Ten years ago today, history was made when Noah’s Arc premiered on Logo, a show that unabashedly depicted the lives of four gay African American friends and their coexisting lives in Los Angeles.
In a new interview with the Los Angeles Times, Darryl Stephens, who played the show’s protagonist Noah Nicholson, revealed that the success of the series was not at all premeditated within the industry, revealing that his agent had originally told him to turn down the role out of concern that man-on-man kissing would be “too gay” and could limit future roles.
You can be one or the other,” Stephens expressed. “You can be black or you can be gay. You can’t be both.”
Noah’s Arc writer/director Patrik Ian Polk weighed in, himself on the other side of the casting table.
“There’s the assumption that black folks are more homophobic than other folks,” he began. “I don’t think that’s true, but I think we are aware of limits this culture places on us as black men. We have 15 seconds to get our foot in the door and if we don’t, we’re in the dark forever. Black actors are very aware that they have to work hard at remaining commercially viable. It’s a matter of our own cultural hang-ups [both black culture and American culture] as well as lack of access to varied roles that keeps us locked in this fear of presenting anything that is not hypermasculine.”
Another factor, as noted by Polk, is the lack of “out” black celebrities. Though he recognizes the new wave, which includes Raven-Symoné, Jussie Smollett and Samira Wiley, he points out that the list does not stretch much further.
“I like the idea that Hollywood is at the forefront of these changes,” says Stephens, “but it think Hollywood is also very sensitive to the nation’s sentiments and wary [about what sells],” Stephens said. “I think it’s a similar issue with gay stories too, but because white men can be gay, Hollywood is a little more lenient in terms of pushing that envelope. The progress of the LGBT movement in Hollywood can be moved along as long as the face of the gay movement is white men.”