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Debbie Jane Novotny is a supporting character on the Showtime drama series Queer as Folk. The mother of Michael Novotny, Debbie plays a major role in her son's life, is a strong supporter of gay rights, and an active member of PFLAG. She is usually found either at her house or at the Liberty Diner, where she is a waitress. She comes to have feelings for Carl Horvath, and then become life partners together.

Physical Appearance[]

Debbie is an older, middle woman, Italian heritage in her late forties. When she was younger, she had blonde hair, but matured, her hair underneath her eccentric wig is presently grey. She is very often seen in her unique outfit at the diner with many LGBT preference symbols and designs showing her love and support for LGBTQ culture.


She is outspoken and full of charisma, and often instigates special causes for the LGBT community, however, she can be over bias and quite quick tempered about injustices; especially concerning matters of LGBTQ causes and family orientation.

She has a very strong will. Despite not being gay, she is outspoken like she is one of them and is extremely adament when it comes to the gay men and women to participate within their community (as she will go as far as denying them service at the diner if they do not.)

She has heavy influence on the wide LGBTQ community as well as her close circle whom she is even more motherly towards. She given motherly advice or pep talk to nearly all of the main characters, if not, she simply attempted to be nurturing towards them. In return, she is respected and adored by many within the community. She became so outspoken in gay rights that she was able to single-handedly sway the votes by her powerful statements in a mayor race against a homophobic campaign and later wanted by the LGBTQ community wanted her as a show host at one of the bars.

Throughout the Series[]

Season 1[]

She is usually found either at her house or at the Liberty Diner, where she is a waitress. Michael takes Justin for the first time after Brian leaves them with him. She tells Michael often that she wishes he wouldn't let Brian get to him, and to focus on bigger aspects of his life.

In episode 1.8, Debbie is exhausted working many hours at the Diner and falls. Michael's uncle informs him that she has taken a second mortgage on the house as to why she is working to hard. After struggling to keep her home, Michael comes by to announce to her that he is going for a promotion and is going to help her with things.

With Jennifer's consent, Debbie lets Justin move in an stay with her as he finishes school and live more independently as a gay teenager. She hires him as a busboy and encourages him in school and his artwork like his mother would. Debbie is ultimately his second mother in many ways going forward in the series.

Season 2[]

Although, she is overjoyed to see Michael again coming home from Portland, she upset to find out the bad news about David and him not working out, but she is encouraging him to work forward and find his way. She continues to tell him more truths about Brian and that he may actually love Justin which Michael still harbors feelings for Brian.

Debbie convinces her son to go to Pride with her, but Michael changes his mind due to what people might think of him on his job. At the same time, Emmett loses a close friend name Godiva and finds a way for Michael to go to Pride with his mother unnoticed. After a struggle, Michael gives in and catches up with his mother at pride much to her delight.

Justin has an accident in the diner in front of her due to his bashing. When she check on him, he snaps at her to her frustration. She is able to slow herself down, comfort him but warns him as a mother with "tough love" would that if he gets an attitude like that with her again, he'll get it.

Debbie is alarmed when Michael quits the Big Q and goes to his apartment to see him and Brian bidding on his comic book. She witnesses the success of him getting enough money to buy his own comic store. The gang gets together to celebrate the start of his dream. She later helps him settle into the store and she is the first to greet Ben Bruckner who becomes his first customer.

Debbie discovers a dead male prostitute in the garbage bin behind the diner where she works and calls the police meeting Carl Horvath for the first time. Debbie attempts to find out his name, actually beating the police force in discovering it. Carl is impressed of her determination and tenacity.

Michael discovers that her high-school sweetheart, Danny Devore, could be the father of Michael. They never married and she later took on the last name of Novotny after reading the name of a soldier who died in Vietnam. She confronts him that Michael knows and they briefly discuss their past as she wasn't angry that he was gay, he was angry that fact she was lied to. Michael forgives her for covering up the truth and they embrace knowing Debbie had done it with the best intentions for Michael.

After finding out Ben was positive, she forbid Michael to see him when he brought him for dinner. Michael states, "This is the reality. You're just going to have to learn to deal with it." Debbie started asking Ben personal questions concerning his HIV status which upset and angered Michael. Debbie reverses the statement on Michael said earlier saying, "This is the reality. You're just going to have to learn to deal with it." Despite her saying this, he continues to see Ben.

