When the TV series Oz first began on US TV, the exposure of playing a man sexually active with other men on the highly charged TV prison drama series led to some interesting offers for actor Lee Tergesen.
Most of those offers, however, were on the streets of New York. His home is in the gay Manhattan neighbourhood of Chelsea, and many of his neighbours would recognise him as his character Beecher.
I don’t think I have ever been propositioned for sex so many times, he recalls, speaking to the Star from Vancouver where he is working on a new TV series.
I have had female fans make offers in the past from other work I had done, but the guys in Chelsea were very upfront about what they were offering.
There was a big gay reaction to Oz, and that’s not surprising considering the graphic and explicit nature of the series. I always smiled and declined the offers, as nicely as I could.
Oz was heralded as a breakthrough US series for the way it depicted the sexuality between the numerous male inmates. If Queer As Folk offered plenty of foreplay, it has to be said that Oz didn’t waste any time in going all the way.
Tergesen has been at the centre of some of the most graphic but also romantic storylines in Oz as Beecher embarked on a relationship with fellow inmate Keller (Chris Meloni), in between the times he’s been raped by other prisoners.
I even had to bite one guy’s penis off during one episode, he recalls.
Often when straight actors speak about playing gay love scenes, they tell of having to overcome all their heterosexual inhibitions. Not so with Tergesen. He says in the case of the relationship between Beecher and Keller, he wanted to tackle the passion head-on.
We both knew we would be doing a lot of kissing and, while some other actors would try to dance around this fact, I wanted to really work with it, Tergesen recalls.
I just figured this show was so in-your-face that both of us should really go for it and make it sexy. Chris just looked back at me and said, -˜Wow!’ He was a little taken aback, but he was immediately up for it.
And I think we did that. We made something that was at times violent, but that showed these guys felt a strong love for each other. It also helped working with Chris as he is such a great guy.
The relationship between Beecher and Keller on Oz reaches a confronting turning point as the series heads towards its mid-December finale.
While the two men are as passionately involved as ever, Beecher’s girlfriend also arrives to help Keller with his legal defence.
In recent months, Tergesen, 41, has been filming A.M.P.E.D., a pilot for a new series from the makers of The X-Files. He has also been seen as Charlize Theron’s rapist in Monster, and in Desperate Housewives as Bree’s sexaholic boyfriend, Peter.
While Oz began on SBS only last year, the series was actually completed three years ago. Looking back on the years he played the role of Beecher, Tergesen says he has a great deal of pride about Oz.
I don’t think there will be anything like it again, especially with the climate of TV at the moment. Things have really clamped down in the US with fear.
Oz was in a time when people were pushing things really far. I am still amazed we got to do it for so long.
Oz screens on Mondays at 10pm on SBS TV.