MONDO EXTRAS

Enquiring Minds Want To Know

by Della Femina October 26, 2000
Enquiring Minds Want To Know

I think I'm like this because I worked on soaps for so long. In soaps, with a team of writers, no one person ever really owns a story. It's everyone's. And further back, even when I was a student -- we're in black and white now -- I directed a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in which -- considering it can be the lightest and flimsiest of plays -- I stripped out all the comedy, and made it dark and sinister and nightmarish. So some people would say I ruined it -- some schoolteachers certainly did! But I thought it still worked, and the play survived. It was great, changing it radically.

The most important thing is to think of the U.S. version as a new show, a different show. Even before they'd written a word, a twenty-two episode series is a profoundly different thing, a different concept, to an eight-parter. The viewers who'll have the worst time are those who sit with UK tapes and U.S. tapes, comparing them line by line - "Stuart wouldn't say that!" etc. No he wouldn't, and that's why I wanted the character's names changed -- it's not Stuart, he's Brian. He's very, very similar to Stuart, but he's not the same -- and gets more different as the series goes on. For example, he's got a completely different family. And once you change the family and background, then the character really starts to change -- just as it should, if it's going to stay alive.

But this new show is for the U.S. market, where most people, even most gay men, haven't seen the original. Those viewers will have the best time, cos it'll be new. Doesn't mean they have to like it, but they can analyse it on its own terms. Maybe there's the prospect that, given the size of the U.S. series, and their powerful marketing, then to most people in a few years, the original will be sidelined and marginalised. But not in my mind! And I mean that: you can never predict or compensate for the reaction of others, so there's no point in worrying about it.

della femina: Despite rumours to the contrary which have appeared on the MBTV boards, the three main actors in the original series were straight men. Did you sense a backlash amongst any segments of the gay community for this, or was everyone just blown away by what an amazing job the actors did regardless of their sexuality?

Russell T. Davies: Oh, plenty of people moaned about it -- I can see their point, that's just another expression of years of repression and under-representation, blah blah blah. But you don't cast to make a political point, you cast to make good drama, full stop. We cast the three best actors, simple as that. We didn't ask in audition if they were straight or gay, because I believe you can't. If you're applying for a job at Tesco's, you shouldn't be asked if you're straight or gay, and acting's a profession, like any other.

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