This interview was conducted as part of the interview series LGBTQ&A, a weekly podcast that documents modern queer and trans history.
After making a name for himself starring as Emmett in the groundbreaking television series, Queer As Folk, Peter Paige moved his talents behind the camera. Two of the series he co-created, The Fosters and Good Trouble, both on Freeform, set the gold standard for queer and trans representation on TV.
With The Thing About Harry, Paige continues that winning streak. On top of writing, directing, and executive producing the Freeform film, Paige also plays the roommate of Jake Borelli (Grey's Anatomy), supplying him with the "earnest, loving, pep-talk" he needs to ultimately make sure the movie has a happy ending.
Paige, as well as Borelli and co-star Niko Terho, spoke with The Advocate’s LGBTQ&A podcast about the groundbreaking film, the network’s response to its steamy sex scene, and how Paige convinced Grey’s Anatomy to write Borelli off the show for three weeks in order to shoot The Thing About Harry.
Read hights below and click here to listen to the full podcast.
1. Peter Paige weeps every time he watches the movie.
“So much of queer content is trauma porn where we reinvestigate our own trauma and they're powerful stories and they're stories that need to be told. But this is also a powerful story that needs to be told.
Sometimes you just need 85 minutes of, Oh my god, please, please fall in love…I have yet to make it through the movie without weeping openly. I weep twice. I cry during the sex scene and then I pull it together and I get angry at everybody and then I cry again at the very, very end.”
2. It was important to Paige that the characters be versatile.
“I was like, 'You have to be here at this point and you have to be here at this point.' And it's all in there. I mean, if you know what they're doing, they're doing it. If you don't know, I think it'd be easy to be like, 'Oh, they're cuddling.'
But if you know what they're doing, they're both getting fucking railed. That's some flip-fucking.”
3. Paige says Freeform did not pushback on the sex scene.
“I thought we'd get standards and practices notes about the sex scene. And literally there were so few standards and practices notes on this movie that I kept asking, 'When are they sending them?' And they were like, 'They sent them Peter.'
And I was like, 'No, no, no, no. But the ones where they tell me I have to cut thrusting out of the sex scene and things like that,' they were like, 'No, no, they're done. They love it. They're good.'
4. Paige convinced the Grey’s Anatomy showrunner, Krista Vernoff, to write Jake Borelli out of the show so he could shoot The Thing About Harry.
“We've been best friends for like 30 years because I'm that fucking old. So I'm at dinner with Krista and I'm like, 'Oh, I'm going to rewrite this movie for Freeform,' and I'm pitching her my take on this movie and I describe Sam and she goes, 'Oh you mean like Jake Borelli?' And I was like, 'Oh I do mean like Jake Borelli.'
I write the movie, got the green light, get a call from casting that's like, 'We want to make an offer to Jake Borelli,' because I had been talking about him in meetings and things like that and I was like, "Great. Hold one second.' I called Krista and I'm like, 'So we're going to make an offer to Jake.' And she was like, 'Oh, Jake has a job. You can't have Jake. He's working on Grey's Anatomy. We're doing a crossover, a big thing with Station 19.'
And I was like, 'Fuck you very much.' We go into casting and we see some great guys, but I can't get this one [Jake Borelli] out of my head. So, right before we go into chemistry reads, I call her one more time and I said, 'I know you said no, but is there really no way you can give him to me for three weeks, please? Just three weeks. That's all I need.'
She was like, 'Give me an hour.' And she called me back an hour later and was like, 'I would not do this for another living soul on this planet, but I will do it for you. We're going to rewrite his story so you can have him for three weeks.'
5. Peter Paige did not originally plan on acting in the movie.
"I did not write it for myself. I wrote it in my voice. It's something I wanted to say. I really wanted a multigenerational relationship because I think that's something that the queer community is super lacking…The generation above me is dead. They're gone, we didn't have them, we didn't have role models. I want for younger queer people to recognize that there's an opportunity here and to embrace that and to take advantage of that because it’s not something to dismiss.
It was actually the head of casting at the network who was like, "Should you? Would you?" And I was like, "Yeah, I could do that. I like that part." The earnest loving pep-talk is trademark Peter Paige. Ask Scott Lowell, I did that scene with him [in Queer Ask Folk] probably 75 times.”
The Thing About Harry debuts February 15 on Freeform and will also be available on Hulu.
New episodes of the LGBTQ&A podcast come out every Tuesday on the Luminary app.