Having brought nuanced emotion and resilience to their breakout role of Jerrie on Big Sky, actor Jesse James Keitel has become the type of performer celebrated and embraced by not only an audience but the entertainment industry itself. And Keitel’s star will only continue to rise in the upcoming Queer as Folk reboot.
“Every few minutes one of us is breaking new ground,” Keitel says about being a nonbinary performer in Hollywood. “But I’ve found my own voice and have found myself even while in the public eye, which is a very vulnerable experience.”
Keitel adds that they have been lovingly embraced throughout a scary but exhilarating process of coming into their voice. While Keitel’s talents are on full display in Big Sky, there’s also a lot to look forward to with their character Ruthie on the Queer as Folk reboot.
“I finally have the chance to play a messy trans character who is going to make a lot of bad decisions,” Keitel says.
The QAF reboot on Peacock, created by Stephen Dunn (Little America), will follow a diverse group of queer characters living in New Orleans. Cast alongside Keitel are Johnny Sibilly (Pose, Hacks), Ryan O’Connell (Special), and Devin Way (Grey’s Anatomy, Station 19), among others. Russell T Davies, the creator of the original British QAF and this year’s miniseries It’s a Sin, is on board as an executive producer of the reboot.
Keitel hails Ruthie as a “groundbreaking” three-dimensional character. Depicting realistic and deeply human queer people is right in line with what Keitel hopes is a forthcoming trend in representation.
QAF fans attached to the American version of the 2000s will not be disappointed with the new iteration, Keitel says.
“The writing is immaculate, the scenes are like butter, they’re so good and funny,” Keitel says.
Building on queer representation the original U.K. and American versions of the show offered, the new series will shine a light on historically excluded members of the LGBTQ+ community. Audiences shouldn’t expect well-worn coming-out stories made for teens or stories about older queer characters grappling with age, but rather stories about young adults just on the cusp of finding their stride in life, Keitel shares.
As for what’s next for Keitel, they envision a project far from the current queer bars of the French Quarter explored in the new QAF.
“My next goal is to do a historical romance drama,” they say. “I never thought of this narrative and queering it would be a possibility, but with how much I’ve accomplished, I finally feel like I can do that and bring trans and nonbinary stories into a period piece.”
This story is part of The Advocate’s 2021 People of the Year issue, which is out on newsstands December 1, 2021. To get your own copy directly, support queer media and subscribe — or download yours for Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.