artist Paul Johnson (Peter Paige), who happens to be gay, returns
from his telemarketing job one day to some very distressing news -
his closest friends, the Fabers, are moving to Japan, and they're
taking Paul's two year-old godson Morgan with them. Shifting into
serious denial mode, Paul misses their final departure, but
ultimately faces the truth that the Fabers are gone and aren't
When Paul's friend Russell (Anthony Clark) convinces him to "get back out in the world," Paul ventures out to play with some kids at the local playground. Inspired to find creative ways to maintain the youthful exuberance he feels, Paul begins to explore every opportunity that might afford him contact with children: working in a toy store, babysitting, advertising himself as a nanny (aka "manny"), even considering adoption.Watching Paul's natural, playful chemistry with the children, one local mother, Maggie Butler (Kathy Najimy), wonders who this amazing "Super Dad" is. Upon further investigation, she determines that maybe Paul is up to no good and decides to rally her neighbors to take action.
Thus begins a comic clash of suspicion, fear, and misunderstanding in this "not-quite-black" comedy. Truly, the suburbs are about to get hysterical.
I went to Miami a few weeks ago when Peter Paige was in town and while we enjoyed a sunny afternoon and cup of coffee on the patio at "The Hotel" we chatted about his film, Say Uncle, that is about to be released in early September and his days playing Emmett Honeycutt. At first I admit, I was a bit nervous. How could I not be? I was meeting face to face my favorite character from Queer as Folk. But before we begin, let me say that Peter Paige put me at total and complete ease. He was great and I must admit, we had a wonderful time that afternoon.
Misty Eyez: Okay, you are both the writer and the director of Say Uncle, how did you come up with the idea?
Peter Paige: Well, there is a tiny truth in the story. I do have a godson and I was incredibly meshed in with his whole family, and I was sort of like a third parent to him. We all lived together in Portland Oregon. About a month before I had to move to LA to start my career there, they left town to move to San Francisco. And that day, saying goodbye to him was one of the hardest days of my whole life.
MISTY: At least it wasn't Japan!
PETER: No, it wasn't as permanent, but that sense of grief. I thought about someone handling grief, that sense of loss, it made me wonder how would someone in that situation handle it, how would they deal with it? And in my head they start showing up, and pretending they are asleep in the other room and doing anything they can to cope with their loss.
MISTY: The actors you had in the film were great. How did you get the cast that you have? And did you write the script with anyone in mind?
PETER: No, I didn't write the script with anyone in mind, except myself. All of the characters are extensions of me in one way or another. Kathy [Najimy] is the first person that we had sent the script to. I had seen a lot of her work in the theatre and I knew that with her political and humor sensibilities she would be great and I was so right, and Iím so glad she is in it.
MISTY: You are right, she is perfect. I love that she can become fervent in her hatred and yet be a great and loving mother.
PETER: Which I loved about her.
MISTY: Now tell me about Melanie Lynskey
PETER: How great is she? I love her so much, a lot of people don't even know who she is and she should be a much bigger star than what she is. When the film was fully cast, I was so excited and I told my best friend that we have our cast and look who it is? He said that I have told him at one point or another that I think every single person in the cast is a genius. Anthony was on Boston Common and that man is genius. Gabrielle when I saw her in Bring It On I realized she was fantastic, I totally love her. Melanie was intense on Heavenly Creatures and Lisa Edelstein has been most impressive with her Television work. The Cast is absolutely great, Iím very happy.
MISTY: I realize that on the set you are an impartial director, but who was your best friend on the set and or who were you closest to?
PETER: Well probably my producing partner Chris Racster. He is amazing. I am acting in two thirds of that movie and I really had to rely on my producing partner, my script supervisor and my director of photography, David. He really had my back and was absolutely fantastic.
MISTY: I need to know what your favorite deleted scene was?
PETER: That is a great question! I have never been asked that before now. But yeah, there are some deleted scenes. My favorite deleted scene, well there is a really sweet scene where Paul, Russell, Sara, and Gabrielle were after the rally, and there is an apology scene that was a really sweet and touching moment.
MISTY: Why was it deleted?
PETER: It is more important that the movie works, than a good scene be in the movie. The way I think about it is that a movie is a living organ and it cannot function with any extra limbs. You know what I mean? It might be a great arm, but you cannot function with [an extra arm].
