat (whatever there is). But I like to have fun too. I throw good parties. People dance. I just feel more comfortable where I know most of the people, and we can just get down." For all you Top 40-music-haters out there, you and Randy may have something else in common as well. He admits that he listens to a little bit of everything and that he will occasionally indulge in some Britney Spears, ‘N SYNC and those other types, but that he "doesn’t own any of those CDs" and he always "hates [himself] for doing it afterwards!"

When Randy completes the filming of Queer as Folk in Toronto, he will return home to New York, where he and his boyfriend live. Randy met his boyfriend, who is also an actor, when he was 19. "We’ve been together now for three and a half years. It’s been really good. Sometimes it’s frustrating to be apart, but he comes up and visits all the time" admits Randy.

When asked if people recognize him yet or not, and if he is ready to handle the fame that is associated with a successful acting career, Randy said, "Once in a while, I get noticed here because a lot of the extras are locals. They just stare at you and follow you around, and you get paranoid. But fame is not a goal of mine, I just want to act in good parts, and if fame is associated with that, so be it."

After this job, Randy hopes to take some time off and travel to Europe and Switzerland. Most importantly, Randy and the rest of the cast are hoping that the gay community will embrace and appreciate their work this December. "I just think this is the thing that the gay community has been waiting to see for a long time. And for once, this will give everyone what they want."