Matt Bomer on Bringing Queer Representation to Prestige Superhero TV (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
Known for his breakout role in White Collar, his Golden Globe–winning turn in The Normal Heart as well as the Magic Mike films, Matt Bomer is the first to admit that doing a superhero series wasn’t at the top of the list of what he wanted to do next in his career. But when it comes to Doom Patrol, the trippy DC Universe series returning for season 2 on HBO Max, he found himself attracted to the pathos imbued in the storytelling. “What I love about this show is that as much as it is prestige superhero television, it's really about the human condition and the capacity for even the most marginalized among us to find their inner hero,” he tells ET.
On the series, which was adapted for the screen by executive producer Jeremy Carver along with superhero savant Greg Berlanti, Bomer plays Larry Trainor, whom he describes as “one part Montgomery Clift, one part elephant man.” A closeted Air Force pilot who's badly burned in a plane crash after he makes contact with a negative spirit, Trainor has managed to survive decades later thanks to the special bandages covering his body that prevent the spread of radioactivity emitting from his body.
Over the course of season 1, Trainor is haunted by his past as he tries to come to terms with his sexuality and relationship with fellow pilot John Bowers (Kyle Clements), whom he pushed away after the accident and never fully got over.
“I love working on Larry because it never felt -- other than some of the bigger-budget action sequences or special effects sequences -- it never felt like I was working on a superhero show,” Bomer says. “There was so much pathos and character-driven drama in those scenes that it felt like I was just getting to work on a really great well-written show. Especially those scenes with John.”
The scenes the actor is referring to include some of the flashbacks with Trainor and Bowers in a motel room and later at a gay bar, where they both get to be themselves, even as Trainor is trying to figure out how to be completely comfortable in his own skin.
“Season 1 was so much about self-discovery and being able to finally come to terms with his own authenticity after 60 years of basically shutting down and diving into his past, and going from a man who had thought that he had to, in order to achieve what he wanted, cut off the most authentic part of himself,” Bomer says, explaining that journey then allowed Trainor to “ultimately find love and acceptance for himself and be able to come out to his crew.”
He is eventually corralled into joining the dysfunctional group of heroes that includes Cliff Steele (Brendan Fraser), Rita Farr (April Bowlby), Jane (Diane Guerrero) and Victor Stone (Joivan Wade), by Niles Caulder (Timothy Dalton), whom they have to save after he’s captured by the omnipresent supervillain, Mr. Nobody (Alan Tudyk).
Now in season 2, Trainor not only finds himself watching after his newly mini-sized team -- who were shrunk during the climatic final battle with Mr. Nobody at the end of last season -- but also the intergenerational trauma that comes with being forced to deal with his past life as a father.
“He’s living in closer harmony with the spirit inside of him,” Bomer says of the negative energy. “But he learns that his estranged, youngest son has recently committed suicide, which leads him to attempt to reconnect with the surviving son. And he’s forced to deal with the generational damage that he’s done to his family.”
Because Trainor doesn’t age, the sons whom he hasn’t seen since they were kids are now older than him. “Seeing who they are as full-grown adults,” Bomer says Trainor is confronted with what his actions have cost them and how they’re still living with them now.
“That's so interesting as an actor, and heartbreaking,” he says of what he got to do as a performer this season, while giving credit to Berlanti for not only creating an interesting character for him to play, but also expanding LGBTQ visibility within the onscreen superhero universe.
“I had never seen someone like Larry onscreen, someone who's struggling to be this ‘All American Hero’ in order to sort of bury who he really is,” Bomer continues, adding there’s just so much “inherent trust” in Berlanti and Carver to bring Larry Trainor and Doom Patrol to life.