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Two years ago in his native England, Charlie Hunnam caused a scandal by playing a 15-year-old homosexual who had a tryst with a man double his age on the series "Queer as Folk." Conservative social groups and the press lashed out at Hunnam and the show.

After two years of dealing with the questions, Hunnam, 21, does not shy away from the press when the show is brought up. He defends the storyline and acknowledges, as an aside, that he is not gay (in fact, he and his wife are very happy). He is surprised the American press asks him about it since the British version of "Folk" has not aired here on network or basic cable.

"I was 18 and got thrown into this whole mad thing," he says of "Folk." "I auditioned for it 10 times. Prior to that, I didn't do anything of any substance. I had read the scripts so I knew what I was getting into.

"I was expecting a ... storm. Why did I do it? Because it was a great script with a great director."

The resulting controversy made Hunnam a celebrity at home. "It got really bad if I sat there everyday and read the papers," he says during a press confererence in Pasadena. "I was at home with my friends, chilling out and trying to ignore it."

Now, he's preparing for stardom in the United States, playing Lloyd, a very straight theater major and resident heartthrob on "Undeclared" (Tuesday, Fox).

Hunnam exhibits a sarcastic sense of humor during an interview at a Fox network party. He admits he's insecure and says he tries to live now just as he did before he made it as an actor.

"I'm 21," he says. "What do I need to be secure about? I live the way I always have, eating beans and wieners every night. I save my money. I'm an actor, and I have only been acting for three years.

"I'm not very good as far as acting goes. I'm starting right now, and I want to be ... great. Acting is my life. So like everything else in my life, I want to be good at it."

As Lloyd on "Undeclared," Hunnam is playing a guy very different from the man who portrays him. Lloyd is a wiseacre, but he's also a ladies' man, with smooth style and a hip British accent. The women love him. His style is charming and seemingly effortless.

"Undeclared" creator Judd Apatow zeroed in on Hunnam's sense of humor at the actor's audition.

"He was hilarious," Apatow told reporters. "At the time, I hadn't written the pilot. We did something weird here, which is I had this idea that I would do a show about college. And when you go to college, you get thrown together with all these strangers, and I thought, 'What if I write it after I cast it?'

"... So I wrote up a bunch of generic scenes and had different people read together and hired the strongest people from that, and Charlie was certainly one of them. ... He was just funnier than the other people."

Moving to the States was an adjustment in more ways than one. In England, Hunnam was a star, but here he was a nobody. "I did 'Queer as Folk' in England and then decided to come out here and try my luck, and no one would hire me for a year and a half and then Judd did," Hunnam says.

"I couldn't believe it," Apatow says. "I'm like, how come he's not working? There's a mistake here."

Playing the roommate to dorky Steven, Hunnam's the guy that shows the awkward American the rites of passage: How to fight, how to talk to women, how to be cool.

With loud dance music blaring in the background, Hunnam - who loves movies but does not watch television - raises his voice when he announces his future goals.

"I want to ... rule the world," he says. "I want to be the next Tom Cruise."

Before he can say anything else, his stern-looking publicist, who was standing within earshot of his interviews, interrupts, grabs his arm and declares the interview over.

Although one of Ireland's most successful and in-demand actors, Aidan Gillen has shunned the bright lights of Hollywood in favour of rural life in Dingle. Hardly surprising, considering the Dubliner has made a career out of living on the edge, writes Domhnall O'Donoghue ...

You'd be forgiven for thinking that an actor like Aidan Gillen, who has spent the past 15 years playing some of the most powerful characters in some of the most celebrated television series in the world, would be a dab hand at the interview game by now. Not so, it seems.

"It's a bit of an ordeal - it's just not that easy for me to talk about stuff," the 45-year-old father-of-two confesses. 'Hesitant, awkward, inarticulate - scrambling for words. I suppose it's why a lot of actors become actors: because they can say all this great stuff that's written by other people."

While Gillen might be somewhat uneasy in his personal life, in his professional life, he is anything but. Whether it's as Lord Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish in the global phenomenon Game of Thrones or John Boy in the acclaimed Irish sensation Love/Hate, on screen, the actor exudes an unflinching and terrifying authority.

"I've played a fair few villains now and mined a seam of dark psychological matter. My writer/director friend, Jamie Thraves, said, "What's going on? You started off doing comedy and now you're murdering babies all the time.""

One of those early comedies was a Dublin Youth Theatre production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and it was the audience's enthusiastic response that convinced the then 15-year-old to act on a full-time basis.

"We got a lot of laughs - I got something back, something solid," he recalls. "I thought: I like doing this; I can do this, and I want to do this."

A couple of years later, with the help of legendary actor, Niall Toibin, Gillen got his hands on the all-important Equity card, enabling him to land small roles in film and television, both here and in the UK. But the size of these roles grew and, not before long, he found himself cast in Circle of Friends, the smash hit Irish film, based on a bestseller written by one of Ireland's most beloved writers.

"On set, I went over to talk to Maeve Binchy. I actually thought she'd remember me because she reviewed the first professional play I did and was very complimentary about my performance. So, I went over and stood in front of her," Gillen recalls, somewhat embarrassed by the memory. "But she just looked at me!"

As an actor, Gillen may not have had a recognisable face then, but in a few years' time, thanks to the trail-blazing Queer as Folk, he would have.

The Channel 4 drama, which chronicled the lives of three young gay men in Manchester, caused a storm of controversy, thanks to its explicit and edgy content.

“It was a ground-breaker because it wasn’t getting all awkward about itself; it was the opposite: it was brash.

“It was during the original run in 1999 that the Admiral Duncan Bar on Old Compton Street in London’s Soho was bombed. Although that was the work of an individual neo-Nazi, it does give it context.

“I think homophobia is probably less prevalent today but there’s always going to be a certain section of society looking for someone or some group to take their aggression out on.”

After the series ended, a long stream of prolific television work followed, but it was while he was performing in The Caretaker on Broadway that things really took off for the Drumcondra native.

Described by Barack Obama as his favourite television show, The Wire was a critically acclaimed HBO crime drama set in Baltimore. Producers saw Gillen's Tony-nominated performance in the Pinter play and thought him a perfect fit for the character, Tommy Carcetti, an ambitious councilman who was due to be introduced in its third season.

