Legendary arts show, The South Bank Show, returns to Sky Arts tomorrow (June 15) and one of the guests joining Melvin Bragg is Queer As Folk creator, Russell T Davis.
Here, Russell talks about how things have changed in terms of LGBT representation on TV and advice on how to become a writer like him.
How was your meeting with Melvyn on The South Bank Show?
It was a powerful time for me because it gave me a chance to visit old places, to remember old influences, the things and the people I’ve loved over the years. I actually found it quite humbling. We visited the drama teacher who first cast me in a school play when I was 11 and awakened my entire love of drama. To sit and have tea with her – she’s still going strong, she’s indomitable – was a truly moving experience.
How important is TV as a medium to you?
Well, it’s my job, and my passion, and my favourite thing. I know how lucky I am to combine all those things. I’m passionate about it, in all its shapes and forms, which doesn’t mean I’m blind to its pitfalls. But there are people queueing up to declare its pitfalls, night and day, so let me be its defender!
Do you think TV gets the credit it deserves within the arts world?
I think any area of the arts can bemoan its lot – if I were to complain about TV’s reputation, there would be poets and playwrights asking, what about us? Sometimes, I kind of like the fact that TV is treated with a healthy disrespect. It’s omnipresent, that TV set, burbling away in the home. It isn’t framed and given stature by an arch or a cover or a spotlight, so it’s taken for granted – but I think that’s one of its strengths, too, and when it rises up and takes us by surprise, there’s nothing like it.
You wrote Queer as Folk 17 years ago, and Cucumber, Banana and Tofu just recently. Have you noticed any changes in the portrayal and representation of LGBT people on television in that time?
Well, it’s a constantly shifting thing – the laws change, and technology changes so that people’s experience of gay life is always taking new shapes. But at the end of the day, whether you’re male, female, cis, trans, straight, gay, bi, asexual, undecided or whatever, human emotion remains the same. So things change, but I’m fascinated by the way in which they stay the same.
What were the most challenging aspects of bringing Dr Who back to our screens?
I think the single greatest problem was the way the show had degraded in people’s memories. Unfairly, I think! As a fan, I knew it was always brilliant, but I could see that for the public, they remembered the cheap ephemera. So we had to awaken that old love, repair the memories, while at the same time presenting it to a new generation as completely new. Quite a juggling act! But I’m enormously proud of our success, every single day.
When did you discover you could make a living from writing for TV? Did you always want to write?
Well I’m still waiting for that living to come to an end – writers are as insecure as anyone! But yes, I think the urge to write was just innate – I was always writing, from right back when I was drawing in school and carving things into school desks – I used to cover my school desks so elaborately that the teachers didn’t tell me off, they loved it!
What advice can you give to an aspiring writer?
Write! Everyone talks about it. The ones who do it get ahead. Always remember, someone else started writing today, when you didn’t, so they’re ahead of you.
Russell T Davies appears on the South Bank Show on June 29 2016 at 8pm on Sky Arts