Jim Parsons on the Significance of 'Boys in the Band' Movie Starring All Out, Gay Actors (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
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Written by playwright Mart Crowley, The Boys in the Band tells the story of a group of gay men gathered at a mutual friend's apartment for his birthday celebration. Over the course of the evening, as the drinks continue to pour, faults in the men’s relationships are exposed and friendships are tested. Premiering Off-Broadway in 1968 -- a year before the Stonewall riots -- the play was considered groundbreaking at the time for putting gay men’s lives onstage.
In 2018, 50 years after the show debuted, Ryan Murphy brought Crowley’s play back to the stage -- this time on Broadway. The celebrated run, which earned a 2019 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play, starred Andrew Rannells, Brian Hutchison, Charlie Carver, Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer, Michael Benjamin Washington, Robin De Jesus, Tuc Watkins and Zachary Quinto -- the first time in the show’s history that the ensemble consisted entirely of openly gay actors.
Now, the cast is reuniting for a Netflix film executive produced by Murphy and directed by Joe Mantello. While catching up at the “Variety and Mercedes-Benz Power of Pride” event on Monday, Parsons, who just finished his Emmy-winning run as Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory, revealed to ET that they are set to start filming in two weeks. “That’ll be an interesting thing to go back into that,” he said, adding it might even “be a little trippy.”
Going from the stage to a film set in front of the camera, Parsons said “it’ll be even quieter and more intimate than we are right now. [But] that's one of the most exciting aspects of it. The chance to do this -- this material that we know so well and we worked on so long -- to get to do it in a different way. To do it in a more intimate way... the core story will all stay the same but it will be a different beast by the time we’re done with it.”
Speaking with ET last spring, Parsons said “it was just hard to say no to” doing the project. In the show, he played Michael, the host of the party and instigator of the evening’s debauchery, a character he’ll reprise for the film. “It’s very meaningful to be able to play these parts as out gay actors 50 years later, when so many of these men not only hid their sexuality but died of AIDS eventually, a disease that undoubtedly was allowed to get as bad as it did in part due to homophobia, a secretiveness and no action being taken,” Parsons continued at the time.
A year later, the significance of a cast entirely made up of openly gay actors -- this time on film and perhaps one of the largest in movie history -- is not lost on the actor. “Even doing the play, it was a big story and that’s Broadway. They’re not afraid of gay,” Parsons quipped. “It’s not a small deal to have that many out, gay actors all in the same production together.”
The Boys in the Band is not the only Netflix film Murphy is currently working on. In the spring, he announced that he would also be adapting the breakout Broadway musical, The Prom, which was nominated for seven Tony Awards. And just recently, it’s been revealed that he put together a star-studded ensemble for the project.
According to Deadline, Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Ariana Grande, Awkwafina, Keegan-Michael Key and Rannells have all joined the cast.
The outlet also reveals that “Streep will play Dee Dee Allen, a two-time Tony winner who teams with Corden’s Barry Glickman in a flop musical about Eleanor Roosevelt. After career-ending reviews, they decide -- along with Broadway babies Kidman as Angie Dickinson and Rannells as Trent Oliver -- to champion a cause to rehabilitate their careers.” The group then comes across Emma, a high school senior who is banned from bringing her girlfriend to the prom.
Meanwhile, Grande will play popular high school student Alyssa, while Awkwafina has been cast as Ms. Sheldon, the group’s publicist. Key will play Streep’s love interest, Principal Hawkins.