"I didn't have any doubts about how brilliant it was, from the second I saw the first season," Gillen says of the cult show.

Most actors would be keen to capitalise on being a part of such a successful project, but not Gillen. "It's never been about getting to the next up; I'll consciously take steps down or sideways or backwards.

"I think most people probably wouldn't move to the outskirts of Dingle just after Season 5 of The Wire wraps up, but I've found living in the countryside to be quite energising.

"I really get off on not being remembered and not being recognised. If I finish up here, I try and go to Australia and do a play. Then I’ll come back in three years and try to do something different."

And, in 2010, the 'something different' - at least in terms of scale - was Love/Hate, a local series about Dublin's underworld.

“I can tell a good script when I see one and Stuart Carolan had written one. His writing was very appealing, no matter how dark it got.

“You know a show is getting its message across when a car of hoods rolls onto the set and the driver opens the window and shouts, ‘Here, y’know when youse are all out here pretending to be us? We’re round in your gaffs, riding youse'r missuses!’” he recalls with a wide grin.

Two seasons, and an IFTA award later, Gillen found himself back on HBO and on international screens once again.

Game of Thrones, an epic fantasy series, adapted from George R R Martin's novels, premiered in the US in April 2011. It is currently the world's biggest television series, bar none.

“You’ll have conversations with everyone from housewives on the Aran Islands to pilots in Japan about Game of Thrones," says Gillen.

“Even if I wasn’t in it, I would watch it. It’s got so much story. It’s not just good-looking kids running around either. HBO is one of the few networks where you can get cast not looking like a model.”

Gillen's character, Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish is a skilled manipulator and uses his ownership of brothels in King's Landing to accrue intelligence on political rivals.

To help tap into the psyche of unsavoury characters like Littlefinger, in real life, the actor often allows himself to disappear into the world's darker side.

“I went around Barcelona once with a sheep’s mask on me for two days. I had a horse’s head somewhere else.

“Have you ever been on Chat Roulette? Fifty percent of it is guys – and you can’t see their face – jerking off. But then there will be a group of people at a party or an old lady in Italy or wherever – you just stop where you chose to stop. Anytime I go on there, I wear a mask.

"There’s some horrible stuff going on there," Gillen continues. "I’m not on it all the time, I don’t want to make myself sound cool."

But if the actor is on the internet, he rarely searches for anything concerning himself.

“I don’t look at stuff connected to me, I just don’t like it," he admits. “Especially if you have a personality like mine where you’ll keep dredging through it to find something really horrible, and you're not happy until you find it. That's a side to myself I don’t want to indulge.”

However, Gillen has no problem indulging his nomadic, wanderlust side, and often takes off at a moment's notice.

“Over the years, I have done a lot of travelling around and I kind of got addicted to movement, so, as soon as I got somewhere, I immediately started planning to go somewhere else.

“I like to get on a bike, get a tent and head off to an island and pitch it - either on my own or with my kids. Some of the best holidays I’ve had involve a sleeping bag, a tent, some matches and Pot Noodles.”

And when he isn't busy roughing it or starring in The Dark Knight Rises, the second highest grossing film of 2012, in his true unorthodox style, Gillen presents Other Voices, a modest RTE programme, which showcases the best of Irish and international music in a small church in Dingle.

"I got involved because I was living down there, scamming my way into the gigs and then I was working on it so I didn't have to scam my way in anymore. I wasn't planning on being a TV presenter."

This summer will not only see Gillen return to film a new season of Game of Thrones, but will also include the premiere of his latest film, Mister John, at the Edinburgh Film Festival.

With Gillen being only one of many Irish actors currently flying the flag on a global scale, he suggests that our success as storytellers is down to our troubled past.

"We have a history of using words to run rings around oppressors," he notes. "That combined with our inability to shut up."

But when the individual in question has stories as interesting as Aidan Gillen's, you'd be more than happy if they never shut up.

Actors crave attention, but Queer as Folk fame is too much for Aidan Gillen

There is more to Aidan Gillen than Queer as Folk. The Irish actor has starred in a number of high-profile British TV, indie-film and stage productions, but, for better or for worse, he is still best known for his electrifying performance as the amoral sexual predator Stuart in the ground-breaking, ultra-explicit gay series made by Channel 4.

Queer as Folk turned the 32-year-old Gillen into a star in Britain and a cult figure around the globe. To Gillen’s dismay, there are numerous fan-created Internet Web sites devoted to showcasing pictures of him from the series. Even here in Montreal, where Gillen is currently shooting the miniseries Dice, he can’t walk the streets without people stopping him to talk about Queer as Folk.

In a chat over herbal tea in a chic café on the now-trendy Mount Royal Ave, E, Gillen made it clear that he remains immensely proud of the British-made series and the edgy script by Russell T. Davies. But he is a little embarrassed by the notoriety of Queer as Folk.

“It was big exposure and I wasn’t used to that,” Gillen said. “You get people looking at you all the time, which is not great. I like to have as much anonymity as I can. I’m not saying I’m a famous person now or something. It’s just when I go up for jobs, I prefer if people don’t really know who I am.”

Still, he has no regrets about starring in the compelling drama set in Manchester’s gay community. As Stuart in Queer as Folk, Gillen played a seriously tormented guy who frequently makes life difficult for his best friend, Vince (played by Craig Kelly). And carries on a tortured, steamy affair with a much younger Nathan (played by Charlie Hunnam).

“I didn’t do it because I wanted to get something out of it. I did it because I wanted to play the part,” Gillen, who is so soft-spoken it’s sometimes hard to hear him over the café’s piped-in trip-hop music. “I am genuinely not looking for massive exposure. That’s how I felt at the time. I’d just had a kid. I was pushing a pram down the road and I thought the thing for me to do now is to play a man-slut. Anything that’s different (from my own personality) is a joy for me.”

Queer as Folk also stirred up all kinds of attention in Canada, garnering strong ratings last year on Showcase and, in French, on Series +. It has done so well on Showcase that the specialty network began broadcasting the series for a third time last week, with episodes running Thursdays at midnight over the next 10 weeks.

Hunnam, Gillen’s Queer as Folk co-star, is also in Montreal. He’s starring in the Stephen Gaghan-directed feature Abandon, alongside Benjamin Bratt and Katie Holmes.

