Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2022-03-16



Bring in the Queers, Bring in the Funk
Noah's Arc
by Lawrence Ferber

This article shared 5761 times since Tue Jun 1, 2004
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Adjust your TV set all you want—Showtime's Queer As Folk will still look devoid of color. Ethnically, that is.

'What kills me about stuff like that is it just doesn't have to be that way,' laments Patrik-Ian Polk, openly gay African-American writer/director. 'Is there no one involved at Showtime, the producers, the casting, anywhere in that mix, who asks 'do all these guys have to be white, have dark brown hair and look like brothers in the same family?' Is there no one? If just one of those guys had been Black from the beginning we would have accepted it, no questions. Now there's like 6 or 7 stars, and do they all have to be white? I don't get it, but it's always been like that. With media, gay equals white.'

Come June 22, Polk will make history with a refreshing, queer, and literally colorful alternative, Noah's Arc, an episodic series described as Sex and the City meets Queer as Folk crashing into Soul Food. Focusing on a clique of Black gay friends living in Los Angeles, the hysterically funny, unabashedly sexy, cuttingly smart, and socially aware series will be 'broadcast' in an untraditional manner: on DVDs containing two 30-minute episodes (and extras) each. 'My dream is that, at the very least, it develops a following and people really support and purchase it so we can make more on a bigger level,' Polk shares. 'In a perfect world Showtime or HBO would pick the show up, but this isn't a perfect world and I'm not holding my breath.'

Noah (Darryl Stephens) is a struggling screenwriter who falls for handsome Wade (Jensen Atwood), a newbie to same-sex love. No-nonsense HIV counselor Alex (Rodney Chester) is scathingly honest but fosters some self-confidence issues when it comes to his hunky anesthesiologist boyfriend, Trey (Gregory Keith). Ricky (Christian Vincent), the clan's most frisky and swingin' member, owns a trendy Melrose Avenue store, employing delicious hottie Dwayne (Nate Adams). And upstanding college professor Chance (Doug Spearman) recently married and adopted his partner Eddie's (Jonathan Julian) young daughter. Together the buddies steer through crazed seas of love, heartbreak, horniness, and ... happiness.

A Mississippi native, Polk graduated from the University of Southern California's film school. He worked on TV's Seaquest DSV and at MTV Films before landing a gig as a production executive at Edmonds Entertainment. Kenneth 'Babyface' and wife Tracey Edmonds' company, EE produced Showtime's Soul Food series and 1999's Light It Up amongst other films. With the Edmonds as executive producers, Polk mounted Punks, a zingy 2000 comedy feature hailed as a gay Black Waiting to Exhale/Broken Hearts Club, which, like Noah's Arc, revolved around a group of gay Black Los Angelinos.

'On some level Noah's Arc is an extension of Punks, but it really is a different animal,' Polk clarifies. 'A lot more in-your-face, daring, it pushes the envelope.'

Interestingly, UK television's Channel 4 saw Rikki Beadle Blair's outrageous, multiracial Metrosexuality miniseries in 2001. The show is available stateside on DVD from TLA Releasing. Yet arguably, any gay character of color is pushing the envelope when it comes to U.S. TV. The popular Queer as Folk and Will & Grace are notoriously Caucasian (The Fab Five initially boasted a Black member, Blair Boone, who filed a lawsuit for lost wages in 2003, while a new UK version of the show is even whiter than the USA's!). Yet Officer Keith Charles, played by Matthew St. Patrick, on HBO's hit Six Feet Under is one of those rare recurring gay characters of color. Alec Mapa currently appears as 'Adam' in UPN's Half & Half. Jennifer Beals plays a biracial (but awfully white-looking) lesbian on Showtime's The L-Word. HBO's detective series The Wire features Sonja Sohn as a lesbian detective. And on FX's gritty The Shield, Michael Jace portrays a conflicted, ex-gay patrolman.

Supporting roles aside, there's never been an actual gay Black American series before, which makes the raising of Noah's Arc's anchor a truly groundbreaking event. 'It's important because we haven't seen it,' Polk opines. 'Even Punks arguably is a tame mainstream attempt at shining a light on this community.'

