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Best known for starring in the hit SyFy drama Eureka for half a decade—where he mostly wore a khaki sheriff uniform—Colin Ferguson will be guest-starring in TV Land's Happily Divorced, which is based on Fran Drescher's post-martial life after husband Peter Marc Jacobson came out.
On the show, Ferguson plays Peter's first boyfriend, Chris, whom Peter is secretly dating. Not a secret because they're closeted, but rather to keep it hidden from nosy and critical Fran, with whom Peter still lives and remains best friends with—mimicking the friendship of Drescher and Jacobson.
Partaking in gay roles or starring in gay-related material is nothing new for Ferguson. In 1998 he had a role on the film The Opposite of Sex, alongside Lisa Kudrow, Christina Ricci, and Martin Donovan. He portrayed Donovan's character's deceased husband—including a steamy flashback scene. At the time, Ferguson also had a main role on the gay themed mini-series, More Tales of the City.
Ferguson's upcoming episode of Happily Divorced airs this Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 10:30 pm (EST). Out caught up with him on playing gay once again:
Out: You've had quite a diverse background, how were you approached for your new role on Happily Divorced?
Colin Ferguson: They approached my agent and said, 'I think Colin would be great for this character that is coming up.' So I got on the phone with Peter [Marc Jacobson] who said you're Peter's—John Michael Higgins'—lover, and I said, 'Great.' Initially it was supposed to be just that episode, but I guess we got along so well that I'm coming back... They didn't need to, and what they had planned for the end of the season was so fantastic, but it was flattering they considered me—or liked what I did enough—that they were excited to have me back.
That's great to hear! I had read an article that Fran said they'd love to have you back. What's it like working with the Happily Divorced gang?
Such a nice group of people, especially Fran and Peter. Particularly Fran, she's done sitcoms forever and she doesn't really have to be nice if she doesn't want to… She constantly checks in with you on set constantly — "Are you OK? Are you having a good time? We really appreciate having you on the show" — really, really classy.
So you've seen her shows before, are you a Fran fan?
Yeah, absolutely. [The Nanny] ran forever. I never met her before... and her character on The Nanny and a lot of the stuff that she's done is so broad, that I wasn't quite sure what to expect. But even though she has a very, obviously specific way of speaking, she's so down to earth, so nice, and accessible, that I was impressed.
You've had gay roles before, such as in The Opposite of Sex, and a role on the gay-themed More Tales of the City. Did getting signed unto both correlate at all, any connection?
No they didn't. It's funny, you sort of have to hit the political spectrum of it, back then I also was gay on an NBC mini series called Night Sins around that point. And back then, the number of people who would play gay on television were very few. It was a potentially dangerous thing to do. I could be seen as a career ender, people were nervous about it. So I don't think those projects were related in any shape or form, but I didn't see the problem or situation with playing a character who was gay … and I guess I got a lot of roles. [Laughs]
The wonderful thing about now is that it is not even considered a risk. It's like—So what's the character? Ok well he's gay and works here. Ok, ok—It's not something that needs thinking anymore, and that's great since also less work for me, but good for the country.
Continue on to read more and watch a teaser clip of Colin Ferguson on Happily Divorced
So you didn't really have any worries about playing gay, but you think you might get typecast at all?
No fears going in beforehand, but once you do two or three in a row, you sort of go... No one likes to be typecast in anything, you want to do something different. [You tell yourself,] "Oh, I hope I get to do something different soon." I believe the industry will put you where you belong. So I didn't have a fear about doing damage to my career.
Did you develop a gay following back then, and how about today?
It'd be easier to track today because of the Internet. It was nice to be present; I found the gay community to be really, really supportive and welcoming, and so friendly. You bump into people in the airport and they say, "I saw you in More Tales, and that series means so much to me. Thank you so much." It's so humbling to be thanked for something that you wanted to do.
I loved the books series. It was enough for me just to be able to do it and work with Laura Linney and all those involved, and then to be thanked for that, a decade later. I still bump into people on the street to tell me they loved those books and movies. To have affect anyone's life in a capacity like that is just humbling and extreme. There's definitely an interest, I don't know if I'd call it a following. [Laughs]
Maybe you'll get more now with Happily Divorced.
Yeah hopefully! [Laughs]
You haven't played a gay character since the late '90s, but you were set to do a film in 2009 with the now-out Sean Maher. What happened to the project?
I don't know, I found out I was attached to that at the same time that Sean did, and we both were sort of going, what are we attached to? And that happens sometimes when you aren't sure what you are attached to. Around that time Eureka took up most of my time. And I would never hunt out a role specifically for its orientation, it's more about who I get to work with or what the role is than anything else. Working with John and Fran is just…and Rita Moreno is on the show, it's like, "ARE YOU KIDDING?" Yeah, I want to spend a week with those guys.
How has the shift been from SyFy to TVLand, anything you miss from Eureka?
I miss the family of it. You have the same crew and same cast for six years, you know you see children being born and marriages. You really end up growing up with them and quite close to them.
What's great about [Happily Divorced] is that it's a bunch of people who really respect each other and trust each other, so when one of them says, I got a guy, it's sort of done ... I really admire how they streamline the process. Flattering to get a call out of the blue saying, "Hey, what are you doing next weekend? We need to shoot something."
So your character Chris will be coming back. Are there any teasers you can gives tell us about?
I don't know actually. I got the call about a few days ago [to see if I was free to come back in]. I know it's the season finale—and with all the regular characters' mouths to feed—I can't imagine I'd be very busy. But I'm incredibly flattered to be part of it.
Watch clip of the upcoming epsiode (airing on Jan. 16) and catch the season finale on Feb. 13.