MISTY: Tell me a funny story about something that happened on the set?
PETER: Iím terrible at remembering these things. I wish there were some other people here to tell you. We had so many great ones, probably the best moments were kid moments. Okay here are two, at one point the child that plays Kathy Najimy's son looks at Kathy and asks, ďWhat is PETER: doing?Ē and Kathy said ĒSome say directing." And another one, and nobody hears this line for its after a big laugh, Maggie is going to the mall and says to the husband "do you need anything?" no response, so she said to the little boy, "Okay honey lets go shopping, maybe we can buy daddy a personality" there was a big laugh and you don't hear him say "Maybe not." Those two little boys were so talented, funny, brilliant, alive and not interested in the camera.
MISTY: I am the oldest of seven children and my whole life I was raised in the church and ran the nursery for a long time. I love children so much and I used to tell everyone that when I grow up I wanted to be a nanny, and everyone would tell me, ďNo you cannot do that, men canít be nanny's.Ē I couldn't understand why as a boy I couldn't. The fact that I am male shouldn't matter. People cannot see past their blindness. So I related to your film on many different levels.
PETER: To be perfectly honest, the film is not as much about Gays and children, but itís about our culture and the state of hysteria that we live in. We are all so fucking afraid of each other that we are not living our lives, that we are living this sort of alienated, isolated, freighted, assumed version of our lives, and itís a crisis.
MISTY: Exactly! If I am fervently afraid of this white umbrella, and truly share my fear pretty soon you too will be afraid of this white umbrella.
PETER: Absolutely, that is why talk shows exist, that is why the local news exists anymore. We are all supposed to be afraid of the Asian flew, small pox disease, mad cow disease, itís all coming to get us and itís like I can not be afraid anymore. That is what this film is for me; itís me saying Iím not going to be afraid anymore.
MISTY: You have a huge theatrical background, and you have made many TV guest spots as well as your permanent character on Queer as Folk, however now you are a director. What did you learn in your directorial debut that you will always keep with you?
PETER: Well this movie was shot very quickly. We shot the movie in three weeks and that is pretty huge. It is much bigger than it should have been and I think the biggest mistake I made was putting my own money into the movie, but that is another story. The best thing I think I learned is that I put some of my best acting ever into this movie, and the reason was (and I know this is going to sound hilarious) that I truly trusted the director. I knew that I was going to be in the editing room and I knew I would pick the right take, so I was much braver in my work than I was on Queer as Folk. Iím very proud of my work on Queer as Folk but because I never knew who was cutting and what, I was always a little protective. I was always holding a little something back for fear that someone would not make the right choice and that is not how the best work happens. That is what I learned!
MISTY: As a director you are the master mind, you know everything you can cut and delete and as an actor you are asked to portray their image, now you do both. Which do you like better?
PETER: The careers that I really admire, the career that I want to emulate is Stanley Tucci he is a terrific actor he does lead roles he does supporting roles he does Independent, he does Broadway work, he does TV work if its really good and he directs his own films every few years. And that is the career that I want. I love directing and I honestly think that Iím pretty good at it, but my whole life all that I have wanted to be was an actor and I don't think Iím ready to walk away from that just yet
MISTY: I love that youíre an OUT Actor, and I love that youíre now an OUT Director. Do you see yourself staying in the Gay genre or do you see yourself going more mainstream?
PETER: Thanks, well I have two scripts in development right now. One is a huge period piece, an epic play and love story and one is a tiny little kind of character study set in the desert outside of LA that is not Gay at all. One I wrote, and one I did not write. I could imagine the stories that I write will continue to have Gay themes, its a big part of me you know, a big part of my experience. And there are stories that have not been told. And people are like ďWhy the fuck did you choose this?Ē and Iím like because people have not even talked about it. Itís not been done and itís important to me to talk about it. So I would imagine that will continue to be an impact on my work, but that is not inclusively, I don't feel I can only do that, you know.
MISTY: How close are you to the character Uncle Paul in real life?
PETER: You know I thank GOD Iím better adjusted in real life than Paul. I don't have the scarring and psychological damage that Paul does. My parents are alive and well. The truth it is, I love kids. There is in my heart of hearts a sweet and innocent guy that would like not to have to look at all the shit and damage in the world. Wow I don't know how to answer that question; I really don't know how close I am to Paul.