From her brother's advice after initially declining his invitation to dinner, she begins to date Carl. After her date, she comes home to Michael upset having gone out with him because he felt he was homophobic. She reminds him that she looked out after him all of life and she deserved to go out every once and a while on a date. Later, Michael and his friends were pulled over and arrested from Michael embittered by police. Carl bails them out and Michael confronts him on his mother. He tells Michael that he likes his mother and he simply doesn't understand homosexuality.

Michael goes to talk to his mother whom is working the diner. Debbie defensively says that she has a right to date whoever she wants. Michael agrees, but also refers to Ben and tells her that he has that right as well. Despite this, Debbie is cordial towards Ben, but not friendly. After initially declining she appears at their place for Ben's birthday just to see him in a rare outburst due to his health. At first, very upset at this until he collapses in class and is hospitalized due to complications from his HIV medication, Debbie sees how devoted Michael is to Ben and realizes that Michael's happiness is more important than her worries. She shows up at the hospital for Ben and the two finally begin to bond as she fed him soup at his bedside bringing a smile to Michael's face.

Debbie continues to see Carl, however, still distant. After losing a bowling game to his colleagues in the police force, she finally lets her guard down and kisses him while they were at Woody's. They became more intimate later series.

Season 3[]

She also plays an important role in the campaign against Chief Jim Stockwell, the anti-gay police chief running for mayor of Pittsburgh. Her efforts appear to pay off, as he loses the election.

Season 4[]

In the fourth season, her relationship with her brother Vic sours when he moves out. It is known that before the storyline began, Debbie nursed HIV-positive Vic back to health. She feels that he is not grateful for it. Soon after they have a big fight, Vic dies (of a heart attack), leaving her feeling very guilty. Eventually, with the comfort and help of Carl telling his story of his first wife passing away and him “not being there”, but hun convincing her that they really there spiritually meaning more than actually physically being there, she cries to him and ultimately comes to terms with herself and how much she truly loved her younger brother.

Due to Carl’s comforting her, she realizes she still has feeling for him, but he is seeing someone else to her dismay. A cop frequents her bar and asks if she is going to go like she did the previous year with Carl and she claims not to be sure. Emmett overhears and they end up going together and they see Carl there with the woman he is seeing. They share a moment while conversing and the connection is still there as Carl is very stammering beyond words for Debbie’s radiance.

Debbie takes Carl to a football game, “as friends”, along with Emmett and Ted. When Carl took her home, Debbie suggest to do more things friends where Carl have her an ardent look and kissed her. She just states with watery eyes that the kiss could be “friendlier” as she longed to be with him again.

At the end of the fourth season, Debbie's on-and-off boyfriend, Detective Carl Horvath, asks her to marry him, and she accepts. However, she later tells him she cannot marry him, not as long as Michael and Ben cannot legally marry in the US. So, they decide to live together for the remainder of the series.

Season 5[]


In season 5, she gives up her job at the Diner, and trains a woman named Loretta Pye to take over from her. However, Loretta falls in love with her after she saves her from her abusive husband. Eventually Debbie tells Loretta that she is not a lesbian, and that she is in a relationship with Carl and Loretta leaves town. She then starts to feel very ill and sees that the Diner isn't coping well without her when she realises she is bored and misses her job. With the support of Carl, she happily goes back to waiting at the Diner.


The mother of main character Michael Novotny, Debbie plays a major role in her son's life, including his circle of friends and is a strong supporter of gay rights, and an active member of PFLAG. She is a strong maternal figure having shared motherly advice to all of the main character and many of the secondary and minor characters.

Michael Novotny[]

Main article: Debbie and Michael

The mother of main character Michael Novotny, Debbie plays a major role in her son's life. Debbie had Michael from later teenaged years, but prevail in raising him on her own resulting in a very close relationship between the two of them. When she realized he was gay, she became fiercely supportive and protective over him. She is very proud when Michael succeeds her in becoming an advocate of gay rights at the end.

Vic Grassi[]

Main article: Debbie and Vic

Jennifer Taylor[]

Main article: Jennifer and Debbie

Debbie helps her cope and reach Justin in his lifestyle. She evens get her to join PFLAG. She is acquainted with Debbie Novotny and her son for the first time when they take Justin home. After running away again, Jennifer pursues her son and runs into Debbie at the dinner who comforts her. Debbie coaches her and tells her the worst thing he is afraid of, even more than his father finding out, is that she will stop loving him. Debbie encourages her to make sure her son knows that he is assured of her affections as a mother.

