Sky News’ Backstage podcast co-host Claire Gregory meets The Boys In The Band stars and director Joe Mantello.
The Boys In The Band tells the story of a group of gay men who gather for a birthday party – before the night turns sour following the arrival of an uninvited guest.
The new Netflix film is an adaptation of the 1968 play by the late US playwright Mart Crowley and features the same cast that recently starred in a Broadway run of the show, earning it a Tony award for best revival.
It is a project by Ryan Murphy, the man who most recently masterminded shows such as Hollywood, Ratched and The Politician, and became famous for his work on Nip/Tuck and Glee.
Though both gay and straight actors were auditioned for the production, the nine characters in the film are all played by openly gay men.
Sky News spoke to Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons – who plays the lead role, Michael – along with some of his co-stars and director Joe Mantello, to discuss the “pretty unprecedented” project.
Parsons said it is something that will stand out as a special moment in his career.
“I had such a powerful experience being with a group of gay men for a long, concentrated time like this,” he said. “It was new, it was something I had not gone through before.
“I think it speaks to the changed world, I think it speaks to the fact that gay men and other people don’t necessarily need quite the same literal protection of their fellow gay humans in order to get through society, things are a little bit better now.”
Parsons said the casting did have an impact on how the men worked together.
“It was just an intense thing, there was a language we all seemed to speak with each other, an understanding we all had with each other that I was taken aback by.”
The play, which has already been made into a film once before, in 1970, has a chequered history, and fell out of favour for years as it was deemed to promote harmful stereotypes and internalised homophobia.
Parsons said he did initially have doubts about taking the role.
“When I first read it, I did feel concerned – I wasn’t sure, I had not seen it before, I’d never read it before, and I wasn’t sure I really understood what was going on,” he said.
However, he said Mantello convinced him to give it a second read and he grew to love the character and “his tortured revelatory journey”.
Co-star Matt Bomer, who plays Donald, said it was “pretty unprecedented” to have nine openly gay men in a film cast, and credits Murphy for his support for the community and “voices that need to be heard”.
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Mantello said the casting was not intentional, but rather a “very fortunate series of events”.
He continued: “That being said, I think having an out gay cast really did inform the work and it took on a particular kind of tone because of that, which is not to say that’s the only way to approach this material. But for this particular group, it did something that I think is very, very special. There’s a chemistry that they have.”
“I don’t feel like anybody was cast because they were gay, other than the fact that maybe whatever they were drawing on, made them play their part better,” said Parsons.
“I think honestly, had a straight actor here or there been the right choice for a certain role in this, I think they would have gone with that and foregone the need to make it a quote unquote, all gay cast.
“These are just the right people for the right role – and we were gay.”
The Boys In The Band is out on Netflix now