Gillen has been here for the past month shooting Dice, a Canadian-British co-production that also stars British actress Gina McKee (Wonderland), U.S thespian Fred Ward (Henry and June), and Canadian actors Martin Cummins (Love Come Down), Brendan Fletcher (The Five Senses), Mark McKinney (Kids in the Hall), Dorothy Berryman and Gary Farmer. The six-hour miniseries is directed by Rachel Talalay (Tank Girl) and co-produced by Lorraine Richard and Greg Dummett of the Montreal-based production house Cite-Amerique. It is set to air this fall on the Movie network and Super-Ecran.

Gillen says he is enjoying his time in Montreal, particularly since he moved from a downtown hotel to an apartment on the Plateau along with his girlfriend and two young children.

Dice is a twisted murder mystery, not unlike David Lynch’s television series Twin Peaks, according to Gillen. A woman’s dead body is found in a small Canadian university town and a number of people are trying to track down the killer, including Glen Taylor, played by Aidan Gillen. He is a psychology researcher who uses dice-throwing as a way to remove harmful internal blocks and conflicts.

Gillen says Dice is “not average TV fare,” which is why he agreed to do it. He is attracted to off-mainstream projects and, until now, hasn’t made much of an effort to appear in more obviously commercial films and TV series.

Since Queer as Folk, he has worked on three films, all indie British pictures. He starred in The Low Down as a 30-year-old trying to figure out what to do with his life, a role that won him the best newcomer award at last year’s Edinburgh Film Festival. In The Final Curtain, a film penned by John Hodge (Trainspotting), Gillen and Peter O’Toole play rival game-show hosts.

“I was well impressed with (O’Toole),” Gillen said. “He’s charming and gentle and smart.”

The third film is My Kingdom, a contemporary update of King Lear focusing on a Liverpudlian crime family, with Richard Harris as the patriarch crime boss. Gillen has also been returned to the theatre, most recently playing Ariel in The Tempest at the Almeida Theatre in London.

I’m not in a rush to go large,” said Gillen. “You can get to play more interesting parts in smaller-scale stuff. But I want to do all kinds of different things. I don’t want to be in rubbish things though. I’d rather be in something small that’s good than something that pays a little money and it's rubbish.”

by Brendan Kelly; article and transcription courtesy of Nadia; [published June 11th, 2001]
Queer as Folk not only broke the mould by treating gays differently, it also put Manchester's gay village on the map. As the filming begins on two one-hour specials, Clive King visits Canal Street to check out the city's gay scene.

It's almost midnight on Canal Street, the heart of Manchester's gay village. Despite the freezing weather, hundreds of people are milling around, bathed in the blue and orange glow of enormous arc lamps. Fairy lights have been draped from the trees along the canal bank. The pavement is an assault course of camera cables and film equipment and the surrounding streets have been cordoned off to traffic. The Queer as Folk team is back in town and the villagers are loving every minute of it.

As a young man hoses down the cobbles, a friendly production assistant explains that, for continuity reasons, it is safer to keep the streets wet. You never know when it's going to rain, even on this joyous, technicolour parade. The crowd hushes reverently as three familiar figures appear on the set: actors Aidan Gillen, Craig Kelly and Charlie Hunnam aka Stuart, Vince and Nathan. This nattily dressed trinity of out and proud gay boys enthralled four million Channel 4 viewers for six weeks last year, making Queer as Folk the biggest cult drama since This Life.

A muscular lad in a suffocatingly tight T-shirt emerges from Manto, the lively cafe-bar that kick-started the regeneration of this once-derelict warehouse district into a glittering magnet for Manchesters' thriving gay and lesbian community. He has seen me chatting to Russell T. Davies, the drama's creator, and wants to know if I can get him work as an extra. "I don't want paying," he insists. "It would just be great to be a part of something so brilliant."

Recent repeats of the Seventies BBC sitcom Are you Being Served? are a timely reminder of just how much things have changed for gay men watching British television. Queer as Folk is light years away from the sorry spectacle of John Inman lisping,"I'm free!" as he minced from behind the counter to take some hapless customer's inside leg measurment. Since then, the soaps have dabbled with homosexual characters, popping them in and out of the closet like favourite shirts. Even Armistead Maupin's acclaimed Tales of the City, also shown on Channel 4, shunted its gays slightly off to the sidelines. The plethora of websites celebrating the QAF phenomenom is testament to its special place in television history: here, for the first time, gay men were planted firmly and unashamedly at the centre of the action.

Davies, who cites Coronation Street as his main influence and got his big break writing the ITV Upstairs Downstairs clone The Grand, first shown in 1997, has plenty of theories about the show's success. "It was beautifully cast and beautifully made," he says. "And it was honest and real. So much television likes things to be right, wrong, good, bad, and we were more relaxed  about all that. I don't see a reason to lie about things, so people were taking drugs without anyone going 'Tut, tut, that's terrible'. They were shagging around which, if you choose to live that lifestyle, is a marvellous thing."

When Channel 4 approached him to write a gay drama Davies knew what he didn't want to do: storylines about Aids and tortured adolescent coming-out tales. "We've seen enough of that victim culture thing as sub-plots on shows such as Casualty and Peak Practice," he sighs. "They give gay characters gay problems and gay stories and it's become such a cliche." Consequently, it was made clear in episode one that 15-year-old Nathan's problem was not his homosexuality, but other people's reaction to it.

"I was determined that Nathan would never have any doubts about his sexuality. A lot of people would have been happier if I'd written about a 15-year-old boy who had gone up to his bedroom and hanged himself. I know some gay boys do commit suicide, but the vast majority go out and find their lives and it all works out fine."

Last time we saw them, Nathan had run away to London and Vince had left his Austrialian boyfriend Cameron and renewed his shaky, self-destructive friendship with Stuart, the show's hedonistic, manipulative linchpin. The episode being filmed tonight is one of two hour-long specials, to be aired at the end of the forthcoming repeat of the first series. After that, Davies insists, there will be no more Queer as Folk. "A good story has a begining, a middle and an end," he explains. "I didn't want it to descend into formula television so I decided to end it here, doing things in these last two hours that you could never dare in an open-ended series."

