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Charting His Own Path:
An Interview with Darryl Stephens, Star of
Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom

Written by William S. Gooch

Click here for William S. Gooch's review of Noah’s Arc:
Jumping the Broom

Opposite Photo Credit:
John Skalinsky

A friend of mine told me about Noah’s Arc toward the end of its first season on the Logo channel. Convinced that I didn’t need to see an African American Queer As Folk, I decided to take a pass. (A black version of emotionally underdeveloped, crisis-ridden men; nah, not for me.) After much buzz and hoopla on several blogs about Noah’s Arc, I decided to give the series a shot. To my surprise Noah’s Arc was a new and refreshing look at how black gay men balance love, career, family, and loving their gay selves.

Cast member Darryl Stephens (Noah) immediately got my attention for his ability to portray this proud, gay character with honesty, wit and elegance. Whether deciding not to compromise his literary integrity for fast bucks or vacillating over romantic options, we were always confident that Noah, marching to his own drum, would discover what was right and true for him.

With his matinee looks and uncanny ability to get inside the skin of a character, we can’t wait to see what’s next for Darryl Stephens. Like the character Noah, we are confident that his career choices will be interesting, honorable, and uniquely his own.

William S. Gooch: Where were you born and where did you attend school?

Darryl Stephens: I grew up in the Altadena and Pasadena areas of Los Angeles and attended UC Berkeley.

William S. Gooch: Why did you become an actor?

Darryl Stephens: I took an acting class at Berkeley to break up the monotony of my sociology and ethnic studies course load. During my first semester in acting class I did one play and more the next semester. Later on I joined an acting troupe, which led to doing some theatre in San Francisco. Acting wasn’t something I planned on doing as a profession, it just happened.

William S. Gooch: Tell me about the theatre group, Sassymouth, that you were a part of at UC Berkeley?

Darryl Stephens: John Fischer was the writer/director of Sassymouth, and he worked with actors at UC Berkeley. We did gay, socio-politically themed plays and musicals. Some of the work was very campy, but from an academic perspective.

William S. Gooch: Which performance medium to prefer, stage, screen or both?

Darryl Stephens: I appreciate live stage performance, but performing in film and television is where my focus is now.

William S. Gooch: How did you get the role of Noah in the Logo series, Noah’s Arc?

Darryl Stephens: A friend of mine forwarded me an e-mail about an open call for the show. I submitted my headshot and resume online and auditioned for the role of Dwayne, a store clerk in Ricky’s store. That character was only supposed to be in one episode. I actually booked that role. Patrick Ian-Polk, the creator of the series, after auditioning a bunch of actors for the role of Noah decided to change some of the casting around, and based on what he saw felt I was better suited for the role of Noah.

William S. Gooch: What has been the viewing public’s response to your character on Noah’s Arc?

Darryl Stephens: Overall, the public response that I have been made aware of has been very positive. It is always rewarding when a fan comes up to me and says that because of Noah’s Arc they were able to come out to their family. Surprisingly, women make up a big part of our core audience.

William S. Gooch: Did you feel that playing a gay character in a series could impede or hurt your career?

Darryl Stephens: When I accepted the role that was not my concern. I was interested in doing varied characters and the character of Noah was different from any character I had portrayed at that time. However, each choice you make as actor has an impact on your career. Episodic characters are very different from characters you play in film because over time the audience assumes that they really know you. I have been privy to conversations that casting directors have had with my agent telling him that at auditions I should be different from my character on Noah’s Arc; in other words, ‘butch it up.’ I think it will take a bold casting director to cast me in a role that is diametrically different from Noah.

William S. Gooch: Is your characterization of Noah based on a composite of people you know or is it your own organic response to the character?

Darryl Stephens: It is a combination of both. I have interacted with people who like Noah are fiercely proud of being gay. In the beginning of the series, Noah was the least emotionally formed of all the characters. And even though he has his own fashion style and a clear sense of himself, he has a ways to go emotionally. Because of Patrick-Ian Polk’s brilliant writing, I was comfortable playing to the emotionally challenged, vulnerable side of Noah.

William S. Gooch: The backdrop for the movie Noah’ Arc: Jumping the Broomis gay marriage. Does the film’s perspective on gay marriage align with your view on the subject?

Darryl Stephens: The way the film presents gay marriage is to look at why people get married in the first place. The film is not about whether gays should have the legal right to get married, but about the strength of character one needs to commit to someone. My perspective on marriage is that if people are in love they should have the legal right to marry whom they choose. Now if religious groups have issues with defining gay unions as marriage then give it another name, call it ‘jumping the broom.’ In this country slaves where considered property and marriages were not deemed legitimate, so the ‘jumping the broom’ ceremony was the slaves’ way of legitimizing their marriage; hence the title of this film.

William S. Gooch: I have been made aware that Noah’s Arc will not be coming back for a third season, how do you feel about that?

Darryl Stephens: I have had time to make my peace with Noah’s Arc not coming back. We were working on the feature film for about two years and in that time period we were conscious of the fact that the series might not come back for another season. The film is like the final chapter to the series.

William S. Gooch: What is next for Darryl Stephens?

Darryl Stephens: I have a minor role in the jazz biopic Bolden. Bolden is a period piece that takes place around 1905. Anthony Mackie plays Buddy Bolden, a jazz musician who influenced Louis Armstrong. I play Freddie Louis, a cornet player in Buddy Bolden’s band. The film is directed by Dan Pritzker and comes out in 2010.

William S. Gooch: Thank you so much for your time Darryl; this was a lot of fun.

Darryl Stephens: Yes, I enjoyed it also.

Noah’ Arc: Jumping the Broom opens in major theatres on October 24, 2004.

Noah’ Arc: Jumping the Broom stars Darryl Stephens, Jenson Atwood, Rodney Chester, Christian Vincent, Doug Spearman, Jonathan Julian, Gary Leigh Gray, Tonya Pinkins, and Phoebe Snow.



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