Watch Netflix's Boys in the Band cast gather for a fabulously epic Zoom roundtable
The Boys in the Band (2020 film)
Redoing the classics is always risky. But 2018's Ryan Murphy-backed Broadway production of The Boys in the Band — reviving Mart Crowley's groundbreaking 1968 drama about a group of gay men who gather for a birthday party gone wrong — emerged as a Tony-winning success. Such a hit, in fact, that Murphy reunited all nine of its actors (Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer, Brian Hutchison, Andrew Rannells, Charlie Carver, Robin de Jesús, Zachary Quinto, Tuc Watkins, and Michael Benjamin Washington) for a Netflix film, which hits the streamer on Sept. 30.
With the Boys zooming in from all corners, battling power outages and spotty signals, EW managed to gather all nine actors plus Mantello over Zoom for one long, fabulous Around the Table discussion. We touched on the experience of taking on the Boys story again for the screen, its enduring resonance (and controversy), working with Crowley before his death, at 84, in March, and much more. Below are select transcripts of the conversation (edited for clarity). And you can watch our full edited roundtable at the top of this post.
On Deciding to Make the Movie
JOE MANTELLO (DIRECTOR): When Ryan first brought up the idea of doing the revival, he'd always imagined that [it] would be a new version of the [1970 film].
JIM PARSONS (MICHAEL): It had been such a wonderful experience that I worried it might lack the same impact [in] the movie version. But it turned into exactly the opposite. The Broadway run informed the process of making this movie in a way that, as Matt Bomer said, "I don't want to ever do a movie now [if] I haven't done a full Broadway run of the material beforehand."
MATT BOMER (DONALD): We knew our characters. On any given take, we knew how to improvise and find new moments in a medium that's inherently a lot more intimate.
On Reaching a Wider Audience
BOMER: It's about a very specific group of men at a very specific time. There's a fever pitch… [and] ugliness that comes with that. I'm excited for a wide swath of demographics to come to the film and experience it as the piece that it is.
PARSONS: Anybody who has resistance to this, they just need to give it more time and live with it longer, like I did in order to find what this was, where it came from. It's a genius journey through humanity.
BRIAN HUTCHISON (ALAN): There's a shorthand and a trust that we all had from doing the play.
ANDREW RANNELLS (LARRY): I don't think any of us will ever have that experience again, where everyone was fully off-book for the entire film. [All laugh] There were no pages on the set! We just kind of got to launch back into what we did.
ZACHARY QUINTO (HAROLD): The film is so much [more] rooted in the period. The wardrobe process [showed me] just how much fun we were going to have. When [I saw] this bolt of green velvet for Harold's suit, I was like, "Oh, okay, here we are." There's something so exciting about that, like playing with a new version of toys that we had known so well.
TUC WATKINS (HANK): When we started rehearsing, these guys brought in this nuance and this subtlety that theater doesn't lend itself to, and the camera does. Some of the lines were taken away that were in the Broadway show, replaced with glances or nuances.
CHARLIE CARVER (COWBOY): That's part of what was so fun about being on set, too. The first couple of days, being able to — when the coverage wasn't on you and it was a close-up on somebody else — just appreciate each other's work again, in a way that we weren't able to see on stage.
On Getting a Second Take
ROBIN DE JESÚS (EMORY): It is totally bizarre! There's one thing on set that Jim said to me.
PARSONS: Oh God.
DE JESÚS: I was a little frustrated [when] I thought of something fun to do for one of the takes but it was too late. You said to me, "Robin, it's okay to learn in the middle of the process and have it be filmed." But I think sometimes there's that thing as an actor where you're just like, "Oh God, it's there forever."
On the Story's Claustrophobia
QUINTO: We filmed chronologically. After all of the balcony scenes, where everybody runs in and slams the doors shut, we still had two and a half weeks of the shoot. The doors were all closed.
HUTCHISON: Everyone hates my character. So I definitely felt it.
WATKINS: It felt like we were all on a submarine.
DE JESÚS: I remember after a couple days being like, "Get me out!"
MICHAEL BENJAMIN WASHINGTON (BERNARD): The air we were sharing together, the oxygen we were breathing, it [got] very, very tense. But I trusted these men so much.
On the Story's Continued Resonance
WATKINS: As the senior cast member, who's almost twice as old as our youngest cast member, Charlie… it's really important to see [that] it's only 50 years, but a lot has changed. Being gay in 1968 was hell. We need to know and see our history.
RANNELLS: [Charlie's] not that young!
PARSONS: No, he's not. [Laughs]
CARVER: What's so beautiful to me about this play is it speaks to the power of storytelling. The first half of this play is so fun and so full of joy that you can't help but fall in love with these characters. The second half, you get in touch with their pain. It helps us empathize. So yeah, it's powerful stuff.
On Mart Crowley
RANNELLS: Seeing him on stage, collecting his well-earned Tony award [and] getting that recognition, albeit 50 years later, was very, very powerful.
QUINTO: There was something so full-circle about this [film] experience. For him to see us making the movie, bringing him to the end of his life and us being adjacent to that.
MANTELLO: He really approached [his cameo] like he was the 10th cast member. He talked about his character being a professor at NYU! He took it so seriously. I love that he's forever a part of this film.
The Boys in the Band (2020 film)