It was a community event that fueled Polk to construct Noah's Arc. Last July, gay TV was picking up steam with talk of gay-specific network startups (which are finally coming together), Queer Eye's breakout, and other gay-interest television programs. During that month's Los Angeles gay Black Pride weekend, 'I went to a club, Boytrade at the El Rey theater, and it was really packed with Black men from all over the country who come for that weekend every year,' Polk recalls. 'And I was suddenly struck by the notion that this was a group with money to spend, travel, rent hotel rooms, rental cars, and attend events like this. It's a viable consumer base but nobody's marketing anything to them. So I left that club vowing that by that time next year the show would be a reality. I put a casting notice in the trade papers that Monday, I didn't have a script, and we shot the first promo in September and here we are.'

Rather than pitch Noah's Arc to networks and corporate financiers, a potentially endless and exhausting process (Polk has seen a number of projects and scripts languish in development or get shelved, including a college drama series at MTV), Polk decided to go ahead and produce the show independently (with Carol Ann Shine, who worked on Punks, and Jasmyne Cannick). 'Balls-out,' he notes of his—and the show's—approach. 'I thought if I'm going through the trouble of doing it independently with very little money, all my own, don't hold anything back. First and foremost, it's aimed at the gay Black community and if it doesn't resonate with them, how do you expect it to resonate with anybody else? I think the smart thing to do is make it realistic and explicit. I don't believe in sex or nudity just to titillate—it has to be in context, but I'm not shying away from that and I think it's important because you just don't see it [in media].'

Polk's casting call resulted in approximately 100 auditions, with some actors' reels sent in from as far off as NYC and London. 'We didn't get any huge stars and we also didn't have huge money,' Polk admits. 'I just wanted to get the best people for the job. Actors who were fearless, unafraid of the subject matter.' Stephens appeared in Circuit and MTV's Undressed series, Vincent danced in Madonna's Drowned World tour ('Christian doesn't really kiss and tell but I've heard enough Madonna stories to know that she's definitely not the nicest person on the block'), and Chester appeared in Punks and Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss.

How sexually explicit WILL Noah's Arc get? 'I would love to show pickle but I don't think any of my cast will allow me to!' Polk confesses with a laugh. 'I let them know every character would have to be naked at one time or another, doing love scenes. And they all said the same thing—'as long as I don't have to show my penis!' I'm hoping that at some point [they'll do it]. It just seems more realistic that when someone gets out of the shower you get a flash [of their penis]. It's also of social significance. I feel like Black men are constantly being emasculated in the media, so there's something symbolic about actually seeing a penis on a Black man even if not involved in pornographic activity. But it'll be as explicit as anything you see on Sex and the City and maybe QAF.'

To testify on Polk's behalf for a moment, the promotional clips indeed feature extensive nudity and very hot, unafraid male-male action.

Another important element of Noah's Arc entails its music. At present, Polk and his producers are 'scouring the earth' for upcoming, unsigned, and undiscovered talent for use in episodes and as DVD extras. And as with Punks, Polk himself will switch into songwriter/musician mode and supply a share of tunes himself. 'We're a low-budget production so we won't be able to afford expensive-ass Beyonce and record-label music,' he admits. 'I would love to—Loooooveeee to—and we are talking to some labels, like Virgin and BMG, about possibly promoting their artists by using their music.'

Some initial Noah's Arc production assistance came from the national Black AIDS Institute (, says Polk. Volunteering with the Institute for a couple of years now, his affiliation, interactions with personnel, and resulting awareness inspired him to create the character of Alex, a flamboyant, sassy, no-nonsense HIV counselor. 'I met a lot of people who work in that field, as researchers, healthcare workers, fundraisers, and I figured there's a lot more potential [safer-sex and HIV-related] storylines and latitude with [a character who's] working in the field, so that's when I got the idea to make Alex a healthcare worker. That was important to me, knowing the way this disease continues to ravage the Black community. AIDS is now the No. 1 killer of Black women aged 18-35 and young Black men. It continues to be a major problem in our community in particular, so it was important to me that AIDS have a place in this show. And they consulted me on the most effective ways to get info into the show without being preachy and didactic.'

Polk notes that 10% of profits from Noah's Arc will be contributed to the BAI.

In one funny safe-sex related 'Arc' clip, included on the promotional DVD sent to press, Noah and Wade attempt to have anal sex for the first time, but their condoms keep breaking. Left latex-less, they literally slip into a moment of unsafe sex, which compels Noah to lock himself in the bathroom and make a series of frenzied phone calls for advice from Chance, Ricky, and Alex, who sets him straight. It's a very entertaining, sexy, zippy sequence, but ultimately an educational one as well.

