It’s been 17 years since actor Randy Harrison landed the role of young Justin Taylor on Showtime’s groundbreaking adaptation of the British gay drama, “Queer as Folk.” For five seasons, viewers watched as Justin became entangled in a sexual relationship with an older man, defied his homophobic parents and persevered the usual angst of youth.
Now nearly 40, the still youthful Harrison is wrapping up a year-long tour as the sexually charged Emcee in the Roundabout Theater Company’s gritty, Tony Award-winning production of Kander and Ebb’s “Cabaret,” opening on Tuesday, Jan. 10 at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale.
SFGN spoke with Harrison from the road, where he is eagerly anticipating a two-week winter sojourn in sunny South Florida.
SFGN: Many of our readers still remember you as the innocent Justin on “Queer as Folk.” What’s it like playing the Emcee?
Harrison: It’s a dream role. I first saw the production with Alan (Cumming) and Natasha Richardson in 1998 and fell in love with it…. I grew up with the movie and it’s an iconic role, every bit as satisfying as I hoped, and touring has been a fascinating experience.
You’ve been touring with the show for over a year. That has to be grueling.
It’s been an amazing way to see the country—and get to know the country—performing this piece in which I’m communicating so directly with the audience. It’s a politically-charged show, so it’s interesting seeing how they respond. Every city is different and every theater is different. But, it’s been an amazing growth opportunity. The role is physically, vocally and emotionally challenging. It was an amazing feeling to discover that I could do it and have the stamina to do eight shows a week. Florida is the beginning of my final six weeks of performing the role, so it’s going to be very emotional.
So, you’re looking forward to going home?
I’ll have been on the road a little over a year and I’ll be ready to go home. My home life has sort of fallen apart. You put your life on hold when you’re on the road this long.
“Cabaret” is set in the years leading up to World War II. Some have suggested that it is particularly relevant today, in light of the results of the recent election. Do you agree?
It’s extremely relevant. It always is, but especially at a time when our democracy feels like it is being dismantled. It happens quickly with devastating effects—political disengagement, a leader who uses hate and divides people, scapegoating minorities and religious minorities. It’s important to remind ourselves that this can happen anywhere and will happen again. You can never stop examining history.
Our readers may think of you primarily as a TV actor, but you have quite a long list of theater credits. Do you prefer one or the other?
I’d love to keep a mix of both, I love doing both. For an actor, it’s more creatively, artistically and financially stable to go back and forth. I’ll never stop doing theater, it’s my lifeblood. I grew up in theater…I do miss being in front of a camera. After a year that was so theatrical, I’m looking forward to doing something that’s a very different style.
What’s ahead for Randy Harrison?
I find that my life and the life of most creative professionals is unpredictable. The schedule…you suddenly work a ton and then you don’t work for a while. One thing I do when I’m unemployed or between jobs, I’m in classes, study music production, take French, something that gives me routine and consistency in my days. That’s been productive and also feeds my soul.
Randy Harrison stars as the Emcee in “Cabaret” at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale, Feb. 10 – 22. Tickets start at $35 at BrowardCenter.org.