Let’s start with the premiere. Larry Kramer was there. So many New York men who remember that time were there. I heard the sobbing was audible. What was it like to watch The Normal Heart on screen in a room full of those people?
Most importantly, getting to watch the standing ovation for Larry Kramer and to see him taking in a moment that was 30 years in the making was something I’ll never forget. For me, that was just one of those really rarified experiences that you’re very lucky if you get maybe once in a career as an artist.
But also, this is such a distinct part of New York history, this play, and I’m so thankful to HBO that they gave it such a grand opening there in New York. And paid homage and respect to this generation of people. Afterwards at the after-party, so many people who approached me wanted to tell me stories of people they lost and their experiences during that dark time in our history. They just wanted to cry and share their feelings with me. It was unforgettable. I became an actor because I read playwrights like Larry and Tony Kushner, and wanted to be a part of telling stories that hopefully have significance or can educate people or challenge their points of view or change their worldview the way these playwrights did for me. So to actually be a part of something like that as a grown-up, it’s like, man, you just check your ego at the door and try to serve the story.
There’s a headline that keeps circulating from a quote that you gave, where you said, “Larry Kramer probably saved my life.”
Yeah. I’m sure he did. At the time I first read it, my first sexual relationships were with women. But even then he put the fear of God in me! (Laughs) He educated me in a lot of ways. It was a very useful fear. But it was also the education to be smart and be safe, and that carried over into my later relationships and also when I started to have relationships with men.
But I think he saved me on a more profound than practical level. Even at 14 when I still didn’t know who I was when I read this piece—I was still figuring out who my most authentic self was—to have this voice that was such a firebrand and so honest and so authentic, to know that that reality was out there, even though it was nowhere near my immediate experience in suburban Texas, to know that somewhere it was out there gave me a sense of hope. And I think I knew on some level that a part of me that hadn’t been acknowledged yet was going to be OK.
You can read the entire interview here.