Johnny Sibilly and Devin Way hope the new Queer as Folk reboot “broadens the view of what is possible in terms of queer creation.” 

The 2022 reimagining of Russell T Davies’ iconic gay drama of the same name premiered in June to critical acclaim. Following a diverse group of friends whose lives are transformed in the aftermath of a shooting at a queer nightclub, the series has been celebrated for its more authentic depiction of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Thanks to the queer talent in-front and behind the camera, which is still not the case with many LGBTQ+ productions across television and film, Sibilly tells GAY TIMES that queer people are “finally getting our due when it comes to telling our own stories”. 

“I remember reading the script and thinking to myself, ‘Oh wow, they’re actually writing the way gay people talk and our inside jokes and our colloquialisms,’ and it’s a breath of fresh air,” says the star, who plays Noah Hernandez, a grief-stricken lawyer and ex-boyfriend to Way’s charming (yet complicated) protagonist Brodie Beaumont. 

Referencing recent well-received queer stories such as Hulu’s Fire Island and Netflix’s Heartstopper, Sibilly continues: “When you have queer people in front and behind the camera, there’s no way it’s not authentic, and I think that’s why we’re so excited with all these stories that are coming out.”

The series is not “watered down for the safety of straight people” adds Way, who also praises the Queer as Folk writers for the reimagining’s more accurate representation of the way LGBTQ+ people act, such as the way they ‘talk, kiss and have sex’. 

“It’s true to how we feel. You get to see the intimacy, heartbreak, care, love, the birth and the healing,” says the actor. “When that happens, it opens up the view to what’s possible. There’s more of us to be seen – not just one archetype of what a gay man can look like.”

Sibilly, who rose to fame on Emmy Award-winning queer shows such as Pose and Hacks, relates to Queer as Folk’s portrayal of the queer community – particularly the “high functioning, messy gay men who have great jobs but on the weekends, they’re not doing well.” 

“We don’t get to see that side to the story, sometimes,” he explains, “of what it feels like when you go home and you’re by yourself, and you have to stop presenting as having it all together.

“That is a very queer thing, where we show the world one aspect of who we are, and a lot of the time people don’t see the other side unless we’re open to being vulnerable.” 

While Queer as Folk has received positive reviews for the performances of the cast and its more inclusive portrayal of the LGBTQ+ experience, the decision to include a nightclub shooting – which was compared to the 2016 Pulse shooting in  Orlando that tragically claimed 49 lives – was fiercely debated online. 

Addressing the backlash, Way says “light cannot exist with darkness” and that we need “night time to recognise the sun”, adding: “For me, I’m all about balance because we will never be able to escape the reality that trauma exists.

“We’ll never be able to escape the reality that we had to go through to get to this self-liberation and cultural liberation. While I do celebrate stories that are just told in joy, that’s not the reality of my life and I know it’s not the reality of others. In order to stay authentic, I think there has to be duality in both.” 

Sibilly acknowledges that LGBTQ+ people are “exhausted” by seeing stories where they’re “shown through this lens of victimhood,” but is personally welcoming this new era of queer storytelling that is “hinged on the fact that we overcome” adversity. 

“Of course, seeing the traumatic moments that we experience as a community can be triggering, but I think it’s important that we continue to tell those stories in ways that are respectful and mirror what we go through,” he says.

Sibilly remembers a recent conversation in which he referenced the 1973 arson attack on the UpStairs lounge in New Orleans. The deadliest attack on a gay club in US history until Pulse, the tragedy saw 32 people lose their lives and a further 15 injured as a result of fire and smoke inhalation.

“They were like, ‘I’ve never heard about that,’ and I was like, ‘That’s because we don’t talk about it anymore,’” he says. “We’re so used to living with trauma that we wanna forget it, but the more we forget it, we forget our history and what our people have gone through.

“So, I think it’s important, of course, to have the light, but you also have to see the darkness that we’ve overcome.” 

Queer as Folk also stars Fin Argus, Jesse James Keitel, Ryan O’Connell, CG, Juliette Lewis and Kim Cattrall, with Benito Skinner, Ed Bedgley Jr. and Nyle DiMarco in supporting roles. 

The first season is now available to stream in the UK on StarzPlay.