Brothers, sisters and a contrary uncle
IN CHANNEL 7 drama Brothers & Sisters, Kevin Walker is out and proud. The same can’t be said of Kevin’s uncle Saul, played by stage-and-screen veteran Ron Rifkin.
Saul struggles with his sexuality and that’s just fine by Rifkin (right) because the plotline has thrown him a welcome curve ball.
Asked if he’d prefer to play Saul as straight or gay, former Alias star Rifkin says: ‘‘Well, I think it’s much more interesting for a guy like me and a 65-year-old guy (Saul) to struggle with this dilemma and figure out some way to work it out.
‘‘It wasn’t until the end of season one that one of the writers said, ‘Who is Saul? Does he fit? He’s sort of the patriarch of the family now, but why isn’t he married?’
‘‘One of the writers said, ‘Maybe he’s gay’.
‘‘And I got a phone call from the writers asking how I felt about that, and I was, you know, very turned on and very excited about the possibility of exploring the world of a guy like that. That’s challenging for the writers, it’s challenging for an audience and it’s also challenging to me as an actor.’’
The show has won awards and critical acclaim for the cast’s slick, emotion-charged performances. It comes as a surprise to learn the show is produced at a cracking pace and plots and dialogue are sometimes constructed on the run.
Rifkin says the cast is often in the dark about the direction of the show.
‘‘It’s a very living, breathing process, and we as actors need to stay open to the possibility (of unexpected storylines) because they as writers need to stay open to what we feel and how we see our characters are changing.’’
It’s hard to believe that a show so successful had such troubled beginnings. The original Brothers & Sisters pilot was considered so flawed that some roles were recast and it was re-shot.
On the eve of the show’s launch in the US, few critics expected it to find an audience, let alone survive beyond a single season.
Rifkin says he’s amazed by the show’s wide demographic appeal.
‘‘Last night I had to do a charity thing and there were people there who were like 80 and 70 and 60, and then there were young Hollywood and rich people and poor people. I have to tell you that I got asked like 50 times am I gay,’’ Rifkin says.