'Boys in the Band' Star Jim Parsons: 'We're Big Enough Boys Now' to Deal With the Play Again

Jim Parsons stars in the Netflix movie adaptation of The Boys in the Band. Parsons previously performed the play in a Broadway revival too. The Mark Crowley play premiered in 1968 and went through a period of falling out of favor before its revival. Parsons felt audiences today are mature enough to handle the play and movie’s challenging aspects. 

Parsons appeared on the HFPA In Conversation podcast on Sept. 23 to talk about The Boys in the Band. The movie is now streaming on Netflix.

‘The Boys in the Band’ was important before Jim Parsons was born

Crowley wrote The Boys In the Band about seven gay friends expressing their deep, conflicted and dramatic feelings. It was groundbreaking. 

“From what I’ve read and the people I’ve heard talk about the significance of the play back in 1968, it was that it was one of the first times, if not the first time, that gay life, like the internal inside their homes when they were gathered together, not in front of other people in public, was represented on stage,” Parsons said. “I know that was Mark Crowley, the playwright’s, intent and wish. He wanted to show that. A lot of it was his own life he was showing through that play.”

As the first exposure to the LGBTQ for some viewers, The Boys in the Band could also be controversial.

“I assume, from what I have read, it was shocking,” Parsons continued. “But, it was also exciting and it was a relief, I think, for a lot of people to get the chance to see that. And, for certain people to see themselves represented on stage in a way that they haven’t been before.”

The world outgrew ‘The Boys in the Band’

The landmark Stonewall riots took place during The Boys in the Band’s theatrical run. A movie adaptation came out in 1970 while the world was changing. 

[Stonewall] was a real turning point, obviously, for gay culture, but it was major turning point for people’s feelings about what they were seeing in Boys in the Band. The argument suddenly became, and was really loud when the Friedkin movie came out, was that this is not how we want to see ourselves represented. This is what we’re moving away from, what they perceived and rightfully so as self-hatred and just not good behavior basically. I completely get that. I especially get that in a moment of such major change that was being explosively started right then.

Jim Parsons thinks 2020 is ready for it again

Parsons reflected on how far the LGBTQ community has come in social tolerance and winning legal rights. There is more work to do, of course. Parsons hopes the 2020 Boys In the Band audience can appreciate the feelings of characters written in 1968.

“I feel pretty strongly actually that we’re big enough boys now, as it were, to handle looking at these messages again,” Parsons said. “[We can] understand the ways in which the so-called negative behaviors of these men in this are reflective to varying degrees of things that gay people still feel at times, and all people feel at times.”

Parsons also feels there are still many ways in which modern day gay men could relate to The Boys in the Band.

“So much of what I think turned people off eventually was the negative way in which these men behave together,” Parsons said. “Especially my character goes on a real rampage throughout the story. The fact is that I don’t think it’s that hard to see that it’s coming from such a severe insecurity of himself. And, such a fear of being loved and the assumption somewhere deep inside that he can’t be loved and be who he is. That was certainly my takeaway from playing that character.”

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