Actor Scott Lowell, who plays Ted on US TV series Queer As Folk, was amazed to hear there’s a debate in Sydney about whether there’s a link between crystal meth use and the rise in HIV.

While he admits he’s no doctor, in Lowell’s mind there’s a direct correlation between the drug and the disease. He did extensive research on crystal for his role on QAF when Ted became addicted to it in series three. In the upcoming fourth season of the hit show, starting on SBS next month, we find Ted still in rehab struggling to pull his shattered life back together.

I think a big reason AIDS is back on the rise is because of this drug. I can’t see how you can’t see the connection, Lowell told Sydney Star Observer from the QAF set in Toronto. You’ve got people who are in this altered state of absolute euphoria and I would think the last thing they’re thinking about is condom use at that time. It’s such an immediate gratification kind of thing.

So the health organisations in Sydney think it’s just a coincidence, and they don’t want to alienate crystal users? he said. I would tell them to take another look at that.

He considers himself the luckiest of all the cast members in terms of the storylines he’s been given, such as when Ted started an internet porn company, and when he entered into a relationship with one of his best friends. But portraying crystal addiction was the most challenging and difficult thing Lowell has done to date. The three or four months of filming those particular episodes were hard to do, he said. I was not a very pleasant person at all to be around when we were filming, but the end result is something I’m very, very proud of. I’m glad it’s over, but I’m glad we did it.

Ted is a character Lowell never gets bored with playing because he’s constantly on a quest to find something -“ probably a young, blonde boyfriend who he thinks will redeem him. And with a character like this you can’t ever let him get what he wants or you’ll have nothing left to do with the character any more. I open up each new script thinking, what humiliation will I face this week? the actor laughed.

Lowell said it’s no coincidence the gay scene depicted in QAF, which is actually set in Pittsburgh, is reminiscent of Sydney’s scene. The first few episodes of the show were directed by Sydney-based Russell Mulcahy, who helped create the look and feel of the whole series. So Australia was very much a part of the initial Queer As Folk look.

Now a week into filming series five, Lowell admitted he’s surprised by the show’s longevity. You would’ve thought someone would’ve gotten wise by now and thrown us off the air, but no we’re still here, he said.

We thought at first we’d get a lot of protest from right-wing, conservative people in the States, but we get many more members of the gay community upset about it because they felt it wasn’t realistic. Some people weren’t clever enough to realise we weren’t trying to represent every gay person’s life.

And to those who don’t think what happens on the show is realistic, Lowell said: Come and see what goes on in the extras’ holding area when we’re shooting one of our dance club scenes and see if you don’t think this world exists!

In the States about half the show’s audience are straight and the majority of them are women. Lowell believes this is due in part to the fact many women get turned on by the sex scenes between men. The actor, who is straight, said he dated a woman during the first series who loved watching him get intimate with other guys.

So does he find it strange to regularly enact sex scenes with men? It’s always odd to be stripping down naked in front of your friends, he said. But I’ve been fortunate that on the show I’ve been involved with some good-looking men, so it hasn’t been too difficult.

Series four of Queer As Folk begins on Monday 1 November at 10pm on SBS.

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