Having said that, he divulges that elements of the programme will re-emerge in his next series for Channel 4, provisionally titled Misfits. "It's the same world and same energy but designed to be long-running," Davies says. "It will still be centred around Canal Street, with maybe some of the same characters, but it will be broader and not so exclusively gay."

Davies is tight-lipped about Queer as Folk's grand finale except to promise that it will be spectacular. "Because it's been successful everyone has an opinion about what we should do. All of those people who became devoted to Stuart and Nathan and Vince might hate what happens to them. Believe me, some people are going to think the end is over the top. Right now, I think it's perfect."

        "A lot of people pick up on the negative aspects of Stuart, but the fact is that he's honest. He says what he
        means and he does what he says he's going to do. I like it that he makes things happen, and not always
        good things"
  - Aidan Gillen (Stuart)

        "The show succeeded because it's funny, it's sexy, it's warm, it's human and it's brave. All sorts of people,
        including straight men and women, are coming up to us and saying how much they love it. Playing Vince
        again is like putting on a comfortable pair of shoes."
- Craig Kelly (Vince)

        "My mum adored Queer as Folk. She used to ring up after every episode in tears, saying she was so
        proud of me. My dad's a real old-school hard lad from Newcastle, so to see his son having gay sex on
        screen wasn't a dream come true. But he respects me for making my own way in this business."

            - Charlie Hunnam (Nathan)

        "If people do things in real life, we should be able to watch that on television. But none of us has ever seen
        it as just a "gay" drama. Who gives a shit if a character is gay, straight, black, white, one-legged or four-
        legged as long as the story is good?"
- Antony Cotton (Alexander)

        "After playing Hazel, I was frequently asked how I would feel if I really had a gay son. I realised it would be
        just fine. Straight people need to have all that sorted out long before they have kids. We tend to bring
        children up as hetero, until proven otherwise."
- Denise Black (Hazel)
Queer as Folk is back for two granny-shocking cliffhanger-solving specials. Sky celebrates by persuading the stars to play it straight.

It's 4.30 on a freezing winter afternoon. The sky's already dark. Inside a modest-looking hotel not far from Paddington Station, there's a kerfuffle. Feathers fly through the air in a bedroom decorated by Lily Savage (leopard print, anyone?). Three youngish men and three nubile young vixens cavort on the bed. Their laughter ripens the atmosphere even further. The cladding is scanty.

'I feel really shit. I think I'm allergic to those feathers.' Charlie Hunnam, who plays feisty gay teen Nathan in Channel 4's endlessly controversial drama Queer as Folk, is sniffing loudly. He's spent an afternoon bathing in duckdown and his sinuses are collapsing. Aiden (name spelt wrong thoughout the article) Gillen, the dark satanic Stuart, is refusing to rest his head on the voluptuous thigh of one of the fair maidens pictured here. 'I've got a daughter. What will she think?' Craig Kelly, aka cuddly Doctor Who freak Vince, is smoking in the corridor. He wants to go home. The shoot has already over-run and our friends have planes to catch, homes to go to.

Being asked to cavort with semi-naked babes is just the latest surreal chore the three have found themselves doing since Queer as Folk first minced onto our screens. Dubbed EastBenders by the tabloids, the show was turn-off TV for the Daily Mail massive, but gained a following way beyond its obvious gay audience. In America, they're mad for it. The graphic gay sauciness never made it to regular US TV, so fans get hold of videos from their pals. In Hollywood, film industry types have taken to running all the episodes back-to-back in a Star Wars-like epic. Madonna got wind of it and invited Charlie over for dinner. He bought he a Wonder Woman Pez dispenser as a gift. She sat him next to Gwyneth Paltrow. Which was nice.

Sensibly, Queer's makers have decided to quit while the going is good and although Channel 4 wanted another 10 episodes, they opted to do two one-hour specials. Hopefully all the debut series' cliffhangers will be solved. Will Vince's K9 develop a doggy illness? Will Stuart decide his loft apartment is a bit too 80s and buy an ironic Barratt home? Will Vince's parents (who?) get tired of hanging round gay bars? Of these and other, more saucy storylines, the boys aren't telling.

The last feather is vacuumed up. The hotel returns to its quiet, though highly over-decorated self. Today's performance is over.

Fresh faced teen who not only 'exploded out of the closet', but got the show's famous catchphrase "I'm doing it, I'm really doing it."

What did you think of reaction to the show?
Well, none of us got any hassle. We got a lot of attention in the street, but people have to be deranged to have a go. They're not going to come up to you and say "I think you're a knob." It really took off in America - everyone who saw it loved it.

Did you do any research for the role?
No I didn't. I did speak to Russell (Davies, the writer) about things I was confused about. I mean, I didn't know what rimming was, I didn't a lot of stuff because I'd had no contact with the gay world. On the first night of filming everyone went to Canal Street (Manchester's gay village), but it didn't do it for me.

What did your girlfriend think?
She called me a big faggot and laughed.

Are men better kissers than women?
Nah, they're just the same - stubble's the only difference. I've had girlfriends that were powerful, aggressive kissers. I only kissed two guys in the show so I haven't a lot to go on.

Did you think about going over to the gay side?
Well ... no. There are different rules, I think. I guess it makes it easier to cop off ... But it doesn't attract me at all. I'm glad I'm not gay.

What's your type?
Someone who makes me laugh, laughs at my very bad jokes, someone I can have fun with. I've fallen in love with this amazing girl from America. For the first time I'm not interested in anyone else, which is a little bit bizarre. Normally (he looks around), if I'm in a bedroom with three scantily-clad women, I'd be like a dog on heat.

Has your role in the show stopped you getting adverts?
I have done ads before. If my back was against the wall and I was down to my last tin of beans, it would be stupid to say I wouldn't do ads. Beats working in McDonald's, dunnit?

Do people assume you're gay?
I guess so. I think stupid people do. People do buy into TV. That's why it's so powerful and has such a great effect. I don't think people should watch me and think I go round rimming boys.

Moody, loft-dwelling, jeep-driving bed-hopper. With a kid.

Did it bother you that Stuart was gay?
I didn't have any reservations, I purely wanted to play the character. I didn't think about the sexual orientation of the character. That wasn't really an issue.

What did you think of reaction to the show?
I wasn't around when it was broadcast, I was in America and I didn't get the full impact. But people still come up and talk about it all the time. It's a pain in the arse really.

