Film & Video
6 min

Paris Barclay’s facts of life

The out director talks Sons of Anarchy, Glee and the Barbara Jordan biopic

Paris Barclay: taking over our screens one project at a time.
Alex Newell performs some big hits in Glee. Glee

Paris Barclay is a writer, producer and director who has lent his talents to such television shows as GleeSons of Anarchy and Smash. The married father of two opened up about being a role model for all communities, his Barbara Jordan biopic and the progression of gay characters on TV.

Xtra: Is it important for you to make art that speaks to your sexual orientation?

Paris Barclay: I think it may be helpful to the world at large, but I don't think we should impose any preconceptions on what artists who identify as gay do. My feeling has always been that you should tell stories based on your experience and things that move you.

You have been with Sons of Anarchy since 2004, first as a producer and then as a director. Creator Kurt Sutter said that you gave the show its "groove."

I think Kurt gives me too much credit. I think I happened to be, when I came in on the first season, in the right episode at the right time. And I happened to really connect with the characters in a way that surprised me because I'm not really a person who is going to run to see a motorcycle drama on television.

In 2012 you and your husband, Christopher Barclay, were awarded a Family Values Award from In the Life Media, given to "individuals whose representations of LGBT families serve as an inspiration for all Americans."

We adopted our two children from the Los Angeles County foster care system, and we're really proud of that because there are so many kids that are in foster care that don't get adopted. LA is one of those places that, as a gay couple or as a gay individual, there is not a barrier based on your sexual orientation.

You've directed music videos for LL Cool J. Who else would you like to work with?

If Bruno Mars ever did a video for "Gorilla" (from his album Unorthodox Jukebox), I'd love to do that. Anything with Alicia Keys, Miguel or Ryan Tedder of One Republic. I certainly wouldn't turn my nose up at Justin Timberlake.

Tell me about the film that you are developing, directing and producing, about lesbian US Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.

Whenever I mention Barbara Jordan, I'm always stunned that people don't know of her as the first African-American woman in Congress from Texas. She is a heroic, larger-than-life figure who had a very secret and private life, which I find very intriguing. She was a public person, who did so much good and was out there, but at the same time she was so quiet and discreet about whom she loved in private. I think that's a good foundation for a motion picture.

And Viola Davis will be starring in it?

Yes. I think she's one of the best actresses in the world. I've seen a few bad movies that Viola Davis has been in, but I've never seen Viola Davis be bad in a movie.

What do you think of Hollywood's representation of gay characters on TV?

I'm really proud of the character that Alex Newell plays on Glee who is an African-American gay man who identifies as a woman. He is really interesting and is breaking new ground. I think Sam on Smash was also a really nice and balanced portrayal of an African-American gay man. I think what we'll see in the next 10 years is just more gay men of different colours involved in relationships and in stories and in police procedurals and that being less and less of an issue of conversation. Just being more of a fact in life.