Brian Kinney[]

Main article: Brian and Debbie

Debbie has known Brian since he was 14, and despite how much a negative influence he could have on Michael at times, she has come to look at him as another son years later.

Justin Taylor[]

Main article: Justin and Debbie

Debbie takes Justin in quickly as one of her boys and with Jennifer's consent, she is allowed to let Justin stay with her since Brian won't let him stay and he gets kicked out of the Taylor residence from his father. She is much like a second mother for when he leaves home for the first time and throughout. She calls him "sunshine" due to his bright features and smile. She houses him in Michael's old room, hires him at her diner as a busboy (later a server). She encourages him to start the gay club at school, as well as encouraging in his artwork saying it's a gift.

Carl Horvath[]

At first, they were at odds when first meeting. He regards her as nosy and a loud mouth while she regarded him as bigoted prick. Debbie's strong personality and family orientation ultimately won his better judgment. With a bit of help from Debbie's younger brother, Vic, their relationships improves to become a strong romance.

Emmett Honeycutt[]

She is closest with Emmett more than Michael's other friends. Debbie and Emmett share a natural close bond being that he is more of a flamboyant gay, and she is very outspoken about gay rights and very family orientated within the LGBT community.

Their friendship is endearing as they share many light hearted jokes as well as lighting up darker humor ones. Emmett will often talk to her concerning dreams, jewelry, television shows, Michael, their man and many more topics. Since Michael and Justin move out, and Vic passes away, Emmett later moves in with Debbie due to them rather living with someone then alone.

Lindsay Peterson[]

She bonds with Lindsey through natural female ways; most when she is mothering Gus Peterson-Marcus referring to herself at her age with Michael. Melanie and herself have helped her on fashion and preparing her for dates with Carl Horvath.

Melanie Marcus[]

She bonds with Melanie on several occasions. Melanie helps her when Vic is in trouble with the Law. Debbie encourages her in her aspirations to become a mother, helps her when she becomes pregnant and also has her say in regards to her not only being a mother, but grandmother of her child. It is very likely Debbie considers Melanie as an honoured daughter in law as she is mother of her son's child.

Ben Bruckner[]

Debbie had a hard time coming to terms with Michael dating him and being positive.

At first, she is the very first person to greet him when he walks into Michael's comic shop and makes a joke. Later, when it is revealed that Michael is dating him and he's HIV positive, she becomes distant and blatantly rude towards Ben. After a series of events, Michael tells her that he is in love with him and she will have to accept it. Despite becoming tolerant of this, she still is short and subtly rude towards Ben.

Just when she unexpectedly shows up at Ben's surprise birthday party Michael was hosting, Ben shows a rare rage due to his HIV outbreak, and greatly puts her off. Ben's outbreak continues well after and he ends up in the hospital. When she finally finds out the news, she found out Michael hid it from her feeling she would not understand his concern for Ben. Debbie goes to the hospital concerned for Ben and they come to terms and finally form a bond.

Michael later finds his mother at Ben's bedside having brought him food from the diner bringing a smile to his face.

Drew Boyd[]

Main article: Drew and Debbie


  • "Keep your pants on! ...At least until you've had dinner." -to Brian
  • "You smoother a porkchop, not a son." -to Jennifer
  • "So Boys, What'll It Be?" -the gang
  • "They talk big and they act tough, but the truth is that he is the most afraid of, even more than his father finding out and beating the living shit out of him, is that you will stop loving him." -to Jennifer
  • "...when it comes to taking care of people, knowing what you need better than you do, he's a fuckin' Picasso." -to Emmett (regarding Michael)
  • "Say ""Yes"" you little asshole, or I will disown you!" -shouting to Michael outside of his room (regarding Dr. David)
  • "That's my hero." -regarding Michael
  • "Carl!!" -to Carl


  • She is portrayed by Sharon Gless.
  • The character of Debbie Novotny is parodied in the teenage film Another Gay Movie, where the mother of one of the central characters (Nico, a flamboyant teenage boy) adopts Debbie's 'out there' style of clothing after Nico comes out to her.