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Making the Bumpy Way Plain: Patrik-Ian Polk, Creator 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:
Duane Cramer

At first glance, Patrik-Ian Polk is just a gangly, round-the-way–looking brotha. His youthful face and calm demeanor belie his seasoned wisdom and fierce determination. Most young Hollywood directors/producers would never jeopardize their careers by being open about their sexual orientation. Well, Patrik-Ian Polk not only talks openly about his sexuality, he celebrates it. Believing that life is too short to be lived in a self-imposed prison of shame and fear, Patrik-Ian Polk through his films is helping all of us embrace our true self and find that perfect balance between self-love and love for others.

William S. Gooch: Why did you become interested in filmmaking?

Patrik-Ian Polk: I always liked watching television and movies, and I always wanted to work in that field. So when I was thinking about college, film and television was where my interest was, so that is what I majored in.

William S. Gooch: You are from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Has growing up in the South informed your films in any way?

Patrik-Ian Polk: I am sure it has in some way. Those southern influences do come into play in my next project, which is set in the South.

William S. Gooch: In the series Noah’s Arc and Noah’ Arc: Jumping the Broom, friendships seem to be just as important, if not more important than the gay subject matter. Could you comment on that?

Patrik-Ian Polk: Friendship in the gay community can be more important than friendships in other communities because of the isolation and rejection some gays might receive from their families. Your friends could very well become a makeshift family or sorts. In Noah’s Arc I wanted to show the dynamics of families of choice for gay black men.

William S. Gooch: In most films where there is a gay African American character, he or she is usually partnered with a white person. In Punks and Noah’s Arc you show people of color partnered with each other. Why that departure?

Patrik-Ian Polk: I have no judgment about mixed-race relationship; people love who they love. I’ve felt that black gay men and our relationships with each other weren’t well represented in film. Queer As Folk rarely, if ever, presented gay people of color so I felt that Noah’s Arc was an opportunity to show the dynamic of our relationships.

William S. Gooch: Unlike some gay films or mini-series, straight folks are an integral part of some of the storylines of Noah’s Arc. Was that a conscious choice or a reflection on your life and the gay people you know?

Patrik-Ian Polk: Integrating straight people into the storyline was not a conscious choice; it happened organically. It’s hard to develop main characters as well as supporting characters when the show is only thirty minutes long and eight episodes per season. If we had had more episodes we would have developed all the characters even more.

William S. Gooch: Would you consider Noah’s Arc a crossover hit?

Patrik-Ian Polk: I am not sure what constitutes a crossover hit. Initially, the show was targeted to a gay audience. But now the show has aired on Bet J, which brings in a different audience. Also, through word of mouth people have downloaded episodes and/or bought the boxed set of the show. So, to some extent we have crossed over.

William S. Gooch: Is Noah’s Arc coming back for another season?

Patrik-Ian Polk: There are currently no plans for Noah’s Arc to come back for another season. I suppose anything is possible, especially if the film does well. But, currently there are no plans for a third season.

William S. Gooch: The show has received some criticism from the African American gay community for having feminine characters that only reflect a West Hollywood gay lifestyle. How do you feel about those criticisms?

Patrik-Ian Polk: First, Noah’s Arc is only one television show. One show is not going to reflect every aspect of any community. We bear an unfair burden by being the only show of its kind, so folks want the show to be all things to all people. At the end of the day, every show is not for everybody. However, I can’t imagine there being a black gay show on television and me not watching it because the show doesn’t reflect every nuance my life.

William S. Gooch: Why did you choose gay marriage as the subject matter for Noah’ Arc: Jumping the Broom?

Patrik-Ian Polk: It felt like a natural place to go with the characters and if this was going to be the last chapter of the series, it seemed like a good note to go out on. I also wanted to put the gay marriage question in an African American setting.

William S. Gooch: Some African Americans gays feel that gay marriage is part of a white gay agenda that does not reflect their community or the way they live their lives. Did you take into consideration that some people might be turned off by the way you handle gay unions in the film?

Patrik-Ian Polk: Not really. I know some gay people who don’t believe in gay marriage. It’s really about where your priorities are. If you are still struggling to come out, then gay marriage may not be a priority for you. There is still a lot of internalized homophobia and shame in the gay community. When it comes to gay marriage, it is very simple for me, we are all citizens of this country and we should have the same rights as everyone else.

William S. Gooch: There are some issues around the gay lifestyle that you bring up in the film that some heterosexual people may not be familiar with, for example, feminine versus masculine, safer sex issues, etc. Why did you decide to include these issues in the movie?

Patrik-Ian Polk: I had Brandon, the young guy in the movie; bring up those issues because a lot of young gay folks are trying to figure it all out. I also wanted to show more mature gay men mentoring younger men around these issues. There is no blueprint on how to navigate some of these things. A lot of our young people don’t have information about the lifestyle, the community and what the possibilities are.

William S. Gooch: What do hope that people get from Noah’ Arc: Jumping the Broom, and what is next from Patrick-Ian Polk?

Patrik-Ian Polk: I hope the gay community can be entertained and learn from the film. Since this movie will probably be the last chapter for Noah’s Arc, I wanted audiences to see us go out on a high note. I hope the film opens the mind of the larger community to equality and acceptance. Also, if some very close-minded people happen to stumble across this film, I hope they learn something and shed some of their prejudices. My next film is an adaptation of the novel Blackbirds. It is a coming of age story about a black teenager growing in a small town in Mississippi. The lead character is coming to terms with his sexuality. It is bit edgier and more explicit than Noah’s Arc.

William S. Gooch: Thank you so much for your time and good luck with movie and your next project.

Patrik-Ian Polk: Thank you, this was fun.

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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