Matt Bomer on Having to Emotionally 'Go There' With Jim Parsons in 'Boys in the Band'

The Boys in the Band, Matt Bomer, Michael Benjamin Washington
Q&A
Netflix

A top-notch cast, including Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer and Zachary Quinto, anchor producer Ryan Murphy's film adaptation of the groundbreaking play The Boys in the Band. In 1968 (the year the play debuted off-Broadway), bitter, boozy Michael (Parsons) gathers a group of gay friends at his New York duplex to celebrate the birthday of their sarcastic pal Harold (Quinto).

"This apartment is their safe space to be themselves," explains Bomer, who plays Michael's earnest ex, Donald, and, with the rest of the cast, starred in Murphy's 2018 Broadway production. (Joe Mantello directed both.) If the subject matter is foreign, you'll find familiarity in the themes, like the struggle for self acceptance.

Below, Bomer elaborates.

The Boys in the Band Cast

(Credit: Scott Everett White/NETFLIX ©2020)

Watching the film, it reminded me of what was happening then and what is happening now. Was that something you and your castmates talked about?

Matt Bomer: Well, of course. This is a piece that's about the cost of stagnation. It was such a revolutionary act from Mart Crowley to have written this piece and put it on stage. It was the first real gay play written for a mainstream audience and so it was such a radical act at the time and took so much courage on his part.

But I don't know how anybody in that time could have gone to see the play and not realized, "Oh, we need change." This was written just months before Stonewall so it contains a lot of that ugliness and furor that happens right before a revolution, you know, between the characters. There is something in it that still resonates with people, particularly people who weren't familiar with the piece coming into it.

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How would you describe the relationship between Michael (Parsons) and Donald? There's a friendship there but they also seem so different.

Formerly, they were more than just friends so they had that familiarity with each other. I think there's an openness to Michael that's really appealing to someone like Donald, who's more of an introvert. I think they cared deeply about each other and if Michael's character could control his drinking, I think Donald would be open to being more than friends but he knows that may not happen anytime soon. But he loves him deeply, and I think it's very clear from the way they behave around each other in the first few minutes of the piece. You can see how comfortable they are in front of each other.

(Credit: Scott Everett White/NETFLIX ©2020)

How was it returning to the production and getting reacquainted with Donald?

I wish every movie I did I had done a full Broadway run of it first with the same cast and the same director. There is an implicit sense of trust amongst the ensemble, especially when you've had to do that play together where it's all nine of you on stage every night. There was a comfortability between us and we had a sense of how we all like to work. Because we had lived in the material so much, it was great just to get to play from take to take and see how it translated to a medium that's inherently so much more intimate.

You and Jim have such great scenes together throughout the film. How did you approach them, especially the one big one late in the story?

With all the scenes, I don't think any of us wanted to rely on just going into it the way we did initially. We wanted to try to use things that we knew seem to translate well, that you find over the course of a run, but [also] be very open to things. Actually, I think in that scene [near the end of the film] it was really Joe Mantello who pushed us and said, "No, you're not getting off the hook in this scene. You have to go to Hell. You have to go to Hell in this scene." I'll never forget that piece of direction and just gave us this sense of, "OK, we better ... It's time to just go there."

The Boys in the Band, Movie Premiere, Wednesday, September 30, Netflix