04/21/2004 at 12:00 AM EDT
Hal Sparks, 31, was best known for being the genial host of E!'s "Talk Soup" until his latest gig, playing discount-store worker Michael Novotny, who happens to be gay, on Showtime's new soap "Queer as Folk." But Sparks, whose career began with Chicago's Second City troupe and extends to the current movie release "Dude, Where's My Car?," wishes to set the record, er, straight on his sexuality. "As an actor, there are psychological ramifications with any character," he explains in this morning's USA Today. "On top of that, the part (of Michael) involved messing around with my own sexuality, and that's a slippery slope for some people." He goes on to say that filming the graphic male-male love scenes on the show is "about as sexual as being in a doctor's office and turning your head and coughing." For the past few months, Sparks has been dating actress Stefanie Sherk, whom, he says, is "very cool about the show. It takes a certain kind of woman to deal with me as a gay man."