'I've had a experiences where the condom broke, which is kind of frightening,' Polk laughs. 'We all think of a condom breaking being you have sex, ejaculate in the condom, it breaks, and spillage. But what can happen during intercourse is the condom can break and kind of unravel, like you're having sex with a rubber band around [your penis]. I've had that happen years ago and I wanted a way to encourage people to have safe sex, encourage them to be educated about this and at the same time in the form of a really comedic, fun, loving character, which Alex is.'

Episode two sees Noah drag his friends along for his birthday ritual—getting an HIV test. The episode ties into National HIV Testing Day June 27, and DVDs will include a PSA from the BAI.

'They recently did an amazing testing campaign with the Beyonce/Missy/Alicia Keys concert tour,' Polk adds, 'called 'Testing for Tickets.' In certain cities the tour would give them a block of hundreds of tickets to give away in exchange for people getting HIV tests. They did events in several major cities including Atlanta, Oakland and Miami. And they're doing a similar campaign with Usher's upcoming tour.'

In recent years, a number of HIV transmissions in the African-American community have been attributed to closeted men sleeping with other men unsafely and bringing the virus home to their unsuspecting wives to boot. This phenomenon/issue, dubbed 'the down low,' has been thrust into the mainstream thanks to J.L. King's book, On The Down Low, and his high-profile appearances on shows like Oprah and 20/20, Polk says you won't find the issue in his Arc.

'And if I do it won't be pretty,' he adds. 'What annoys me about mainstream press sometimes is they always uncover these stories as if it really is some sort of cultural phenomenon. It's really dumb. It may have a new cultural name, the 'down low,' but that's been around forever and it's certainly not just Black men who're doing it. There are white men who are married and have girlfriends and sleep with men ... . And 'down low' doesn't really mean dating women and men on the side. 'Down low' means 'closeted.' Means you are not open or public about your sexuality. So a gay man can be 'down low'.'

However, Polk does see validity and importance in addressing the 'down low' topic. 'I'm not a fan of this King guy, but the great thing about the attention this is getting is it's starting a conversation I think we need to be having,' he opines. 'I've always maintained that the Black community isn't more homophobic than anybody else, but we need to start talking about and acknowledging different sexualities and issues.'

At the start of Noah's Arc, Wade is coming to grips with his first same-sex affair, but Polk assures that by the end of the first episode his sexual confusion will be resolved.

Asked how else Noah's Arc echoes his own life, Polk admits the character of Chance was based closely on a best friend 'but in a very loose way.' However, unlike his series' stable of characters, Polk is frustratingly devoid of romantic—or significant sexual—attachment.

'Here's what kills me,' he laughs. 'I meet people and we might hit it off or go out or even hook up and then they find out what I do and suddenly it's a problem. ... They think there's some kind of conflict because they're in the industry and I'm in the industry, they're trying to act and I'm a director. ... It's not like I'm Alan Ball ... . I'm just a struggling artist. They see a celebrity I just don't believe I have. It sucks.'

Six episodes are planned for the first 'season' of Noah's Arc, and scheduled for release in June, August and September. Storylines will feature drag queens (Miss Kiwi and Ebony Lane will appear), a drama-filled gay wedding, a sexy HIV+ Latino, and lesbians. 'One of the characters goes through a major breakup in episode two and he's still dealing with that breakup [in episode four] when a lesbian friend comes to town with her child, having left her own lover,' Polk reveals. 'They commiserate together. I think my friend Vanessa Williams from Soul Food may play that role.' Additionally, Punks' Rockmond Dunbar may cameo, while Polk hopes for additional celeb appearances in future episodes.

Polk will embark on a tour of film festivals and Black pride events. In April, the website clocked over 300,000 hits from across the globe.

Incidentally, can Caucasian-centric 'Queer as Folk'/'Will & Grace' fans anticipate seeing a token white boy character? 'No, no plans to have a token white boy,' Polk admits, amused. 'But you never know. I'm not opposed to that idea, but I'm not purposely trying to do a rainbow coalition. Maybe when Queer as Folk adds a token Black character I'll consider it!'

The first two episodes of Noah's Arc will be available on DVD June 22 for $29.95.

See .

This article shared 5761 times since Tue Jun 1, 2004
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Gay News

TV Writer Joel Kim Booster, director Andrew Ahn take a trip to 'Fire Island' 2022-05-15
- Based on the classic Jane Austen book Pride and Prejudice, the new Fox Searchlight film Fire Island has an important story to tell LGBTQ+ audiences specifically. In that story, there are plenty of laughs along the ...

