The HBO film takes an unflinching look at the nation’s sexual politics as gay activists and their allies in the medical community fought to expose the truth about the burgeoning epidemic to a city and nation in denial. This subject matter couldn’t be more relevant with the recent drafting of the first openly gay NFL player Michael Sam. This moment not only showed how far we have come as a society, but still how far we have to go.
On May 12, HBO hosted the New York premiere of its film “The Normal Heart,” which is an adaptation of Larry Kramer’s play of the same name. The play is loosely based on Kramer’s life. AIDS was not a “gay” problem as people tried to assert at the time and since 1981 about 36 Million people have died from the disease. There is still no cure.
We spoke with actor Taylor Kitsch on the red carpet, check out what he had to say below:
Q: Can you tell us about the first time you read the script?
Taylor: I was in my living room in Austin, Texas and my manager called me, and she was like, “Stop what you’re doing. Read this now cause we got to hurry if we want this role, we’re fighting right away.” And then halfway through the script I stopped reading called, got them all on the phone and said, “Let’s fight for it.” And then I finished the script and called him back and there we go. Here we are.
Q: What drew you into the role?
Taylor: The story, the character, being scared, the risk. I love all that stuff. Obviously the cast, it’s self-explanatory. I just felt I could breathe life into this guy and do this story justice as an actor and I knew I was gonna grow up through this process.
Q: Are you excited for people to see a different side of you?
Taylor: Sure. I am. You know, you’re proud of you work and we put in God knows how much energy and hours into it. I just hope they’re taken by not just my work, but everyone’s.
Q: What do you say to the generation that missed the rise of the epidemic 1980’s? What do you hope the main takeaway is?
Taylor: It’s still relevant. It’s still a global issue and I think that’s something we can all pay attention to a little bit more. We’re all guilty of being in our own little bubbles and especially with media now it’s like…we’re in the now and then it’s on to the next thing 10 seconds later. We’ve kind of been numb to it all and I think this story will hopefully square you away for the two hours and make you pay attention with the fight and be heard.
Q: How do you unwind after such a hard role?
Q: Can you speak about collaborating with Ryan Murphy?
Taylor: I loved it. I flew in from reading the script … I think it was the next day or a couple days later and we had an amazing first meeting. Fly back to Texas and then we’re just…I mean, silly long e-mail after e-mail of just vision from aesthetic to tone to everything.
Q: What was the most difficult scene for you to shoot?
Taylor: It wasn’t like one difficult one. The montage at the end wasn’t fun I’ll tell you that much. The plane scene isn’t fun to do. Just that it’s real and it happened, I think that’s what squares you away cause I’m just recreating something that unfortunately happened. It’s pretty tragic.
Q: How much input did you have in your character?
Taylor: A lot. I mean, even reading it I had a very strong ordeal of where I wanted to go with it. So it was more of just like this is how I feel and that just leads to conviction, which is everything as an actor.
Denis O’Hare also spoke about his role.
Q: Can you tell us about the first time you read the script?
O’Hare: Well I did the play when I was 25 and I was drunk so I didn’t remember anything. It’s true actually. Ned Weeks, I did it in Hawaii and I remember the reaction was, “He’s so angry! Why was he yelling all the time?!” Cause that’s the part! That’s the play. It’s a really daunting play because it is so in-your-face. There’s no let up. And Ned Weeks as a character is hard to get your grip around because…of course he’s human and of course he’s sympathetic but he’s also a lot of vinegar. And it’s not till the end where you watch him break down and you get to break down with him.
Q: How did you unwind at the end of the day?
O’Hare: I drank! I’m sober now thank God.
Q: That seems to be a common thing amongst your co-workers. Were you guys drinking together?
O’Hare: No, I stopped drinking 25 years ago. So I didn’t do it then. I ride my bike everywhere so I rode to the set and I rode back home. I live in Brooklyn. They were shooting in Fire Island actually at one point so I was out there with my husband and my boy and we went down to the beach to watch them working and actually hung out and had lunch together. It was fantastic.
Q: What do you hope people take away from this film?
O’Hare: I think that they understand that AIDS is not done. It’s not solved. It’s a killer, it’s still a fatal disease. My boyfriend died of it in 2000 long after there was a cocktail. That safe sex still matters. But also that activism is the only way you’re going to get people to change. Especially people in government. They’re not going to change because they should or because you have a right to something. You have to demand your rights.
Q: How was it for you being on the other side?
O’Hare: I seem to always do that. I was a baddie in “Milk,” I was a baddie in “Dallas Buyers Club,” I always seem to be on the wrong side of it. But you know what? I try to bring a humanity to these characters and I try to show that they have a point of view. Even in this, this guy’s got a point of view. He’s saying this is political reality, watch it. Slow down, don’t make enemies. And maybe Larry Kramer would have had a different road if he had done it differently. I don’t know, there’s no way to tell.
Q: Can you talk about working with Ryan?
O’Hare: I love him. I wish he directed more “American Horror Stories.” We miss him.
Q: Speaking of “American Horror Story” are you a freak collector in the upcoming season?
O’Hare: I think. I don’t know, you know. He told me very, very little so I’m guessing at what I am. I just know that I’m in it and I can’t wait. He’s fantastic, he knows exactly what he wants and he tells you it in a short hand and just tells me to go for it. Like in this he just kind of goes, “Go for it.” Just like, “Bam bam bam bam. Go at each other.” And you just go and you do it.
Jonathan Groff also stars in the film.
Q: When did you first hear of this story?
Groff: I had seen the play a bunch of times. I had seen it back at the public theater. I had seen it on Broadway and so I knew this story and was blown away by the story and then read the script and had the exact same reaction when I saw the play which is inconsolably crying.
Q: Why is this story important?
Groff: I think it’s really important especially I was born in 1985 and I’m a part of sort of the younger gay generation and the generation before me sacrificed a lot, went through a lot and ignited politically in really inspiring and incredible way and a movie like this keeps that story going and the more we keep telling that story the more my generation will also get activated and excited about engaging with the issues of the day.
“The Normal Heart” will premiere on HBO on May 25 at 9 PM.