Actor Christian Campbell plays gay son Peter in ‘The Book of Daniel.’
Aidan Quinn stars as an Episcopal priest who talks with Jesus in the
controversial new series, ‘The Book of Daniel.’
Campbell, who will be 33 in May, is back in the media spotlight playing
another gay character — this time the 23-year-old son of Aidan
Quinn, a priest of questionable character — in the NBC series “The
Book of Daniel.”
A campaign by the American Family Association (AFA), asking viewers to
request their local stations not air the program, has thus far resulted
in the pulling of “Book of Daniel” in markets like Nashville,
Tenn., Terre Haute, Ind., and Little Rock, Ark., among others.
“A lot of Americans do not like to be told what to watch or not to
watch,” Campbell says, in reference to the boycott.
“NBC initially said no to ‘The Book of Daniel,’” adds
Campbell, whom you may know best from the 1999 popular gay film, “Trick,” and
the stage and movie version of “Reefer Madness.” (In fact,
Campbell is up for a Satellite Award against the likes of Kenneth Branagh
and Rupert Everett for his role in the Showtime movie version of “Reefer
Madness,” which, incidentally, was just released on DVD.)
“The first 13 episodes of ‘The Book of Daniel,’ were
shot almost a year ago, as the show was a candidate for debuting last fall
in the new lineup. NBC realized that the show would have gotten lost if
it had debuted with the throngs of other new shows. It would have been
disastrous. Having it come on [television] now, mid-season, is going to
give it a much bigger chance of succeeding, because there is nothing that
the studio can replace us with. We are replacing other shows that have
been canceled or that have gone on hiatus.”
Somewhere in between “Desperate Housewives” and “Weeds” is “The
Book of Daniel,” a tale about a dysfunctional religious family.
The show stars Emmy nominee Aidan Quinn (“An Early Frost,”)
as the Rev. Daniel Webster, an unconventional Episcopalian priest, who
loves popping Vicodin and who not only believes in Jesus — he actually
sees him and discusses life with him.
Webster is challenged on many levels as he struggles to be a good husband,
father and minister, while navigating an often rocky relationship with
the church hierarchy, led by Bishop Beatrice Congreve (Oscar winner Ellen
Burstyn, “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” “The
Exorcist”) and Roger Paxton, a senior warden of the parish and stalwart
churchgoer Dylan Baker (“Kinsey,” “Happiness”).
Webster also has loving, but challenging relationships with his three children:
Peter (Christian Campbell), his 23-year-old gay Republican son, struggling
with the loss of his twin brother; his 16-year-old daughter Grace (Alison
Pill, “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen”), a talented Manga
artist dealing with typical teenage angst; and Adam (Ivan Shaw, “All
My Children”), his 16-year-old adopted Chinese son, a handsome and
cocky high school jock with a wicked sense of humor, who seems obsessed
Keeping Webster grounded is his strong, loving wife Judith (Susanna Thompson, “Once
and Again”) — who just happens to be fond of Martinis — all
“This is the thinking man’s family show,” says Campbell. “It’s
for people who know how to think for themselves and don’t need to
be told how to believe one particular thing or another.
“I think ‘The Book of Daniel’ will create discussion,
at the very least, which is always a great thing. Not everyone has to agree
with what is going on [with] the show but if the show creates and opens
up a dialogue, that would be great.”
Campbell, who lives in New York City, but who is a citizen of Canada, (he
and his siblings, including his sister Neve, were born in Toronto), has
a theory as to what is going on in America today.
“A lot of people, who are undoubtedly ‘religious,’ feel
disenfranchised, hijacked by the religious right. The religious right is
always screaming from the top of their lungs that everything is either
black or white. But there are a lot of religious people, even those who
identify as conservative Christians, who have gay children, siblings or
a parent. While they may preach that certain things are wrong from the
pulpit, they know, down deep, that they are wrong. They are two-faced.
They take a stand in public about certain issues they are taught to believe
are wrong in the Biblical sense, but in the confines of their own home
and with their families they embrace their gay children or the daughter
who had an abortion.”
One of the gay community’s favorite celebrities, due in part to his
memorable role in “Trick,” Campbell, though not gay (he is
divorced from one of his “Reefer Madness,” co-stars and is
now in a committed relationship with another actress) is a friend of the
gay community, appearing at and supporting many Boston, New York City and
Los Angeles gay and AIDS related fundraisers. And, though a citizen of
Canada, he is a self-described honorary Democrat, volunteering at the past
three Democratic National Conventions for the betterment of America.
“The Book of Daniel” premiered Jan. 6
and tied for number two in its time slot, giving the show a shot at continued
success. The show airs Fridays at 10 p.m. on NBC.