By Denny Patterson
Unique. That is the word that can practically sum up actor and comedian Hal Sparks. Many of you may know him as the loveable and charming Michael Novotny on Showtime’s groundbreaking series, Queer as Folk, while others may remember him in Dude, Where’s My Car? and as the host of E!’s Talk Soup. No matter where or how you may know Sparks, he is one of a kind. In addition to television work, Sparks is a LGBTQ ally and outspoken activist who regularly participates in charitable events for organizations like the AIDS Walk and Farm Sanctuary. However, stand up comedy will always be one of his greatest loves. No matter what project he is working on, he will always schedule some time for stand up. I had the absolute pleasure of chatting more with Sparks about his current and upcoming projects, and I asked the question that is still on many people’s mind – will there be a Queer as Folk reboot?
Hal, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. I am a big fan of Queer as Folk, and I never thought I would ever get the chance to talk with the OG Michael Novotny.
[Laughs] It’s my pleasure.
I would like to start off by talking about Queer as Folk. Has there been any more confirmation about a reboot?
No. We have our antennas up all the time, and we are constantly on the lookout for some ideas. I think the cast in coordination with some of the writers and certainly the execs on how they think it should happen are all for it. So, that’s not the question. The question will come from either Showtime deciding to do it, or the execs. Until that happens, we are all just kind of floating down the river blindfolded.
If a reboot does happen, will the original cast come back and pick up where they left off?
I think some time will have to pass, and it will be more of a recognition. I think we all aged fairly well, but you know, it would have to pick up a couple years down the line. If they decide not to do that, that’s fine, but that’s my general feeling. Also, people like to have a sense of continuity about characters, and fans of the show are going to assume you are alive and doing stuff during that time they didn’t see you. Make it a natural shift opposed to picking up 45 minutes later.
What direction would you like to see the show head toward, and what changes would need to be made in order for it to be a success today?
In the beginning, the story was about gay marriage. That was the main controversy. Now, the relationships like Michael and Ben and Lindsay and Melanie, I think we need to see if they stood the test of time as a way of diminishing any critique that existed in the first place. Those preconceived notions of gay relationships. I would love to see what the cast’s friendship base and circle of friends look like now, because certainly it would have widened since the show. I think what you are getting at is should the show be more diverse and cover more characters, and I think the answer is of course, but it needs to happen organically. I think there needs to be a genuine reflection of what’s going on these days, and I think it should genuinely reflect the community.
I read in other interviews that you were very eager to play the role of Michael. Why is that?
Because it was extraordinarily well-written and it worked. I was just coming off Talk Soup and just did Dude, Where My Car?, and I was very aware that dramatic roles, especially dramatic roles of value, were very limited to me since I am a comedian. It was a miracle how it timed out. Ultimately, I didn’t understand anybody’s reservations about doing it, and I was puzzled by the what ifs. You know, the fears some people had. It certainly worked to my advantage because had there been more people auditioning, I would not have gotten it.
Was it at all difficult being a straight actor playing a gay role and were you ever afraid of any negative consequences in terms of your career?
As far as negative consequences, I guess there technically have been some. I have lost some projects over the years, but on the upside, I didn’t have to work for bigots, so it was a blessing. Why would I want to work with those kind of people? As far as difficulty with my character, I don’t think it had anything to do with my sexuality. It was trying to convey Michael’s personality. His optimism and open heartedness would get him into trouble, and he would not see the bad things coming, but that was part of his charm. It was also very challenging to play him because there were a lot of scenes where he got a lot of bad news that hit him very hard. When you have to reshoot that 20 times and reset to happy a bunch of times, it is a lot of work.
What do you think Mikey is up to these days? I certainly hope Ben and Brian are still in the picture.
I think he is still in touch with Brian, but I dearly believe he and Ben are still happily married. I think Hunter is better off for having them as parents and I think more than likely that they have another child. Either through adoption or other means. I think it would make a lot of sense.
Do you believe Queer as Folk paved a path for other LGBTQ representation on television?
I would like to think so. I certainly hope so. I guess yes, technically, but there is not a lot of representation like Queer as Folk. Everything is still relatively safe in a lot of fronts as far as television goes and there’s value in that. There is nothing wrong with it, but Queer as Folk would often be compared like to Sex and the City. I was like, really? When did they deal with addiction, substance abuse, domestic violence and HIV? Like never. I think the depth of how we dealt with stuff, I would like to see more of that, and I think there is room for it these days, but unfortunately, it sort of happens in isolation these days. It seems if a series has a gay character or gay couple, they are in constant torment or the source of comedy, and I think there needs to be sort of a deeper understanding of the interaction of gay characters on television. I think that would be the next step.
What other projects do you currently have going on? Your publicist said you are shooting a show in China. Can you tell us a little more about that?
Yes. It is a travel show and they needed a host. I am fluent in Chinese and I am so invested in the culture, it’s kind of just a normal part of my life. So, this opportunity to go to China and experience it in sort of a deeper and more personal way, it was something I could not pass up. I am shooting in different cities and experiencing everything from big metropolitan areas to very small, personal stories told by townspeople.
Do you have any upcoming comedy specials we should be on the lookout for?
I am writing the next one now. I shot a new hour written show last year that will be out this spring, and then I will shoot this one this spring and it will be out mid-summer. Between doing regular acting work and other projects, it is hard to get stand up dates scheduled, but I always make a point to. When this China show came up, it threw a monkey wrench in everything because it’s not like I’m shooting in New York or LA and can postpone a couple of nights. I am basically not speaking English for a couple months.