Did you do any 'research' for the role?
None at all. I don't ever.

Did you think about giving 'gay' a spin?
No. Canal Street bored me, to be honest. When we first started filming around there we hung out a bit, but you get bored - it's too small.

What did your girlfriend think?
She really liked the show as far as I know. It wasn't a problem. I haven't had any adverse reactions at all. I thought I'd be accused of corrupting people's children or something.

Are men better kissers than women?
I kissed quite a few guys in the series - some were all right, some weren't.

What's your type?
I have a partner and a kid. I don't want to start advertising for types.

Has your role in the show stopped you getting adverts?
I'd never do an advert for anything.

Supermarket supervisor, who likes checking out fresh produce.

What was your first job?
Working with Harvey Keitel on a film called Young Americans. I've done loads of different stuff: period drama, theatre, Casualty. I had a small part in Titanic as a morse code operator.

Did you expect the series to take off?
I didn't think my face would be on so many things. Someone asked me to endorse a packet of 'limited-edition' QAF condoms. And no, I don't really like to think whether the person used them.

Are men better kissers than women?
It's pretty much the same, a pair of lips. I did get some stubble rash at one point and had to put aloe vera on my face to calm it down. At the end of the day, it's just technical.

Were the crew asked to leave for certain scenes?
No, not for the snogging. But it was a closed set for the other two when they were doing naked stuff.

Ever tempted to 'experiment' yourself?
You've got to be careful - you can't generalise. There's a lot of straight lads who go clubbing all the time, have casual sex. It's the individual's choice. Vince isn't like every gay man. Some are like him, some aren't.

Do people assume you're gay?
No, I don't think they do. If anyone does, I don't care. So what?

What will we see you in next?
I'm meeting Tom Hanks next week for the sequel to Saving Private Ryan. Someone in Hollywood saw Queer as Folk and liked it. And I've just done a short film with Sue Johnston (Barbara from The Royle Family) called Questionnaire.
Betrayed at the last by P J Harvey, the actor is haunted by a bleak, yet strangely sexy, feeling that Portentous Polly will prove to be his undoing ...
What are you reading in bed?

- The John Fante Reader. I came to Fante through Charles Bukowski who is a favourite of mine. Both are kind of outsider American writers. I've got a couple of other books on the go too. Robert Mitchum's biography Baby I Don't Give a Damn and Errol Flynn's autobiography My Wicked, Wicked Ways. But I spend more time making up stories in bed than reading.

What book have you been meaning to read?

- I've had an Albert Camus biography on my shelf for about five years that I haven't got round to yet.

Do you ever re-read books?

- No. If I really like a book I usually give it away to someone and probably never see it again. I like people to give me books too.

What's the soundtrack to your life right now?

- I'm listening to Sufjan Stevens. It's kind of brittle music, like Nick Drake. When you listen closely you hear the songs are about Moses and Abraham and Jesus. So I like well-crafted, gentle songs. I also like loud-as-fuck music - so I'm listening to My Bloody Valentine.

Who should play you in the Hollywood version of your life? And who would be your nemesis in the last reel?

- John Garfield. He'd have to come back for one last gig to do it. I think I look a bit like him. The nemesis would have to be someone pretty and dangerous. A lady maybe. P J Harvey. We'd go way back. We'd be ex-lovers. It would be a Judas kiss.

What is your ideal alternative job?

- Lying on a pier in south-east Mexico counting clouds. We'd have to create that position.

Do you have a hole in your cultural life?

- I've only been to one opera and I haven't seen any ballet. But I look forward to it when I do.

Which painting most corresponds with your vision of yourself?

- You know those mass-produced pictures of crying boys? I feel like that sometimes. Cheap, bruised.

What was your cultural passion when you were 14?

- Around that time I started acting in plays. I didn't go on about it too much to my friends or at school. I know one of my teachers was surprised when he went to see a play at the Project Art Centre in Dublin about the heroin scene and I walked on stage huffing a bag of silver paint. It was quite a rough start. I didn't know much about how to behave myself on stage. There were a lot of syringes lying around back stage which we'd carry round like airguns which would unnerve everybody. One of the more senior actors taught me a lesson with a hard, open-hand slap across the face. So I was meeting a lot of interesting people and some degenerates too. Hanging out in bars, running around the streets. The city was completely different then.

What is your secret passion now?

- I go out at night dressed up as an old lady. Well, I don't really. But if I had a secret passion that's what it'd be. She'd glare at people out of the shadows.

Do you like parties?

- I certainly do. And I don't get invited to half enough. I'll always be in the kitchen and I'll always have my coat on. I like having parties too. Getting the place ready. Hiding the good furniture. Sorting out the music. Starting the party three hours before everybody else gets there. Wondering where everybody is.

What is the most fashionable thing you own? And the most uncool?

- I have a pair of runners - or trainers, as you call them over here - which I recently saw high up in a glass case in a trainer shop. They've achieved classic status apparently. The most uncool? Probably my chipped pink Prada shades.

Are you yourself cool?

- Asking oneself that question definitely isn't cool.

Your house is on fire - what object do you save?

- Pictures and things that my kids drew. There's one my daughter did of a rat that's really cool.

You die and go to heaven - who would you most like to meet in the bar?

- Well, you're in for the long haul there. So you'd want someone entertaining, Brendan Behan.

And what question would you ask first?

- How did you get in here? And where the hell's everybody else?

At this time, Aidan was performing in Someone Who'll Watch Over Me at the Ambassadors Theatre, London.
Interview with Aidan Gillen, Craig Kelly and Charlie Hunnam as Queer as Folk uk (season 2) is about to be shown on British TV.

It's not often that a drama series grips an entire nation.  But when Channel 4 ran giant teasers in prime billboard spots last February with 'How much fun can three boys have together?' and 'The whole sex thing sorted' as eye-catching slogans to a new series called Queer as Folk, about three gay men living in Manchester, they knew they were on to a winner.

We all tuned in.  (memo - no we didn't,  grrrr)  Despite the critics' efforts to moan about the show's inclusion of - gasp! - full-on gay sex scenes ('EastBenders!' screamed the tabloids) and underage sex to boot (gay rights campaigners complained the show portrayed gay men as sex maniacs), over 50 per cent of the viewers were women.  Madonna fought tooth and nail to get a tape of the series sent to her in LA after it was deemed too risque for the US small screen.  So enamoured was she of Charlie Hunnam, the 19-year- old ex Byker Grove boy (Newcastle's answer to Leonardo DiCaprio) who plays Nathan, that she invited him to dinner at her Hollywood pad.  Twice.