MISTY: Now this may be easier, since you did it longer... how close are you to the character Emmett Honeycutt from TVs Queer as Folk?
PETER: I would answer that almost the same way, there are things that we share and there are things that we don't. I don't look at the world the same way that Emmett does, but I learned a lot from him, from playing him. For me to go to work and play him everyday really opened me up, the way he looks at the world is really useful to me, you know. He is so great, and so open and so trusting and that was really healthy for me.
Okay this is a really long story, but when I first auditioned for Queer as Folk I auditioned for the role of Ted. I must tell you that I went in there and I did a great audition. The director was like okay that was great and you know what Iím going to give you a call back and I said, ďYou know what let, me read for Emmett really quick.Ē She said, "Did you misunderstand me, I said I was giving you a call back?" And I said, "Just trust me and let me read for Emmett. After that she said, "Wow, I don't know that I have ever said this, but what role would you like to have a call back for?" And I said, "You know what you brought me in for Ted and bring me back for Ted." So I came back as Ted, and within 30 seconds of starting that audition for the producers, they stop the audition and said shh shh um thank you but no you are not a Ted, however we would love you to go outside and take a look at Emmett. I looked at the casting director, and I winked at him and said, "Yes, I think that is a great Idea." But Scott Lowell who is one of my best friends has spent five years reinforcing all the things that he hates about himself. That is what his job was on set, to show up to work and be laughed at and that was Ted's role. Ted was that guy and we all have that in us, you know. But there was a moment when I didn't really know what was going on, which one I was testing for and I said to one of my best friends, ďI don't know what to doĒ and she said ďI know what to do, I don't want you going to work to hate yourself every day.Ē She was like ďYou bring your work home with you and there is no way youíre not going to carry that around.Ē And poor Scott [Editors note: Peter is referring to Scott Lowell, who plays Ted on Queer as Folk], we would go to lunch sometimes in Toronto and he would be miserable, and I was like ďScott honey youíre Ted right now, you have lost contact with yourself and you have lost what you love about yourself.Ē And it was so useful for me to go to work and play Emmett, and you know, really love myself everyday.
MISTY: You might have answered my next question. Who was your best friend on the set of Queer as Folk?
PETER: Iím incredibly close with a lot of the cast, I adore Randy and Gale. Sharon Gless is a dear, dear friend, and several members of the crew are still very important people in my life today, but Scott is a pretty magical person.
MISTY: How does it feel to be a high and uplifted role model for Gay society?
PETER: You know I don't think a lot about being a role model. I know it was important and I know it would have been important to me. Umm you know I met this 23 year old kid this week here in Miami, who I was talking to out in the club with some friends and he was so comfortable in his skin and he was so incredibly well adjusted, and I thought wow this is the post Queer as Folk world, and I know it's not just because of Queer as folk but it was definitely a part of that. And Iím very, very, very proud that I was there, and that I chose to be with it, and that I chose to be openly Gay and I just know I will take that to my death bed.
MISTY: What was it like being on a Gay Television show where you were one of the few actual Gay characters?
PETER: Well not everyone was straight, Randy Harrison and Robert Gant were Gay. There were also a lot of Gay people in the crew and it was fine. I don't give the straight members of the cast any extra credit for being straight and doing the show. Some people do which really makes me bonkers, like I wasn't acting because I am actually Gay. You know it's just mechanics, emotional truth is emotional truth and everything else is just mechanics.
MISTY: Well I have had to kiss women on stage for theatrical productions before!
PETER: Yeah I do that all the time, and will again Iím sure.
MISTY: With the hyper-tension of "oh no Iím not Gay," what was it like kissing a straight actor on film? Was it difficult?
PETER: Oh no, actually I would rather do a sex scene with a straight actor than a Gay one. ĎCause you know sex scenes are stunts and there isnít supposed to be any real passion. Itís all perfectly clear and with a Gay guy youíre like ummm ohhh ahhh hey oh hey... are you thinking something that you shouldn't be thinking?
MISTY: I know that you found your agent in Oregon, but how were you discovered?
