Vanity Fair spoke with Matt and Jonathan about their upcoming limited series, Fellow Travelers. They shared very interesting things about the show, like how they came on board the project, the epic and sexy romance between their characters, and much more. First look photos have also been released, which you can now find in our gallery!
When Matt Bomer and Jonathan Bailey first met at a coffee shop on Cumberland Street in Toronto, on the verge of beginning six months of filming for their decades-spanning limited series Fellow Travelers, they made a pact to have each other’s backs. Sounds simple enough, given that they were about to embark on some of the richest screen work of their respective careers. But over Zoom, both actors speak of that introduction now as almost sacred. Watch Fellow Travelers, and you’ll understand why. The Showtime epic depicts an extraordinary intimacy between its lead characters, and asks for true vulnerability from Bomer and Bailey, who deliver without compromise.
Adapted by Oscar nominee Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia) from Thomas Mallon’s 2007 novel, Fellow Travelers (premiering this fall on Paramount+ With Showtime) examines the volatile, passionate, deeply loving romance between Hawkins Fuller (Bomer), a charismatic if somewhat opaque war hero turned political staffer, and Tim Laughlin (Bailey), a religious idealist looking for his way into the DC grind. They meet at the dawn of the early-’50s Lavender Scare, in which Senator Joseph McCarthy and his chief counsel Roy Cohn purged whomever they deemed gay or lesbian from government roles—dubbing them communist sympathizers—and sparked a national moral panic around homosexuality. The series then builds into a kind of grand chronicle of queer American history, tracing the evolution of Hawk and Tim’s relationship through various eras before culminating in the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s.
The project came to Bailey at a serendipitous moment. For the first time in his life, the breakout star of Bridgerton was in demand and being asked what he wanted to do next. “My answer was always, ‘Well, I’d love to do a sweeping gay love story,’ but my experience actually was that I’d never really seen them,” Bailey says. “Or if I had, I hadn’t seen actors like me and Matt play those roles.” (Both Bailey and Bomer identify as gay.) That dream opportunity abruptly presented itself in Fellow Travelers, which Bailey joined after Bomer had already signed on as both star and executive producer. “The story had been marinating with Ron for a solid decade before I ever came on board,” Bomer says. “Ron had an almost religious zeal about this project, this world, and these characters that just washed over everyone involved, and made it the profound experience that it was.”
Nyswaner had already done considerable research on Fellow Travelers, having previously planned to adapt the book as a film. He had more recently established himself in prestige TV—writing for Showtime dramas like Homeland and Ray Donovan—while continuing to work in movies. His script for last year’s Amazon feature My Policeman introduced him to producer Robbie Rogers; Nyswaner sent Rogers the Fellow Travelers novel, which sparked a conversation about making a limited series out of it. “The ambition of going through the different decades and finding a really compelling story—nothing like that had been done, where it’s an epic gay love story that has this political element that’s woven through it,” says Rogers.
Fellow Travelers leaves no stone unturned, expanding its world beyond Hawk and Tim to fashion an expansive historical tapestry. A core parallel strand of the drama follows Jelani Alladin’s Marcus Hooks, a queer Black political journalist finding a new partner of his own (Noah J. Ricketts), while Nyswaner’s early episodes also dig into the vicious methods of McCarthy (a transformed Chris Bauer) and the appalling hypocrisy of Cohn (Will Brill). “Something like an estimated 10,000 people lost their jobs, and a lot of folks took their own lives,” Bomer says. “That’s the landscape that these people are dealing with.”read more