Leap of faith: fans of Logo's Noah's Arc cried foul when the network canceled the landmark series. Can a feature film version of the show win them back?[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
NOAH'S ARC: JUMPING THE BROOM
DIRECTED BY Patrik-Ian Polk
STARRING Darryl Stephens, Douglas Spearman, and Jensen Atwood
IT'S BEEN OVER TWO YEARS since the second-season finale of Noah's Arc aired, a few months after which Logo quietly decided not to bring the series back for a third season. Creator Patrik-Ian Polk subsequently threw his energy into crafting the big-screen spin-off, Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom, but he still draws a blank when asked why the cable network canceled what was arguably its best-known scripted show. "If you talk to the cast, they'll tell you the same thing," he says. "We don't completely understand it."
The cancellation was a major blow to the show's fans too-many of them gay men of color who gravitated to the series because it was the first to center around people in whom they recognized themselves. Some of those fans speculated in the comment areas of blogs like Rod McCullom's Rod 2.0 that Logo might be following in the footsteps of once fledgling networks like Fox, the WB, and Showtime, which had black-focused programming at their inception but whitewashed their schedules as time went on. But Logo president Brian Graden insists that diversity remains the gay channel's guiding concept, pointing to its new racially mixed reality series Shirts & Skins about a team of gay basketball players. "The feature film helped us make more noise around Noah than we possibly could have for a third season," he says, adding, "I have a personal fondness for [Noah's Arc]. It's the very first show I oversaw at Logo."
Jumping the Broom (the subtitle refers to a slave-era marriage ritual) will be Logo's first foray into feature films; for Polk, it's a chance to take his series to the next level. The movie picks up two years after the show ended, with boyfriends Noah (Darryl Stephens) and Wade (Jensen Atwood) arriving at Martha's Vineyard to marry under Massachusetts state law--that is, if Noah's warring friends don't get in the way of the wedding. All the actors from the original series return, with the addition of Cosby Show alum Gary LeRoi Gray as Brandon, a young man looking to Noah's circle of friends for guidance.
Polk says that the Brandon character helps the film explore what he sees as a treacherous environment for young gay men just now coming out of the closet. Initially brought into the group by the promiscuous Ricky, semi-closeted Brandon is still trying to navigate what it means to be young, black, and gay in a society that has narrow definitions of what it means to be male. "[Many gay people] have this sort of glorification of all things hypermasculine. Suddenly, everything that's femme or stereotypically gay becomes bad," he says. "I think the younger gay men are really struggling with that."
The flamboyant Noah is meant to provide a reprieve from that attitude. "He is bold in a way that I think a lot of men aren't really comfortable with," says actor Stephens. "He's not afraid to be fabulous." In fact, that very fabulousness provides the movie with its most striking scene, in which a drunk Wade confesses to Brandon that he still worries what people think of him when they see him with the more feminine Noah.
Polk balks at the criticism that Noah's flamboyance is stereotypical. "Real men are the ones who choose not to hide their sexuality, wear it proudly, and hold their head up high to accept whatever society throws at them," he explains, adding that bloggers like McCullom (whose recaps of Noah's Arc often poked fun at the characters' lack of masculinity) represent a "small group of men who clearly have issues that they're dealing with. If they really look at the show in a realistic way, they'd see that these are not stereotypes. Anytime you have a character--I don't care how flamboyant he is-who has a fully realized life, a professional life, a personal life, who's loving and has friends, that's not a stereotype."
The jury's still out on whether the potential success of Jumping the Broom might lead to more Noah's Arc sequels (Graden says he's open to the idea, though he admits he hasn't really thought about it). But for now, Polk is proud enough of the film to let it stand on its own. "It's hard for me to be upset about the decision not to move forward with the third season when I feel that the film has potential to expand even beyond what we saw on the TV show," he says. "If this is the last chapter, it's a nice way to go out."