“Queer as Folk” reboot grapples with gay life and love

Johnny Sibilly. (Photo credit: Peacock)

In the new “Queer as Folk” reboot, premiering June 9 on Peacock, out gay Latinx actor Johnny Sibilly (“Pose”) plays Noah, a lawyer with romantic issues. He is one of the many diverse cast of LGBTQ+ characters making sense of life, love, and sex.

The show opens with Brodie (Devin Way) an adopted, biracial gay guy who has dropped out of medical school (commitment issues!), and has returned home to New Orleans. Rather than stay with his rich parents (Kim Cattrall and Ed Begley, Jr.) and his older gay brother (out gay Ryan O’Connell), Brodie hopes to move in with his ex, Noah, and rekindle their relationship. But Noah is secretly involved with Daddius (Chris Renfro), Brodie’s best friend.

Noah also keeps his drug habit a secret. After a traumatic event, Noah tries to cope with his personal and professional crises by numbing his deep emotional pain. Noah also has a difficult relationship with his father.

But Noah is there for his friends, who form his chosen family. They include Ruthie (Jesse James Keitel), a transwoman whose non-binary partner Shar (CG), is pregnant with twins (for which Brodie donated the sperm); Marvin (Eric Graise), a gay, Black disabled man; Bussey (Armand Fields) a drag queen; as well as Mingus (Fin Argus), a budding teen drag queen with a very accepting mom, Judy (Juliette Lewis). 

PGN spoke with the out gay Johnny Sibilly about the new series and playing the messy Noah.  

It’s great that none of the characters in this version of “Queer as Folk” are able-bodied, cisgendered, white men. But the show also depicts these queer folks as prioritizing drugs and sex and avoiding responsibility. What are your thoughts about representation with this reboot? 

Not to take anything away from my white, cisgender counterparts — those stories really did mean a lot to me growing up, even though I didn’t see myself in them — but it is so nice to see such a large breadth of the community when it comes to gender representation, sexuality, ethnic background, race. I read that on the page and thought, “Wow! I am so excited to be a part of this much brighter version.” 

But I also think it is super-important to show minorities as problematic and messy. A lot of times TV shows and films show minorities as model minorities, and if we act a certain way and if we are perfect individuals, we should be accepted. And it is really the opposite; we should be able to be messy and chaotic and be able to have as much unhealed energy as our cisgender, heterosexual white counterparts do on television. Because that is human, and it is an experience all of us go through. Not all of us are lawyers/drug addicts, but they exist. When I first read the character of Noah, I thought, I know so many functioning addicts, whether it be sex, drugs, what have you. To tell the story from a non-judgmental point of view is super important for me as a performer and super important for our community to see. 

Yes, I appreciated that Brontez Purnell, Roxane Gay, and Ryan O’Connell among others are writing the episodes. Noah faces some conflicts in his relationships. He’s a kind of den mother to the other characters, but he feels pain trying to help others get through theirs. Thoughts?

I always see on social media this quote, “Check on your strong friends.” Because there are people who go through so much but won’t let you in because of their upbringing. In Noah’s case, he does not feel heard, or seen, or even respected. You internalize that stuff and as we see with Noah, there are a lot of ways that can manifest. In those vulnerable moments where he opens up to someone, I feel he finds love in that way because it is not something he is used to. 

That is such a relatable thing for queer people because as we go through life, we need a believer — someone who says, “I see you, I understand you.” That’s why chosen family plays such a huge role in queer people’s lives — because that is sometimes the first time that we have someone close to us acknowledge our existence being worthy and deserving. It was really nice to play a character that we can delve into that with. I know that I have felt a lot of the ways Noah’s felt before in my own queer life.  

Noah gets involved with guys who have either no boundaries or too many. What can you say about the show’s emphasis on Noah’s sexuality?

I feel that it speaks to what the Noahs of the world probably go through. I have friend groups where they have literally all slept with each other. It just feels very real. And it is messy. But it is real that you sometimes jump from partner to partner. I feel with Noah that he is looking for a way to feel good. Sometimes that is done through drugs, sometimes it is done through intimacy, and sometimes it is through thinking you are in love with someone you might not be ready for. I love that he is sexual in a way that feels unhealthy. I feel that it is a mirror sometimes of what we deal with as queer people: Wait, do I actually want to be on Grindr for hours, or do I just need a hug? So, the questions I posed as I read the script was: How am I like this?

How are you like this? 

[Laughs] Listen, I saw a lot of things… 

Parents are treated in the film as being either extremely accepting or extremely not. What are your thoughts about the relationships between the folks and their folks? 

It really just shows what some families are like. You can see it with Noah. There is a “don’t ask don’t’ tell” kind of vibe. And there’s a line [Noah’s father asks] about Noah’s med school friend. And Noah corrects him and says, “You mean my boyfriend?” In Latinx households, it’s always, “Who’s the friend?” And then you have Mingus (Fin Argus) and Judy (Juliette Lewis) being so accepting. But it is so true to what queer people face. I think it is important to show that spectrum because it doesn’t mean they have to stay there. It doesn’t mean that Judy won’t ever be uncomfortable with something her child is going through, or that Noah’s father will never see him. It really does leave room for growth. And I think a lot of people should remember that when it comes to coming out to their family. My family, specifically, is not where they were when I first came out. They have had their own journey of acceptance and understanding, that I think it is important to honor that in these representations as well. 

I have to ask: Have you ever caught anyone sniffing your underwear? How did you react?

I have never caught anyone sniffing my underwear, but I have been asked to sell my underwear before. I didn’t, but I did think about it for a little bit because I love a good coin. Hopefully in the future when people watch this they will think, “I want to sniff his underwear!”

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