'It was crazy,'  recalls Charlie of his Madonna experience.  'I'd only been in LA for a couple of days when I got a call from this agent saying "Hey, Charlie.  How 'd'you like to meet Madonna?"  And I was like "Yeah, yeah, whatever".  And he was like "No, really".  So anyway I got in this taxi and I thought it would be really funny to get her a present, so I got her a Wonder Woman Pez.  I turned up 40 minutes late at this dinner party with all these hugely famous people like Gwyneth Paltrow - and I walked in looking really scruffy with this Pez in my hand.  Probably the most embarrassing moment of my life.'

Elsewhere in Hollywood,  agents and publicists were holding provate screenings of the entire eight hours of QAF in one epic Gone with the Wind-esque swoop and the audiences were giving it standing ovations.  Within weeks Joel Schumacher had committed to direct a two-hour version of the show set in New Jersey.  Back home, girls and boys were talking about it more than This Life, EastEnders and Friends rolled together.  (memo - what was I doing??)  And gripped us it had.  Literally, by the balls.

Channel 4 wasted no time commissioning 10 more episodes.  But when QAF's creator, screenwriter Russell T Davies, put pen to paper he insisted there were only two more juicy hours to be written.  The content of QAF2 is being treated like a state secret.  We do know there's a wedding at the end, a major twist to the finale and untold steamy moments.  A spin-off series is also in development.  So that's something, then.

'I can totally see why women loved it so much,' says QAF producer Nicky Schindler.  'It's about unrequited love which is something nearly all of us have experienced countless times.  It's also about being in love with your best friend and it's about young, sexy, exciting, intelligent and sensitive men.'

Incidental, then, that the protagonists are all gay?

'Yes, but to be honest that's not bad for female viewers to relate to,' says Schindler, who was thrilled that the main characters add up to what she considers the ideal man - one's ragingly sexy, one's deeply sensitive and the other's open-minded and spontaneous.

'Women love to watch men who feel safe.  It's the same reason boy bands are popular with young girls - it's the hint of sex without anyone having a penis.'  But to add an even queerer twist to the scenario, all three actors - Charlie,  Aidan Gillen and Craig Kelly - are straight.

'When we cast the show we never asked (them) if they were gay,'  says Davis of the audition process.  'It's probably illegal to do that anyway.'  For blue-eyed ex Casualty star Craig Kelly,  landing the part of Vince - the sensitive one who's in love with his best friend Stuart - was down to a convincing misunderstanding.  'My audition was with Aidan and I was a bit nervous,'  recalls Craig, 28, who also made a fleeting appearance as the stressed -out Morse code operator in Titanic.  'We didn't know each other.  Then Aidan gave me a big smacker on the lips and I can remember feeling his stubble and,  because I hadn't read the script properly,  it was a bit like  "Woah!  I wasn't expecting that".  There was this awkwardness between us that worked brilliantly on screen.'

Aidan laughs at this tale.  'It felt strange for Craig because he had a different draft of the script,'  says the smouldering Irish star who made a name for himself in Antonia Bird's Safe and caught the QAF teams's eye in Jez Butterworth's Mojo.

'My script read  "Stuart chew's on Vince's lip", or something like that, and his didn't.  I just launched into it,  doing my bit in the script in my usual shambled way of muddling through a screen test which I'm crap and terrible at.'

For Aidan, Craig and Charlie, the on-screen chemistry turned them into sex symbols overnight.  Charlie was whisked off to LA and is shooting a Gus Van Sant film about surfers;  Aidan is fast becoming the UK's answer to Sean Penn with appearances in Buddy Boy and The Low Down, and as for Craig Kelly,  'If I get to do one script a year as great as QAF,  then I'll be really happy,'  he says refusing to be drawn on an exciting Channel 4 project he's due to star in, in case he 'hexes it'.

But how did it feel to be straight boys made sexy playing gay?

'Anyone can be a sex symbol these days, it seems,'  says Craig modestly.  'If you're on telly and you breathe you become a fucking sex symbol.  I mean it's really nice but if I actually sat up and took it seriously I don't think my head would fit through the door.'

For Aidan, who lives in Ireland with his wife and young daughter,  it's a bit more scary.  The last batch of fan mail he recieved went straight on a bonfire in the back garden.  'I burned it in a big pile and the ashes blew away on a north wind,'  he says, laughing at how dramatic he sounds.  And for Charlie, who plays the 15 -year-old boy coming loudly out of the closet,  becoming a sex symbol was exciting and daunting.

'I didn't hesitate for a second,'  says Charlie as he puts the finishing touches to a Basquiat-esque painting - it's a hobby he loves passionately when he's off camera.  'The moment I read the script I knew that if I got it,  it would be the start of my career.  Whether gay or straight, the sex in Queer as Folk is pretty explicit.  And to be honest I was concerned about whether things would be all right when I'd done the first series, as people do take TV really really seriously.  There are some insane people out there and I was worried that I'd have to duck down a bit.  There was only one incident with this huge guy at a train station, who shouted at me saying I should be ashamed of myself polluting young people's minds with this filth.  I just walked away. 

Shooting the sex scenes was a huge learning curve for Charlie.  'I wasn't relishing the prospect of having to get my kit off in front of the whole crew,'  he giggles.  'I mean, I wasn't so worried about the sex,  it was just I thought  "Oh my God...".  It was a closed set and basically did a full day of sex - the shower scene, the wanking scene - all the stuff at Stuart's flat and all that crazy crazy stuff.  The make-up people had to come in and spray water and rub Vaseline on us to make us look sweaty.  It was ridiculous!'

Aidan, meanwhile, claims to be an old hand at nude scenes.  'There's a certain sluttishness to acting but I've done sex scenes too much now to find it strange,'  he says.  'And in this instance I was surprised by women loving it so much.  I didn't know who'd be watching - maybe the viewers were watching for the same reasons that I was doing it.  And it hasn't all been just girls, y'know...'

