Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Catching up with Queer as Folk’s Justin

Randy Harrison talks television, acting, and not being a twink

Randy Harrison became a gay icon playing Justin in the US version of Queer as Folk. Credit: Primary Stages

Queer as Folk’s Justin is coming back to town. That is, actor Randy Harrison will play host at a Queer as Folk-themed dance party. Called Club Babylon, it will take place in Fly, the actual club where the show’s Babylon club was shot. Daily Xtra caught up with Harrison for a little chat about the party, the show and what he’s up to now. Here’s the edited and condensed Q & A.

Daily Xtra: What did you think when they proposed the idea of Club Babylon?

Randy Harrison: I thought it was an interesting idea. I’m excited to come back to Toronto . . . We’re going to celebrate the show and all the people involved — the community that was very much involved in the show at the time. Woody’s was a huge part of the show. Fly and the gay community was a huge part of the show. They were our extras, our background players . . . It was very much a Canadian [show].

What do you think of the character Justin, and do you think gay characters are more complex today?

Yes, I do think so. I mean, I think Justin was very complex, but I do think much of the relationship dynamic [between him and the character Brian] was somewhat heteronormative — in a very, you know, romantic way. It was a very archetypal thing to draw viewers in, in a certain capacity. I think it didn’t enormously challenge power dynamics in a way that I find even most straight relationships do.

Do people still think of you as Justin? Do people fetishize you?

I think it made it so I can never quite have a normal social life, which I accepted a long time ago. I mean, I’m much older than I was then, so people are pretty delusional if they’re still fetishizing me as a 17-year-old twink.

Justin is a twink. Did you ever feel like you had to live up to that label in real life?

Well, I never was that. I never was that in real life. It was a role I played. I never was a club kid, I generally have facial hair . . . so it was very much a role I played. It’s been over for so long now, but it was something to be that young and to represent something very specific to people that I was not necessarily. And to sort of just have to accept that for a while I was going to be this thing for people, regardless of what I actually was.

Did you ever try to force it on people’s minds that you’re not a twink?

Yeah, a little bit. I definitely sort of overcompensated . . . making sure people know I’m something else. But the fact is they don’t want me to be something else — I mean, if they’re like that, that’s just what they want to see.

Many of us watched the show in our teens. And it was a formative time for Justin too. Was it a formative time for you?

I’d already gone through it all. I came out six years before I started shooting Queer as Folk, and my coming out experience was very different from Justin’s. It was formative in different ways, but it wasn’t formative in what Justin was going through. I felt very much like I was playing a character seven years younger than me — and I was. But your early 20s are a whole other thing.

What do you think of all the sex and makeout scenes you had to do for the show?

It was very technical. It was kind of the boring part of work. It was like, let’s just shoot this out very quick because we have to get it, and the network wants a certain amount of it because it sells the show, and then let’s actually play the scenes and do the fun stuff. It definitely became the more tedious part of work. There was a lot of it though — god!

You were recently in the show Mr Robot. You’re currently touring in Cabaret. Which do you like better — TV or stage acting?

Onstage you have much more power as an actor . . . in film and television you come in and play the scene and a bunch of other people take the raw material that you’ve given and reconfigure it in whatever capacity they want and they create the story. [But] I like both a lot . . . I think I’m a better stage actor from the television I’ve done, and I’m a better television actor from the stage acting I’ve done.

Do you have any other big plans while you’re in town?

I’m flying from Vegas, where I’m going to be playing Cabaret, and then coming to Toronto just for the weekend. And then I’m flying to San Francisco . . . So, unfortunately, I’m only going to be in Toronto very briefly, but I’m hoping to catch up with a few friends, and I think I’ll be pretty busy though. But I’m excited to see the city and how massively it’s changed.