There’s A Lot Of History Behind The Cast Of The Boys In the Band

Produced by Ryan Murphy and directed by Joe Mantello, The Boys in the Band on Netflix reunites the entire Broadway cast of the Tony Award-winning revival of the play by the same name. While the production may seem like another dip into the Murphy stable of men with dark hair and strong jaws, the casting actually carries quite a lot of significance.

Mart Crowley's original play about gay men debating life and love at a birthday party is lighthearted, and therefore rare in retrospect. It was originally produced in 1968, a year before the Stonewall Riots. It depicts gay culture in a world without the turmoils or the triumphs of gay rights movement, and years prior to the AIDS crisis.

In fact, over a third of the original cast members, as well as the play's original director Robert Moore, sadly passed away in the '80s and '90s from AIDS and AIDS-related illnesses.

The new Boys in the Band cast is significant because all of the actors are openly gay — which is unfortunately still somewhat rare in Hollywood and on Broadway, even when it comes to stories by and about gay men. But since Crowley's play has become representative of the generation of LGBT talent lost in the AIDS crisis, it is additionally heartening to see this new generation of queer actors take up the mantel.

They're also pretty famous in their own right, if I do say so myself. Here's who plays each of The Boys in the Band.

Jim Parsons Plays Michael



Who is Michael?
Harold's best friend. They may hate each other. They certainly like to stir things up.

He and the director were co-stars in another Murphy project.
Mantello, Parsons, and Matt Bomer (below) appeared together in the HBO adaptation of Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart directed by Murphy.

Who played the character originally?
In the original production and film, Michael was played by Kenneth Nelson. He was in the original cast of The Fantasticks off-Broadway with Jerry Orbach and died from AIDS complications in 1993. Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.

Zachary Quinto Plays Harold



Who is Harold?
His birthday is the reason for the party. His existential crisis about aging is just one of the reasons for all the drama.

Quinto on playing Harold
"It’s probably the gayest thing I’ve ever done in terms of accessing that aspect of my personality," he told Time Out. "Harold is incredibly self-aware."

Who played the character originally?
In the original production and film, Harold was played by Leonard Frey, who played Motel in the film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof. Frey died in 1988 of AIDS. Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.

Andrew Rannells Plays Larry



Who is Larry? 
A polyamorous fashion photographer.

Rannels on the cast
"There is a great shorthand to the way [this group] speaks to each other," the Book Of Mormon and Girls actor told Time Out New York.

Who played the character originally?
In the original production and film, Larry was played by Keith Prentice — who died from AIDS-related cancer in 1992.Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.

Matt Bomer Plays Donald



Who is Donald? 
Michael's boyfriend, who is ready to settle down.

Bomer on his character's relationship to Michael
"He really does seem to be the Horatio to Michael’s Hamlet," Bomer told the Hollywood Foreign Press. "He is there to support him but knows when to bow out of the battle and when to come back at the end after the dust has settled."

Who played the character originally?
In the original production and film, Donald was played by Frederick Combs. In 1992, Combs died of an AIDS complication and related illness. Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.

Robin de Jesús Plays Emory



Who is Emory?
An interior decorator. His effeminate nature is a subject of ridicule amongst the boys.

He's acted alongside Anna Kendrick and Lin-Manuel Miranda
While many recognize de Jesús as a cast member in the original production of In The Heights, he was also in the cult film Camp.

Who played the character originally?
In the original production and film, Emory was played by Cliff Gorman. He went on to win a Tony in 1972 for playing Lenny Bruce in Lenny. Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.

Michael Benjamin Washington Plays Bernard



Who is Bernard?
Another one of Harold's friends. He has never gotten over a childhood crush.

You just saw him in Ratched
Relatively new to the Murphyverse, he was in one episode of Glee and appeared as the legal husband of Cynthia Nixon's character in Ratched.

Who played the character originally?
In the original production and film, Bernard was played by Reuben Greene — who stopped acting shortly after The Boys in the Band. Not much is known about him. Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.

Brian Hutchison Plays Alan



Who is Alan?
An unexpected guest, married to a woman, and harboring a secret...

He's a Murphyverse newbie
Hutchinson is the kind of working New York actor who has been on Law and Order (and the various spin-offs) a handful of times in different roles.

Who played the character originally?
In the original production and film, Alan was played by Peter White. You may recognize him as the grandpa from Passport to Paris with Mary Kate and Ashley. Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.

Tuc Watkins Plays Hank



Who is Hank?
Larry's boyfriend, who is not polyamorous.

He is Rannells' boyfriend IRL
We absolutely love a showmance. They started dating last year.

Who played the character originally?
In the original production and film, Hank was played by Laurence Luckinbill. In real life, Luckinbill is married to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz' daughter.Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.

Charlie Carver Plays Cowboy



Who is Cowboy?
He's a sex worker hired as a birthday present for Michael.

He was in Desperate Housewives with Watkins
That's kind of a fun fact. Carver and his brother Max were the infamous Scavo twins on the show, and Watkins moved to Wisteria Lane midway through the series.

Who played the character originally?
In the original production and film, the Cowboy was played by Robert La Tourneaux. He also contracted AIDS and died in 1986. According to The Advocate, it was his Boys in the Band co-star Gorman (and Gorman's wife) who took care of La Tourneaux in his final days. Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.

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