And maybe that's the point of Queer as Folk.  As Aidan says, 'Gay drama has previously been really preachy and issue-based.  But this isn't.  It's so bold and real that you just have to watch it.  It's incendiary and provocative and totally great drama.'

We'll drink to that.
Robert Simpson talks to Aidan Gillen about his latest feature Wake Wood, the first Hammer horror film to be shot in Ireland.

In this eerie new Irish feature - due to screen at JDIFF - the parents of a girl killed by a savage dog are granted the opportunity to spend three days with their deceased daughter. Aidan Gillen (The Wire, Queer as Folk) took on the role of Patrick, the grieving father.

What attracted you to the role of Patrick? Is horror a genre you have a particular desire to work in?

- Well I've definitely been along the borders of horror before, in Mark Hanlon's US indie
BUDDY BOY about ten years back, although 'freakshow' might more accurately describe what
was going on there - and I like that film a lot. Some of my favourite films have been
horrors - The Shining, The Exorcist, Don't Look Now. It's not a genre I'd consider
gimmicky or different from any good drama in any way when it comes to the essentials,
because good horror is usually rooted in real human experience and anxiety, like a kid
having a difficult adolescence or dealing with a family break-up or the loss of a loved
one or a not-so-much-loved one, or unfinished business with same... Actually, even real-
life hauntings tend to be centred round those same kinds of things too, right? It's
like the horror story is an amplified version of the darker things we can experience in
real life. I think we like to have the Jesus scared out of us and then be able to walk
out of the cinema feeling that at least nothing that bad is ever going to happen to us.

As far as the Patrick role goes, I liked the idea of someone getting into a situation
they know is ridiculous and impossible and against logic but impossible to turn down.
He loves his wife and wants to see her smile again. And the fact that Eva Birthistle
would be playing that wife (Laura) was important because she's one of the best around.

Whilst this isn't the first film to be released by the newly revived Hammer Films label, it was the first feature put into production by the company. Was this something you were aware of, and how do you feel to be a part of that canon now?

- No, when I first came on board with this I didn't know of Hammer's involvement. So it
wasn't about that. I was intrigued enough when I heard, of course, being familiar with the
old Hammer horrors, which are genuinely creepy even if they're lurid and camp. Actually,
that's one of the things that makes them creepy. In fact, one of the first films I
remember seeing was a horror - The House on Haunted Hill. It opens with a shot of a
chandelier with a voiceover, 'My wife is throwing a party... There will be food, drink,
ghosts... and maybe a few murders.' The chandelier starts to vibrate, to shake and cue me
shitting the bed, for that's where I was watching it, my parents' bed and that's how
scared I was. I was about four years old.

Some time ago we shot a film (Jez Butterworth's MOJO) in Bray Studios near Windsor where a
lot of the Hammers were shot and there were portraits of all the guys on the wall - Peter
Cushing, Christopher Lee, all with fangs and capes and all the rest of it. And it kind of
helped with our own vibe. That place is haunted. So, yeah, I'm fine with the Hammer
association. I've seen 'Let Me In' (which was the first theatrical release of the 'new'
Hammer company) and thought it was a pretty good remake, better than people were expecting,
I'd say.

How different is working on something like Wake Wood to the rigours of a TV series such as The Wire?

- Well, I would see any acting gig as essentially the same but between those two, the workload
(if you can call it that) was different in that The Wire was such a multi-stranded story.
I think I was only shooting an average of 1.5 days a week wheras I was there most of the
time on Wake Wood. And of course actors always want to be there every day...

An obvious difference is that there was more money and possibly a little more time (but
only just) to spend on The Wire. By the way, Wake Wood production designer John Hand worked
wonders with the budget he had, and a lot of credit must go to him for pulling off what he
did in style. I think anyone who sees it is at least impressed with what they see in terms
of purple jelly and burning cocoons.

Much of Wake Wood was shot in Pettigo. What was it like filming there?

- I wasn't familiar with Pettigo before we went up there to do this. I Google-Imaged it and
the first thing I got was a picture of a group of guys huddled in the woods in the snow
with guns in the 1950s. I thought it looked like an interesting enough place - I knew it
was in Donegal of course, but what I didn't know was the border cut it right down the
middle. It's actually one tiny town divided in two. If you're driving in for the first
time from Donegal town direction like I was, your approach brings you over a lot of moor
and bog. You feel it's an appropriate enough setting for a story where all kinds of weird
things might be going on in a town, but no-one outside is too aware of it because it's out
of the way and not many people are passing through. There was paint and plaster peeled off
a row of buildings in some bomb blast ages ago and it was all left like that, which was
eerie enough.

I asked could they put me up in an out-of-the-way place and they didn't disappoint - I got
a cottage on Lough Erne near the town of Kesh on the Fermanagh side, a town with more
Union Jacks hanging in it that I've ever seen anywhere and a Chinese takeaway. Well my
place was a couple of miles outside of there, with no one else nearby except for Eva, who
was a couple of houses away. I used to feel my way over in the dark to borrow a cup of
sugar or, in one instance, a frying pan. Staying there got me in the horror mood. Also the
locals were great, turning out in great style for the procession scenes to parade through
the town with black feathers in their hats and playing frog sounds on their weird percussion

You were partly responsible for the casting of Ella Connolly in the pivotal role of your daughter. Can you tell us how that came about, and your experience of working with her?

- I know Ella's parents and while we were on the beach in Kerry a couple of months before the
film, Ella did a few Taekwon-Do moves (she's since become European or World Champion in her
class). When you do that stuff you have an intensity in your eyes and it probably
demonstrates that you're awake, disciplined and would be able to karate-chop a cow - all
things which would be necessary for whoever was going to play Alice. She was the right age,
looked right and had been around some film sets. I asked if they'd thought of her - I think
Maureen Hughes (casting director) had indeed thought of her already, I'm not entirely sure -
but she came in and they said 'yes'. I think looseness is a good thing in the casting
process, getting people off the streets etc, particularly with kids, I mean, where else are
you going to get them? Depends on the kind of project though, I suppose. Because I knew
Ella already (and because she's a warm, open kid anyway) there was a relaxed vibe. She was
very good in the role, plus it was fun to see a kid be wrung through the mill and come out
of it all jaded and longing for a career in the Civil Service by the age of nine and a

Wake Wood was filmed in 2008 - with the benefit of hindsight is there anything you'd do differently with regards your portrayal?

