By Lawrence Ferber
Actors Darryl Stephens and Jensen Atwood make a cute couple. Adorable. Heck—sexy. Unfortunately, the couple they play on Noah's Arc, LOGO Network's hit comedy series about a close-knit clique of gay African-American friends in West Hollywood, aren't basking in that cuteness lately. After a rocky but passionate courtship, Noah ( Stephens ) and Wade ( Atwood ) broke up during last season's explosive finale ( revisit it in the Season One DVD set, currently available ) . Noah and Wade both have new boyfriends in season two ( which debuted Aug. 9 ) , yet they still appear to carry a torch for one-another. Will the couple get cute and sexy again by this season's end?
The first and only gay African-American TV series, Noah's Arc has additional twists and turns—romantic and otherwise—in store for the rest of the gang, including sassy HIV counselor Alex ( Rodney Chester ) , slutty shop owner Ricky ( Christian Vincent ) and settled-down college professor Chance ( Doug Spearman ) . Wilson Cruz rejoins the cast as HIV-positive sweetie Junito, while new guest stars include B2K member Raz B, The Young and the Restless's Keith Hamilton Cobb ( as one of Noah's love interests ) and actor Rockmond Dunbar.
In July, Stephens was honored with the Philadelphia International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival's 'Rising Star' Award for his growing body of work in gay projects including 2001's Circuit, Todd Stephen's raunchy hit Another Gay Movie and Q. Allan Brocka's upcoming Boy Culture. Atwood, meanwhile, appeared opposite Halle Berry in 2005's Oprah-produced TV movie Their Eyes Were Watching God and in the TV series Heist and Medium. To get the scoop on their characters and where Arc is headed, I spoke with the very cute—heck, sexy—pair.
Lawrence Ferber: How have your characters changed since we last saw them?
Darryl Stephens: I tried to make Noah a little less naive, give him a little more maturity after his first relationship ended, make him a bit wiser [ and ] a little less child-like. I think I gave him a little more of an adult edge. I wanted Noah to grow a little more of a backbone. I felt in the first season Noah was a victim of circumstance. He kind of allowed things to happen to him. I wanted Noah to be more proactive in his own arc, so to speak. And I think that happens; I feel like he does get to make a lot more decisions this time around.
Jensen Atwood: A lot of changes. Wade is seeing someone else. You find out a little more about his character and why he does the things that he does or reacts the way he does. And you get to see his real feelings towards Noah.
LF: Was it a good thing that they broke up at the end of last season?
JA: I don't know. Noah and Wade were a pretty tight couple or had just drawn together so I don't know personally if I think it was something that was needed. But it was something that went down.
DS: I think Noah went into that relationship with a lot of romanticism and optimism about the magic of falling in love, and I think he realized during the course of that relationship that being in love requires more than just a sort of magical outlook. I think he is taking things a bit slower and treating romance with a bit more trepidation this time around.
LF: Jensen, are you more like Noah or Wade?
JA: [ Laughs ] Maybe a little bit of both. I think of Noah as a very loving person, fairly carefree. I like to think of myself the same way. With Wade I guess he would be considered a tough guy and I would think I have my moments of toughness.
LF: How accurately does the show portray its L.A. milieu?
DS: This particular show is depicting a world unto itself. It's a chocolate fantasy; that's what I like to call the show. It's not the L.A. I'm familiar with. For example, in one of the first episodes, Noah is moving into his new house and he has these two movers and they are both hunky Black guys and I'm thinking, 'Would there be two hunky black guys in West Hollywood working for a moving company?'
LF: There have been quite a few guest stars in the show: Garrett Morris, Raz B and Rockmond Dunbar. Would you love to see more members of the Black community [ have ] guest parts in the future?
JA: Why not? Why would anybody not want to be on Noah's Arc?
LF: Well, how about Flavor Flav?
JA: I don't know how Flavor would work out. Laurence Fishburne would be cool. He was on Pee-Wee's Playhouse!
LF: And Beenie Man? As an act of contrition.
DS: I don't know if Beenie Man is interesting in seeking solace with the gay community. I think he's happy being labeled as and understood to be a homophobe. I don't know if [ show creator ] Patrik Ian-Polk or anybody on the show is interesting in working with him at all.
JA: [ Laughs ] In the reggae world, I think they consider him a homo! I swear!
LF: Queen Latifah?
JA: I would love the Queen on Noah's Arc. I don't know if she would be up to do it but I'm sure Patrik would be quick to write a character [ for her to play ] .
LF: Darryl, you have a blog on MySpace.com . When singer Kevin Aviance was bashed in June, you wrote: 'Everybody please be careful and send our sister Kevin some love.' Have you personally heard from Kevin since then?
DS: No. I don't even know him. I just heard about him. Kevin Aviance is someone who's been pushing the envelope for a long time. I also heard an actor from [ the gay Black indie film ] Ski Trip was recently gay-bashed. This is hitting close to home. We're on a TV show, and not all the actors are gay, but regardless of who is or isn't it's really horrifying to think people are being beaten up on the street because they're being perceived as gay. All the people reading my page I tell to watch their backs because I would hate for someone who was connected to me, even through MySpace, to be in a situation like that. I think it's horrible.
LF: Noah's Arc fans may be surprised by your turn as a butch go-go boy in Another Gay Movie. Did director Todd Stephens have you study with a go-go boy or stripper as research?
DS: No, and I actually came into that show late. I was originally cast in a different role, which just had me throwing up on somebody. Then I guess the guy who was cast as the go-go boy pulled out or had a conflict or something. I remember thinking the go-go dancer character was preaching to be yourself and be comfortable in your own skin, and I thought that was really sweet for a go-go dancer to have that message. But I didn't really remember when I accepted the role just how much skin was going to be required, so when I got to the set I freaked out a little bit!
LF: There's been a little bit of a stir about the fact Noah's Arc didn't receive much love from the GLAAD and the NAACP awards. Your thoughts?
DS: I am probably not the person to talk to about the awards. Patrik has more of an opinion about that. We were invited to the GLAAD awards [ as presenters ] and it was kind of an odd experience. The shows [ nominated for awards ] had maybe a gay recurring character. It was just odd to me for them not to have a show like Noah's Arc, which shows characters that we have never seen. I don't want to say there was anything race-related [ behind the decisions ] . I'm just going to say it was odd watching those shows which I really feel have less of an impact on the gay community as I understand it and to not have them recognize Noah's Arc.
LF: So where would you like to see the show go, or be recognized, from here?
JA: To Oprah Winfrey's couch!
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