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Who's Who in Netflix's The Boys in the Band

The Ryan Murphy connections criss-cross like crazy in this filmed revival of the landmark gay play
  • The cast of The Boys in the Band with director Joe Mantello and playwright Mart Crowley. (Photo: Brian Bowen Smith/Netflix)
    The cast of The Boys in the Band with director Joe Mantello and playwright Mart Crowley. (Photo: Brian Bowen Smith/Netflix)

    Produced by Ryan Murphy and starring various collaborators from his previous projects, Netflix's new film adaptation of the The Boys in the Band is the latest incarnation of the original 1968 play by Mart Crowley. The story concerns a group of gay male friends at a birthday party in late 1960s New York City, where the conversation turns increasingly acidic over the course of the evening, gradually revealing the deep wells of trauma and self-hatred these men carry with them. Crowley's play made into a movie in 1970, directed by William Friedkin, and despite the fact that it's far from an uplifting story, the play and film are landmarks for gay representation. The Boys in the Band is seen as an essential block of queer popular culture, along with Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart and the documentary Paris Is Burning. The 50th anniversary Broadway revival in 2018 was not without its detractors — like most anything Ryan Murphy is involved in — but the entire cast was comprised of out gay men, all of whom are back for the film adaptation, along with Tony-winner director Joe Mantello.

    The cast represents an intriguing intersection of past Ryan Murphy projects, with nearly everyone having previously worked with the uber producer. To help follow those cast threads back to their origins, we present this handy guide.

    Jim Parsons as Michael

    Jim Parsons holds a whopping four Emmy awards for his performance as Old Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory, but he's been playing a lot of villains recently, including a racist NASA engineer in Hidden Figures and a predatory agent in Ryan Murphy's Hollywood earlier this year, for which he received an Emmy nomination. Michael is the central character in The Boys in the Band, hosting a birthday party for his friend Harold. He's a frustrated writer and, despite his vast circle of friends, bitterly lonely.

    Zachary Quinto as Harold

    It's Harold whose birthday we're all celebrating in The Boys in the Band, and he's easily the play's most dynamic character, arriving outlandishly late and bemoaning his lost youth. Zachary Quinto came to fame as the villainous Sylar on Heroes, before being cast as Spock in the new Star Trek movies. He came out publicly in 2011, the same year he was cast as one half of an acidic gay couple in the first season of American Horror Story. He followed that up by playing the lead villain on the second AHS season, "Asylum." Other projects of queer interest for Quinto have included starring in the off-Broadway Angels in America opposite Christian Borle and Billy Porter in 2010, the camp-tastic The Slap, and currently voicing the role of Andrew Rannells' boyfriend on Big Mouth.

    Matt Bomer as Donald

    After a featured guest-starring run on Chuck, Bomer was cast in the lead role as a con artist on USA's White Collar, where he starred for six seasons. After guest appearances on Ryan Murphy's Glee and The New Normal, Bomer was cast in the featured role of Felix Turner in Murphy's film version of The Normal Heart on HBO, earning him an Emmy nomination and a Golden Globe win. After that, Bomer appeared on two seasons of American Horror Story ("Freak Show" and "Hotel"), and he directed an episode of The Assassination of Gianni Versace. Bomer is probably best known on the big screen for his performances as one of the Kings of Tampa in Magic Mike and Magic Mike XXL. In The Boys in the Band, Bomer plays Donald, Michael's boyfriend who has left New York City and is conflicted over the whole homosexual scene of it all.

    Andrew Rannells as Larry

    Larry is the partnered-but-looking fashion photographer in The Boys in the Band's social circle. He's played by Rannells, whose breakthrough role was his Tony-nominated performance in The Book of Mormon, which led to a regular role on Girls and the co-lead in Ryan Murphy's short-lived sitcom The New Normal. He took a turn playing the title role in the Broadway run of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, received another Tony nomination for Falsettos where he (like Quinto in Angels in America) partook in a fraught, AIDS-ravaged romance with Christian Borle. Currently, Rannells has a regular voice role on Big Mouth (where Quinto voices his boyfriend) and stars on Showtime's Black Monday, where his character was in a relationship with a politician played by Tuc Watkins, his real-life boyfriend (and… well, see below).

    Charlie Carver as Cowboy

    Charlie Carver got his big breakthrough alongside his twin brother Max, playing the teenage sons of Felicity Huffman's character on Desperate Housewives. He and Max then appeared as werewolf twins on MTV's Teen Wolf, and again as suburban teens in The Leftovers. After he came out in 2016, Charlie appeared in Dustin Lance Black's gay-rights miniseries When We Rise, and he recently made his Ryan Murphy screen debut in Ratched. In The Boys in the Band, he plays Cowboy, a twinky hustler who's brought to the party as a "gift" to Harold.

    Robin de Jesus as Emory

    With The Boys in the Band, Robin de Jesus marks his first screen appearance in a Ryan Murphy production. He plays Emory, loud-and-proud interior decorator, whose flamboyance proves irksome to some in the group. De Jesus made his debut in the cult classic musical-theater film Camp, before going on to earn Tony nominations for his performances in In the Heights and La Cage Aux Folles. He was also the only performer from The Boys in the Band's Broadway production to get a Tony nomination.

    Brian Hutchison as Alan

    Hutchison is a Broadway veteran whose credits include Proof and Exit the King, opposite Geoffrey Rush. He was also in the Steven Spielberg film Bridge of Spies and had a recurring role on Person of Interest. He plays Alan, Michael's old college friend, currently married to a woman, but who Michael (and the audience) suspects is secretly gay.

    Michael Benjamin Washington as Bernard

    Perhaps best known for his role as Tracy Jordan's dubious adult son on 30 Rock, Washington also recently made his Ryan Murphy debut in Ratched, playing Cynthia Nixon's closeted husband. Here he'll be playing Bernard, one of the central circle of friends whose secret is that he still pines for the rich white boy he knew as a kid.

    Tuc Watkins as Hank

    Fans of daytime dramas will know Tuc Watkins from his fan-favorite role as the outrageous con artist David Vickers on One Life to Live. He parlayed that role into playing one half of the gay couple in the cul-de-sac on Desperate Housewives. After appearing in The Boys in the Band on Broadway, he began dating Andrew Rannells, and the two of them played clandestine lovers on the most recent season of Black Monday. Watkins plays Rannells's live-in boyfriend Hank on The Boys in the Band, as well.

    The Boys in the Band drops on Netflix this Wednesday, September 30th.

    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: The Boys in the Band, Andrew Rannells, Charlie Carver, Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer, Robin de Jesus, Ryan Murphy, Tuc Watkins, Zachary Quinto