- Whenever you see something afterwards, regardless of whether it was shot in 2008 or 2010,
there's always something you'd want to do differently. This is obvious, but unless you're
making it yourself you've no idea how it's going to be cut together and you'll think you
were doing one kind of thing but it actually appears that you're doing another. Generally,
the thing I wish about things retrospectively is that I had done them better.

Wake Wood has allusions to, among other things, genre favourites The Wicker Man, Don't Look Now, The Monkey's Paw. The loss of a child's life is central to all. How do you feel that works with audiences of horror cinema, and do you think you'd go to the same lengths as Patrick and Louise?

- Yeah, The Whicker Man. I love that (the original, the director's cut. Had very bad dreams
when I saw that). I don't know The Monkey's Paw. Like I was saying earlier, the loss of a
child either in actuality or through possession like in Poltergeist, The Exorcist or The
Omen is a common enough set-up in horror. Probably because it's one of the worst things we
can imagine happening to us, our vulnerable kids being taken away and we're not able to do
anything about it. It probably plays on our own reluctance to let them go out of our care.
I think any parent would do anything they had to for their kid, absolutely anything. Even
if it seemed crazy and ridiculous, but it's pretty unlikely for most of us that we'll
ever have to call on the Black Arts!
Eammon: We have the actor Aidan Gillen in the studio, never one to shy away from a challanging role, QAF launched you on our screens in the UK, I suppose, then he popped up in The Wire (not very many bad words to say about the Wire).....
Aidan: Not many bad words.....
Eammon: (talking over Aidan) A lot of bad words in it, I suppose!
Aidan: Yeah (smiles)

Eammon: Here is a sample of what makes him one of Ireland's finest actors:

Clips shown - The Wire, Identity, Blitz, GoT, Blackout

Eammon: You know what, you're a very versatile actor, I have to say, with very versatile hair. Is that hair your own Aidan?
Aidan: (smiles, laughs) Yeah, it's my hair.
Eammon: Amongst the compilation there in this amazing range for you, what I'm most proud of is how Belfast seems to have become the movie capital of the world, GoT for instance, amongst many productions, is it the interiors mostly filmed there?
Aidan: It's like all the interiors and some of the exteriors. The Northern Ireland film commission did a great job in attracting huge productions like GoT, which is a huge production and Your Highness, another movie that was out recently among other things. Whatever initatives they threw out, y'know they've created this massive boost, I suppose, to the local economy, which is great for Belfast and great for NI as well.
Eammon: You walk around the place and you bump into people like Sean Bean....You're a Dublin boy aren't you?
Aidan: I'm from Dublin, yeah, so I hadn't spent that much time in Belfast before and I spent a good chunk of the latter half of last year up there and I loved it.
Eammon: (Talking about characters he plays) How do you release yourself from that character, how do you wind down and reidentify yourself?
Aidan: Well, personally, usually the second we finish the last take of the last scene or whatever, I just forget about it, if I can, until maybe I have to talk about it, like now. But um, I get into it and then just forget about it.
Eammon: Do they bring you back down to Earth easily (Dubliners, being in Dublin)?
Aidan Yee-ah, well I am quite a down to earth person, yeah, Dubliners are good for that, my family is good for that. I've never er, found myself in any elevated position anyway, but y'know they'll tell you what they think, which is good. Which is good. (smiles).
Female presenter: New film out today, you play a serial cop killer. Tell us about Barry.
Aidan: Barry is a quite wild, er, reckless kid, like an overgrown kid on a crazy sugar rush. Um, but he's a psychotic, you know, um, I was playing a cop at the time when I read this script. I was playing a cop in the ITV series Identity and and er, just looked like something I'd like to go on to next, to get back onto the other side of the (line) ......

Eammon interrupts with a clip

Eammon: Why does he hate cops so much?
Aidan: (smirks, pauses)
Eammon: There must be some reason why he wants to kill them?
Aidan: Yeah, he's just had a lot of run ins with the cops. One of the things that informed me about this character, which is in a novel, er,um, is that he's an actor, a failed actor, he's a guy who's looking for attention, he's always getting into trouble, y'know he's had some experience of the cops, there is history with Brant (Jason Statham) which goes back from a few years back so there is a bit of resentment.
Female presenter: I'm sure parts come thick and fast for you now with all the success you've had, but you say you really wanted this part, you auditioned for it?
Aidan: Yeah, I really wanted it, yeah.
Female presenter: You don't have to do it very often (audition)?
Aidan: Not for everything, no, maybe like for 50% of things I do I'll go in and read for. If it's something that it doesn't look like you're gonna get you have to go in and try and get it but I find that kind of way of arriving and playing a part, quite satisfying, I don't like to be just, y'know. The stuff that's gonna come your way might be of a certain type, you know, you play a certain part you're gonna get parts like that. I don't think I would have been on top of anyone's list to play that part and I really wanted to play it, so I went after it.
Eammon: Is there like a creepy side to you, like can you show that, what have you gotta show in an audition, I mean you're a quiet fella, you're quietly spoken, you seem quite a shy fella...
Aidan smiles and chuckles
Eammon:....You've then gotta convince these guys at auditions that there's
a complete other side to you.
Aidan: Um, yeah, s'not me though....
Woman: It's called acting, darling(?) Laughs.
Aidan: (smiles) I didn't say that!... Yeah yeah, I enjoy playing those parts, I enjoy letting rip and er, y'know getting into a kind of, er, getting into the wildness of other people. That's not my life.

Eammon shows pictures of Littlefinger/Peter Mandelson (creepy Britsh Labour politian, very clever, both with moustaches).

Eammon: Is this true that Peter Mandelson had a big influence on you for this?
Aidan: It is true, yeah, um, you know, establishing a look for a character that's like this for something that's potentially going to go on for quite a while, it's based on a series of six novels, it's quite an epic undertaking. This character, Littlefinger is, y'know around a lot, so you have to get the look right, you gotta sign off on something that's gonna work. Pause. I identified more with him (Peter Mandelson), what he does and who he is, y'know, he was referred to as the Prince of Darkness....
Eammon: We've got to leave it there, my friend, we gotta ..........

Cuts to the News.