Gay News

COMEDY Netflix holds 'Stand Out: An LGBTQ+ Celebration' 2022-05-09
- On May 7, Billy Eichner hosted Netflix Is A Joke: The Festival's "Stand Out: An LGBTQ+ Celebration" at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. The historic celebration featured LGBTQ+ comedy legends and emerging talent. Highlights included ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'Hacks,' 'Love, Victor,' Indy 500, Ariana DeBose, queer singers 2022-05-08
- Queer, non-binary actor Carl Clemons-Hopkins (they/them and he/him) told Out Magazine he is elated with the warm reception received by the show Hacks and his character. "When I started in this years and years ago, there ...

Gay News

'Queen of the Universe' winner Grag Queen in Chicago on June 3 and 19 2022-05-07
- Grag Queen—the Brazilian drag queen who won the reality-competition show Queen of the Universe, and who just released her first English-language single, "You Betta"—will be in Chicago twice next month. ...

Gay News

TELEVISION Peacock cancels rebooted 'Saved by the Bell' 2022-05-05
- Only a month after the reboot of the classic NBC comedy Saved by the Bell won Outstanding Comedy Series at the GLAAD Media Awards, Peacock has canceled the show after two seasons, Deadline reported. The second ...

Gay News

Chappelle attacked at Netflix event; man charged with misdemeanors [UPDATES] 2022-05-04
- Social media exploded overnight on May 3 with reports that comedian Dave Chappelle was attacked at his Hollywood Bowl Show, which was a part of the Netflix Is a Joke Festival, according to Deadline. Apparently, Chappelle ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'Broadway Rising,' Webby Awards, 'Kinky Boots,' Tom Ford 2022-05-01
- The upcoming documentary Broadway Rising will have its world premiere on June 13 at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival, Playbill noted. The documentary follows theater subjects—ranging from stage doorman to actors—on their journeys back to the ...

Gay News

DeGeneres shares message after taping final talk-show episode 2022-04-30
- An era has ended as The Ellen Show has officially wrapped its last episode. According to Variety, Ellen DeGeneres announced on an April 29 Twitter thread that her daytime talk show concluded filming its final episode. ...

Gay News

TV The CW cancels 'Batwoman,' 'Legends of Tomorrow' 2022-04-30
- The CW has axed the LGBTQ+-inclusive DC Arrowverse shows Batwoman and DC's Legends of Tomorrow. According to Out Magazine, Batwoman—canceled after just three seasons—introduced the world to lesbian superhero Ryan ...

Gay News

FILM/TV New 'Drag Race All Stars' to only feature previous winners 2022-04-13
- In a watershed moment in "RuPaul's Drag Race" history (or herstory), all eight returning queens on season seven of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars have won previous seasons of "Drag Race" or "All Stars," Variety noted. ...

Gay News

Judith Light to receive GLAAD's Excellence in Media Award 2022-04-12
- GLAAD announced that multiple Tony- and Emmy-winning actress, producer and activist Judith Light will receive the Excellence in Media Award that will be presented by queer performer and Oscar winner Ariana DeBose at the 33rd Annual ...

Gay News

Mary Lynn Rajskub: Actress/comedian discusses acting, sexuality in new book 2022-04-10
- Emmy-winning actresses and stand-up comedians who just finished publishing their new memoirs, while simultaneously embarking on their stand-up tours, rarely have moments to themselves. Thankfully, Mary Lynn Rajskub, best known for her work on the TV ...

Gay News

'RuPaul's Drag Race British Invasion' show in Chicago on May 21 2022-04-05
- The queens of RuPaul's Drag Race UK are coming to the United States this May for a week of live shows in six major cities. Produced by Voss Events and World of Wonder, RuPaul's Drag Race British Invasion will launch May ...

Gay News

33rd Annual GLAAD awards take place; award recipients include 'Drag Race,' 'Hacks,' Mj Rodriguez 2022-04-04
-- From a press release - Los Angeles - Sunday, April 3—GLAAD announced recipients for 16 of this year's 30 categories for the 33rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards. Kacey Musgraves received the Vanguard Award from Ben Platt, and Michaela Jaé Rodriguez received ...

Gay News

The dynamic Daniels dig into diversity with Everything Everywhere All at Once 2022-04-03
- Everything Everywhere All at Once is a movie made for everyone that combines science fiction, comedy and drama in a visual spectacle that will certainly leave a lasting impression on viewers. It's a story about a ...


Copyright © 2022 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.