PETER: No actually my manager found me in Oregon! Well, I had been in New York for years doing theatre, then moved back to Oregon to be with family and was working there. My manager (who passed away last year) found me there in a play and was like ďWhat the fuck are you doing in Portland Oregon?Ē you need to be in L.A. and I said ďwell I don't know.Ē I was burnt out in New York and he said you need to be in L.A. and I said ok, alright letís do it.
I had done a tiny two minute short film, a tiny short film that was all me, it is me, my character is pitching a music video idea to record execs, and its a very funny tiny little show off piece of film. He watched it and he was like ďI can get you work with this. I can get you agents with this. This is all I need.Ē Two minutes and it made a huge difference in my life. He brought me to LA and I was working within six months. I first started shooting in L.A., and my first job was for Suddenly Susan, a guest spot. I just went into my first audition and I booked it and I cried and cried because it was such affirmation that I was in the right place and doing the right thing. Yeah that was a big day.
MISTY: What makes you more unique or more special than any other actor in Hollywood?
PETER: (after he laughs out loud) I think we are all unique and special and I don't mean to make that sound mansy pansy. The things about me that are unique, are I think, particularly for a man, I have a vulnerability and an emotional access that is rare.
MISTY: What is your favorite movie?
PETER: Oh, my favorite movie of all time is Shakespeare in Love. I would love for it to be something really esoteric and weird or Italian, but the truth is Shakespeare in Love inspires me on every level. It makes me want to be a better person and a better actor and a better lover, it really speaks to me so directly, and itís like they made this movie just for me. And as it turns out the guy who wrote it, Marc Norman, is the father of one of the guys I was in acting school with and Zach, his son, is the one that gave him the idea. So it grew out of our period together and it is like they made that film especially for me.
MISTY: What are the top three shows that you TiVo?
PETER: Grey's Anatomy is the only show that, well, in terms of script, that I cannot miss. So, Grey's Anatomy, The Office, and Andy Mayberry. But I do love America's Next Top Model and I Love Project Runway. Do you watch Cheerleader Nation?
MISTY: No I have never heard of it.
PETER: Oh you have to watch it, itís so good and the nationals are next week.
MISTY: Who do you look up to as an actor?
MISTY: Wow a lot of People!
PETER: Yeah, there are a lot of people that do good work out there.
MISTY: And your favorite director?
PETER: Alexander Payne, he is so ahead of his time. The show 24 stole its entire look from the French Connection, it was made in 1971 and it feels as fresh and alive as anything people have done today.
MISTY: Who would you come back in your next life as?
PETER: A model (laughs), I donít know, I donít think that I have learned all that I need to learn from this life so I donít know what my next journey will need to be about.
MISTY: What irritates you the most about the Gay community?
PETER: Crystal Meth and how quick we are to turn on our own.
MISTY: What kind of guys are you most attracted to?
PETER: I tend to like masculine grounded, and well my boyfriend looks like a colt model if that tells you anything.
MISTY: I know itís going to be difficult to answer this with a boyfriend. But if you were single, who is your dream boyfriend, or who would you be most attracted to?
MISTY: What is the craziest question you have been asked in an interview?
PETER: What its like to play Brian Kinney. I shit you not. [It was] on the radio and even after I explained that it was not the case, he continued on with that line of questioning. And I was like, ďthat is not who I play!Ē
MISTY: Oh my God, that is hateful!
PETER: Itís entirely true.
MISTY: What question would you never answer in an interview?
PETER: Well I don't answer ďAre you a top or bottom?Ē, which I get a surprising number of times.
MISTY: Well you are not a porn star and this is not a Falcon Exclusive interview!
PETER: Exactly, and I wonít answer that, and then I donít usually talk a lot about my boyfriend in the press. He is incredibly shy and he didn't sign up to be famous too.
MISTY: What do you wish I would have asked you today?
PETER: You know I gotta say Iím really impressed with your questions, and I canít think of anything. You were very prepared, and this is a really good interview. Thank you.
MISTY: Let me tell you really quick, and correct me if Iím wrong, but I think your general message in this movie, or, the core thought or message that you want the audience to take away from your film is fear.
PETER: That is exactly right, we are all too fucking afraid of one another and we have got to stop.
MISTY: Hello, be a leader and not a follower, right?
|Click Here to return to the top of the page|